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Requirement for Dicer in Maintenance of Monosynaptic Sensory-Motor Circuits in the Spinal Cord.
In contrast to our knowledge of mechanisms governing circuit formation, our understanding of how neural circuits are maintained is limited. Here, we show that Dicer, an RNaseIII protein required for processing microRNAs (miRNAs), is essential for maintenance of the spinal monosynaptic stretch reflex circuit in which group Ia proprioceptive sensory neurons form direct connections with motor neurons. In postnatal mice lacking Dicer in proprioceptor sensory neurons, there are no obvious defects in specificity or formation of monosynaptic sensory-motor connections. However, these circuits degrade through synapse loss and retraction of proprioceptive axonal projections from the ventral spinal cord. Peripheral terminals are also impaired without retracting from muscle targets. Interestingly, despite these central and peripheral axonal defects, proprioceptive neurons survive in the absence of Dicer-processed miRNAs. These findings reveal that Dicer, through its production of mature miRNAs, plays a key role in the maintenance of monosynaptic sensory-motor circuits.