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Curr Biol. 2000 May 18;10(10):595-8.

Optokinetic behavior is reversed in achiasmatic mutant zebrafish larvae.

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  • 1Department of Neuromorphology, Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Abt. Physikalische Biologie, Brain Research Institute, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


The vertebrate optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) is a compensatory oculomotor behavior that is evoked by movement of the visual environment. It functions to stabilize visual images on the retina. The OKN can be experimentally evoked by rotating a drum fitted with stripes around the animal and has been studied extensively in many vertebrate species, including teleosts. This simple behavior has earlier been used to screen for mutations affecting visual system development in the vertebrate model organism zebrafish. In such a screen, we have found a significant number of homozygous belladonna (bel) mutant larvae to be defective in the correct execution of the OKN [1]. We now show that about 40% of homozygous bel larvae display a curious reversal of the OKN upon visual stimulation. Monocular stimulation leads to primary activation of ipsilateral eye movements in larvae that behave like the wild type. In contrast, affected larvae display contralateral activation of eye movements upon monocular stimulation. Anatomical analysis of retinal ganglion cell axon projections reveal a morphological basis for the observed behavioral defect. All animals with OKN reversal are achiasmatic. Further behavioral examination of affected larvae show that OKN-reversed animals execute this behavior in a stimulus-velocity-independent manner. Our data support a parsimonious model of optokinetic reversal by the opening of a controlling feedback loop at the level of the optic chiasm that is solely responsible for the observed behavioral abnormality in mutant belladonna larvae.

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