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Skilled Movements Require Non-apoptotic Bax/Bak Pathway-Mediated Corticospinal Circuit Reorganization.
Early postnatal mammals, including human babies, can perform only basic motor tasks. The acquisition of skilled behaviors occurs later, requiring anatomical changes in neural circuitry to support the development of coordinated activation or suppression of functionally related muscle groups. How this circuit reorganization occurs during postnatal development remains poorly understood. Here we explore the connectivity between corticospinal (CS) neurons in the motor cortex and muscles in mice. Using trans-synaptic viral and electrophysiological assays, we identify the early postnatal reorganization of CS circuitry for antagonistic muscle pairs. We further show that this synaptic rearrangement requires the activity-dependent, non-apoptotic Bax/Bak-caspase signaling cascade. Adult Bax/Bak mutant mice exhibit aberrant co-activation of antagonistic muscle pairs and skilled grasping deficits but normal reaching and retrieval behaviors. Our findings reveal key cellular and molecular mechanisms driving postnatal motor circuit reorganization and the resulting impacts on muscle activation patterns and the execution of skilled movements