Activity-dependent specification of neuronal architecture during early postnatal life is essential for refining the precision of communication between neurons. In the spinal cord under normal circumstances, the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 is expressed at high levels by motor neurons and surrounding interneurons during this critical developmental period, although the role it plays in circuit formation and locomotor behavior is unknown. Here, we show that GluR1 promotes dendrite growth in a non-cell-autonomous manner in vitro and in vivo. The mal-development of motor neuron dendrites is associated with changes in the pattern of interneuronal connectivity within the segmental spinal cord and defects in strength and endurance. Transgenic expression of GluR1 in adult motor neurons leads to dendrite remodeling and supernormal locomotor function. GluR1 expression by neurons within the segmental spinal cord plays an essential role in formation of the neural network that underlies normal motor behavior.
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