Development of specific muscle and cutaneous sensory projections in cultured segments of spinal cord

K. Sharma, Z. Korade, E. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Development of sensory projections was studied in cultured spinal segments with attached dorsal root ganglia. In spinal segments from stage 30 (E6.5) and older chicken embryos, prelabeled muscle and cutaneous afferents established appropriate projections. Cutaneous afferents terminated solely within the dorsolateral laminae, whereas some muscle afferents (presumably Ia afferents) projected ventrally towards motoneurons. Development of appropriate projections suggests that sufficient cues are preserved in spinal segments to support the formation of modality-specific sensory projections. Further, because these projections developed in the absence of muscle or skin, these results show that the continued presence of peripheral targets is not required for the formation of specific central projections after stage 29 (E6.0). Development of the dorsal horn in cultured spinal segments was assessed using the dorsal midline as a marker. In ovo, this midline structure appears at stage 29. Lack of midline formation in stage 28 and 29 cultured spinal segments suggests that the development of the dorsal horn is arrested in this preparation. This is consistent with earlier reports suggesting that dorsal horn development may be dependent on factors outside the spinal cord. Because dorsal horn development is blocked in cultured spinal segments, this preparation makes it possible to study the consequences of premature ingrowth of sensory axons into the spinal cord. In chicken embryos sensory afferents reach the spinal cord at stage 25 (E4.5) but do not arborize within the gray matter until stage 30. During this period dorsal horn cells are still being generated. In spinal segments, only those segments that have developed a midline at the time of culture support the formation of specific sensory projections. The end of the waiting period therefore coincides with the formation of a dorsal midline and, interestingly, also with the development of cues in the dorsal horn that are required for the formation of specific sensory projections. Based on these results, we propose that one important function of the waiting period is to delay the ingrowth of sensory fibers until appropriate guidance cues have developed within the dorsal horn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1315-1323
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Guidance cues
  • Organotypic cultures
  • Sensory afferents
  • Waiting period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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