Proprioception, the sense of limb and body position, generates a map of the body that is essential for proper motor control, yet we know little about precisely how neurons in proprioceptive pathways develop and are wired. Proprioceptive and cutaneous information from the periphery is sent to secondary neurons in the spinal cord that integrate and relay this information to the cerebellum either directly or indirectly through the medulla. Defining the anatomy of these direct and indirect pathways is fundamental to understanding how proprioceptive circuits function. Here, we use genetic tools in mice to define the developmental origins and unique anatomical trajectories of these pathways. Developmentally, we find that Clarke’s column (CC) neurons, a major contributor to the direct spinocerebellar pathway, derive from the Neurog1 progenitor domain. By contrast, we find that two of the indirect pathways, the spino-lateral reticular nucleus (spino-LRt) and spino-olivary pathways, are derived from the Atoh1 progenitor domain, despite previous evidence that Atoh1-lineage neurons form the direct pathway. Anatomically, we also find that the mossy fiber terminals of CC neurons diversify extensively with some axons terminating bilaterally in the cerebellar cortex. Intriguingly, we find that CC axons do not send axon collaterals to the medulla or cerebellar nuclei like other mossy fiber sources. Altogether, we conclude that the direct and indirect spinocerebellar pathways derive from distinct progenitor domains in the developing spinal cord and that the proprioceptive information from CC neurons is processed only at the level of granule cells in the cerebellum.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience