Letter | Published:

Order in the initial retinotectal map in Xenopus: a new technique for labelling growing nerve fibres

Nature volume 301, pages 150152 (13 January 1983) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Retinal nerve fibres form an orderly map of visual space in several centres in the vertebrate brain1,2. Such topographic maps are a common feature of central nervous system organization3–5, yet the way in which they develop is poorly understood. Early nerve projections in the fetal and neonatal mammalian brain have been found in several cases to be less restricted than those in the adult6–9, suggesting that nerve fibres may initially form a diffuse set of connections in then- target structure from which the adult map is sculpted by the elimination of terminals. Indeed, previous electrophysiological data indicate that the retinotectal map in Xenopus laevis might be initially disorganized10. We report here, however, that the retinotectal projection is ordered from the beginning of tectal innervation (stage 39/40). We demonstrate this first autoradiographically by tracing groups of growing ganglion cell axons which we labelled by incubating sectors of eye rudiments, before axonal outgrowth, in 3H-proline and replacing them orthotopically. Separate labelling of dorsal and ventral parts of the initial projection showed that retinal fibres are organized topographically, as in the adult1,11, in the tectal rudiment and throughout much of the pathway. Second, we show that visual responses are ordered in the tectum from the first stage that they can be mapped (stage 40). We conclude that the topographic ordering of retinotectal connections develops as a result of directed axonal outgrowth.

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Author information

Author notes

    • William A. Harris

    Present address: Department of Biology, B-022, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.

Affiliations

  1. MRC Biophysics Unit, 26–29 Drury Lane, King's College, University of London, London WC2B 5RL, UK

    • Christine E. Holt
    •  & William A. Harris

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https://doi.org/10.1038/301150a0

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