Mutual Suppression of Proximal and Distal Axonal Spike Initiation Determines the Output Patterns of a Motor Neuron

Nelly Daur, Yang Zhang, Farzan Nadim, Dirk Bucher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Axonal spike initiation at sites far from somatodendritic integration occurs in a range of systems, but its contribution to neuronal output activity is not well understood. We studied the interactions of distal and proximal spike initiation in an unmyelinated motor axon of the stomatogastric nervous system in the lobster, Homarus americanus. The peripheral axons of the pyloric dilator (PD) neurons generate tonic spiking in response to dopamine application. Centrally generated bursting activity and peripheral spike initiation had mutually suppressive effects. The two PD neurons and the electrically coupled oscillatory anterior burster (AB) neuron form the pacemaker ensemble of the pyloric central pattern generator, and antidromic invasion of central compartments by peripherally generated spikes caused spikelets in AB. Antidromic spikes suppressed burst generation in an activity-dependent manner: slower rhythms were diminished or completely disrupted, while fast rhythmic activity remained robust. Suppression of bursting was based on interference with the underlying slow wave oscillations in AB and PD, rather than a direct effect on spike initiation. A simplified multi-compartment circuit model of the pacemaker ensemble replicated this behavior. Antidromic activity disrupted slow wave oscillations by resetting the inward and outward current trajectories in each spike interval. Centrally generated bursting activity in turn suppressed peripheral spike initiation in an activity-dependent manner. Fast bursting eliminated peripheral spike initiation, while slower bursting allowed peripheral spike initiation to continue during the intervals between bursts. The suppression of peripheral spike initiation was associated with a small after-hyperpolarization in the sub-millivolt range. A realistic model of the PD axon replicated this behavior and showed that a sub-millivolt cumulative after-hyperpolarization across bursts was sufficient to eliminate peripheral spike initiation. This effect was based on the dynamic interaction between slow activity-dependent hyperpolarization caused by the Na+/K+-pump and inward rectification through the hyperpolarization-activated inward current, Ih. These results demonstrate that interactions between different spike initiation sites based on spike propagation can shift the relative contributions of different types of activity in an activity-dependent manner. Therefore, distal axonal spike initiation can play an important role in shaping neural output, conditional on the relative level of centrally generated activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number477
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - Oct 23 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • after-hyperpolarization
  • axon
  • central pattern generation
  • dopamine
  • ectopic spikes
  • neural oscillations
  • neuromodulation


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