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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2010 Nov;2(11):a001768. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a001768. Epub 2010 Sep 29.

Visual map development: bidirectional signaling, bifunctional guidance molecules, and competition.

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  • 1MCD Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA.


Topographic maps are a two-dimensional representation of one neural structure within another and serve as the main strategy to organize sensory information. The retina's projection via axons of retinal ganglion cells to midbrain visual centers, the optic tectum/superior colliculus, is the leading model to elucidate mechanisms of topographic map formation. Each axis of the retina is mapped independently using different mechanisms and sets of axon guidance molecules expressed in gradients to achieve the goal of representing a point in the retina onto a point within the target. An axon's termination along the temporal-nasal mapping axis is determined by opposing gradients of EphAs and ephrin-As that act through their forward and reverse signaling, respectively, within the projecting axons, each of which inhibits interstitial branching, cooperating with a branch-promoting activity, to generate topographic specific branching along the shaft of the parent axons that overshoot their correct termination zone along the anterior-posterior axis of the target. The dorsal-ventral termination position is then determined using a gradient of ephrin-B that can act as a repellent or attractant depending on the ephrin-B concentration relative to EphB levels on the interstitial branches to guide them along the medial-lateral axis of the target to their correct termination zone, where they arborize. In both cases, axon-axon competition results in axon mapping based on relative rather than absolute levels of repellent or attractant activity. The map is subsequently refined through large-scale pruning driven in large part by patterned retinal activity.

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