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J Neurosci. 1995 May;15(5 Pt 2):3716-29.

Retinal axon divergence in the optic chiasm: uncrossed axons diverge from crossed axons within a midline glial specialization.

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Department of Pathology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


A long-standing question is how fiber pathways in the mammalian CNS project to both sides of the brain. Static and real-time analyses of dye-labeled retinal axons (Godement et al., 1990, 1994) have demonstrated that at embryonic day 15-17 in the mouse, crossed and uncrossed axons from each eye diverge in a zone 100-200 microns proximal to the midline of the optic chiasm. In this study, we identify cellular specializations in this zone that might serve as cues for retinal axon divergence. Second, using growth cone morphology as an indicator of growth cone destination, we analyzed how crossed and uncrossed retinal growth cones related to these cellular components. Monoclonal antibody RC2, a marker for radial glia in embryonic mouse CNS, revealed a palisade of radial glia straddling the midline. At the midline, a thin raphe of cells that appear morphologically distinct from the radial glia express a free carbohydrate epitope, stage-specific embryonic antigen 1 (SSEA-1). Sections containing Dil-labeled axons and immunolabeled cells indicated that all axons enter the radial glial palisade. Uncrossed axons turn within the palisade, but never beyond the raphe of SSEA-1-positive cells. In addition, ultrastructural analysis indicated that all growth cones contact radial glia, with projections of the growth cone interdigitating with glial fibers. These results demonstrate that retinal axons diverge within a cellular specialization centered around the midline of the developing optic chiasm, consistent with the hypothesis that cues for divergence are located in this zone.

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