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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All behaviors require coordinated activation of motoneurons from central command and premotor networks. The genetic identities of premotoneurons providing behaviorally relevant excitation to any pool of respiratory motoneurons remain unknown. Recently, we established in vitro that Dbx1-derived pre-Bo¨ tzinger complex neurons are critical for rhythm generation and that a subpopulation serves a premotor function (Wang et al., 2014). Here, we further show that a subpopulation of Dbx1-derived intermediate reticular (IRt) neurons are rhythmically active during inspiration and project to the hypoglossal (XII) nucleus that contains motoneurons important for maintaining airway patency. Laser ablation of Dbx1 IRt neurons, 57% of which are glutamatergic, decreased ipsilateral inspiratory motor output without affecting frequency. We conclude that a subset of Dbx1 IRt neurons is a source of premotor excitatory drive, contributing to the inspiratory behavior of XII motoneurons, as well as a key component of the airway control network whose dysfunction contributes to sleep apnea.