Kröger, Stephan; Walter, Jochen
Molecular mechanisms separating two axonal pathways during embryonic development of the avian optic tectum.
In: Neuron, Vol. 6: pp. 291-303
During embryonic development of the avian optic tectum, retinal and tectobulbar axons form an orthogonal array of nerve processes. Growing axons of both tracts are transiently very closely apposed to each other. Despite this spatial proximity, axons from the two pathways do not intermix, but instead restrict their growth to defined areas, thus forming two separate plexiform layers, the stratum opticum and the stratum album centrale. In this study we present experimental evidence indicating that the following three mechanisms might play a role in segregating both axonal populations: Retinal and tectobulbar axons differ in their ability to use the extracellular matrix protein laminin as a substrate for axonal elongation; the environment in the optic tectum is generally permissive for retinal axons, but is specifically nonpermissive for tectobulbar axons, resulting in a strong fasciculation of the latter; and growth cones of temporal retinal axons are reversibly inhibited in their motility by direct contact with the tectobulbar axon's membrane.