The Journal Of Comparative Neurology
Although corticospinal neurons are known to be distributed in both the primary motor and somatosensory cortices (S1), details of the projection pattern of their fibers to the lumbar cord gray matter remain largely uncharacterized, especially in rodents. We previously investigated the cortical area projecting to the gray matter of the fourth lumbar cord segment (L4) (L4 Cx) in mice. In the present study, we injected an anterograde tracer into multiple sites to cover the entire L4 Cx. We found that (1) the rostromedial part of the L4 Cx projects to the intermediate and ventral zones of the lumbar cord gray matter, (2) the lateral part projects to the medial dorsal horn, and (3) the caudal part projects to the lateral dorsal horn. We also found that the border between the rostromedial and caudolateral parts corresponds to the border between the agranular and granular cortex. Analysis of the somatotopic patterns formed by the cortical projection cells and the primary sensory neurons innervating the skin of the hindlimb and its related area suggests that the lateral part corresponds to the S1 hindlimb area and the caudal part to the S1 trunk area. Examination of thalamic innervation by the L4 Cx revealed that the caudolateral L4 Cx focally projects to the ventrobasal complex (VB) and the posterior complex (PO), while the medial L4 Cx widely projects to the PO but little to the VB. These findings suggest that the L4 Cx is parceled into subregions defined by the cytoarchitecture and subcortical projection.