Int J Dev Biol
January 1, 2004;
New views on retinal axon development: a navigation guide.
is a peripheral outpost of the central nervous system (CNS) where the retinal ganglion
cells (RGCs) reside. RGC
axons navigate to their targets in a remarkably stereotyped and error-free manner and it is this process of directed growth that underlies the complex organization of the adult brain
. The RGCs are the only retinal neurons to project into the brain
and their peripheral location makes them an unusually accessible population of projection
neurons for experiments involving in vivo gene transfer, anatomical tracing, transplantation and in vitro culture. In this paper, we review recent findings that have contributed to our understanding of some of the guidance decisions that axons make in the developing visual system. We look at two choice points in the pathway, the optic nerve head
(onh) and the midline chiasm, and discuss evidence that supports the idea that key molecules in guiding axon
growth at these junctures are netrin-1 (onh) and ephrin-B (chiasm). In the optic tectum
where RGC axon
terminals are arrayed in topographic order, we present experimental evidence to suggest that in the dorso-ventral
dimension, the B-type ephrins and Eph receptors are of prime importance, possibly through attractive interactions. This complements the anterior
topographic mapping known to be mediated through A-type ephrin/Eph repulsive interactions. An emerging theme is that guidance molecules such as ephrin-B and netrin-1 have complex patterns of restricted expression in the pathway and play multiple and changing roles in axon
Int J Dev Biol
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References [+] :
Fig. 1. Netrin-1 helps to guide the growth of axons out of the eye. (A)
The arrangement of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs; red) along the vitreal
surface of the retina (grey) where laminin is located. Axons grow across
the vitreal surface and make a sharp bend at the entrance to the optic
nerve head (ONH, dark blue; arrow at B) where netrin-1 is localized. (B)
A growth cone entering the ONH where it encounters laminin and netrin-
1 on the vitreal surface and netrin-1 only in the ONH. It is hypothesised
that the laminin and netrin-1 signals combine to repel axons away from
the surface and force axons into the netrin-1-rich ONH, and so out of the
Fig. 2. Ephrin-B mediates divergent axon choice at the optic chiasm. (A)
Shows the distribution of ephrin-B and EphB receptor in the embryonic retina
(left two panels) and the chiasm of pre- and post- and metamorphic Xenopus
(right two panels). Ephrin-B is expressed in a high-dorsal to low-ventral
gradient in the retina while the EphB receptor is expressed in an opposing
high-ventral to low-dorsal gradient. Ephrin-B is not expressed at the chiasm
until metamorphosis which coincides with the initiation of the ipsilateral
projection. A subpopulation of ventral EphB-expressing cells project ipsilaterally
at metamorphosis. Photomicrographs adapted from Nakagawa et al., 2000
and Mann et al., 2002. (B) Model of repulsive axon guidance at the chiasm.
See text for details. Diagram adapted from Mann and Holt, 2001.
Fig. 3. Topographic mapping along the dorso-ventral axis involves
attractive ephrin/EphB interactions. (A) The normal distribution of Btype
ephrins and receptors in the retina and tectum. Regions of high
ephrin-B expression (dorsal retina) project to regions of high receptor
expression (ventral tectum) indicative of matching, attractive interactions.
(B) Inhibition of EphB receptor function in dorsal retina causes axons to
map significantly further dorsally (like ventral cells) and ectopic expression
of EphB in ventral RGCs causes them to map ventrally (like dorsal cells)
instead of dorsally. Summary of data from Mann et al., 2002.
Fig. 4. Summary of distribution and role of netrin-1, A- and B-type
ephrins and receptors in the developing visual pathway. Eye:
dorsoventral axis is top to bottom, nasotemporal axis left to right.
Tectum: mediolateral (mammals) and dorsoventral (frogs) is top to
bottom, anterior-posterior axis is left to right.
Expression of UNC-5 in the developing Xenopus visual system.