Barrington’s nucleus (Bar), which controls micturition behavior through downstream projections to the spinal cord, contains two types of projection neurons, BarCRH and BarESR1, that have different functions and target different spinal circuitry. Both types of neurons project to the L6–S1 spinal intermediolateral (IML) nucleus, whereas BarESR1 neurons also project to the dorsal commissural nucleus (DCN). To obtain more information about the spinal circuits targeted by Bar, we used patch-clamp recording in spinal slices from adult mice in combination with optogenetic stimulation of Bar terminals. Recording of opto-evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (oEPSCs) in 1,10-dilinoleyl-3,3,30,30-tetramethylindocarbocyanine, 4-chlorobenzenesulfonate (DiI)-labeled lumbosacral preganglionic neurons (LS-PGNs) revealed that both Bar neuronal populations make strong glutamatergic monosynaptic connections with LS-PGNs, whereas BarESR1 neurons also elicited smaller-amplitude glutamatergic polysynaptic oEPSCs or polysynaptic opto-evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents (oIPSCs) in some LS-PGNs. Optical stimulation of BarCRH and BarESR1 terminals also elicited monosynaptic oEPSCs and polysynaptic oIPSCs in sacral DCN neurons, some of which must include interneurons projecting to either the IML or ventral horn. Application of capsaicin increased opto-evoked firing during repetitive stimulation of Bar terminals through the modulation of spontaneous postsynaptic currents in LS-PGNs. In conclusion, our experiments have provided insights into the synaptic mechanisms underlying the integration of inputs from Bar to autonomic circuitry in the lumbosacral spinal cord that may control micturition. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Photostimulation of BarCRH or BarESR1 axons in the adult mouse spinal cord elicits excitatory or inhibitory postsynaptic responses in multiple cell types related to the autonomic nervous system including preganglionic neurons (PGNs) in the lumbosacral intermediolateral nucleus and interneurons in the lumbosacral dorsal commissure nucleus. Integration of excitatory inputs from Bar and from visceral primary afferents in PGNs may be important in the regulation of micturition behavior.
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