The Cellular and Synaptic Architecture of the Mechanosensory Dorsal Horn

Victoria Abraira, Emily D. Kuehn, Anda M. Chirila, Mark W. Springel, Alexis A. Toliver, Amanda L. Zimmerman, Lauren L. Orefice, Ling Bai, Bryan J. Song, Karleena A. Bashista, Thomas G. O'Neill, Justin Zhuo, Connie Tsan, Jessica Hoynoski, David D. Ginty

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85 Scopus citations


The deep dorsal horn is a poorly characterized spinal cord region implicated in processing low-threshold mechanoreceptor (LTMR) information. We report an array of mouse genetic tools for defining neuronal components and functions of the dorsal horn LTMR-recipient zone (LTMR-RZ), a role for LTMR-RZ processing in tactile perception, and the basic logic of LTMR-RZ organization. We found an unexpectedly high degree of neuronal diversity in the LTMR-RZ: seven excitatory and four inhibitory subtypes of interneurons exhibiting unique morphological, physiological, and synaptic properties. Remarkably, LTMRs form synapses on between four and 11 LTMR-RZ interneuron subtypes, while each LTMR-RZ interneuron subtype samples inputs from at least one to three LTMR classes, as well as spinal cord interneurons and corticospinal neurons. Thus, the LTMR-RZ is a somatosensory processing region endowed with a neuronal complexity that rivals the retina and functions to pattern the activity of ascending touch pathways that underlie tactile perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-310.e19
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 12 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


  • low-threshold mechanoreceptors
  • mouse molecular genetics
  • somatosensation
  • spinal cord dorsal horn
  • spinal cord interneurons
  • synaptic connectivity

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  • Cite this

    Abraira, V., Kuehn, E. D., Chirila, A. M., Springel, M. W., Toliver, A. A., Zimmerman, A. L., Orefice, L. L., Bai, L., Song, B. J., Bashista, K. A., O'Neill, T. G., Zhuo, J., Tsan, C., Hoynoski, J., & Ginty, D. D. (2017). The Cellular and Synaptic Architecture of the Mechanosensory Dorsal Horn. Cell, 168(1-2), 295-310.e19.