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J Neurosci. 1988 Dec;8(12):4513-30.

Retinotopic organization of the developing retinotectal projection in the zebrafish embryo.

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  • Friedrich-Miescher-Laboratorium der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Tübingen, Federal Republic of Germany.


Developing retinal axons in the zebrafish embryo were stained with HRP or with the fluorescent dyes dil and diO to study the formation of the retinotectal projection. Retinal axons leave the eye at 34-36 hr postfertilization (PF), invade the tectum at 46-48 hr PF, and innervate the tectal neuropil at 70-72 hr PF. Dorsal and ventral axons occupy separate aspects of the optic nerve and tract and pass into their retinotopically appropriate ventral and dorsal hemitectum, respectively. Nasal and temporal axons are segregated in the nerve, mixed in the tract, and are coextensive over the rostral half of tectum until 56 hr PF. They then segregate again, due to the progression of nasal axons into the open caudal tectum. Thus, at 70-72 hr PF, dorsal and ventral as well as temporal and nasal axons occupy their retinotopically appropriate tectal quadrants. After ablation of the temporal retina prior to the time of axonal outgrowth, the nasal axons bypass the vacant rostral tectum to terminate in the caudal tectal half. Temporal axons in the absence of nasal axons remain restricted to their appropriate rostral tectal half, suggesting that nasal and temporal axons possess a preference for their retinotopically appropriate tectal domains. Measurements of individual terminal arbors and the tectal areas in embryos and in adult zebrafish showed that individual arbors are large with respect to the embryonic tectum but are about 14-15 times smaller than in the adult. However, the proportion of tectum covered by embryonic arbors is about 7 times larger than in the adult, suggesting that a higher precision of the adult projection is achieved as a result of a greater enlargement of the tectum than of the arbors.

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