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The mammalian optic chiasm is widely and properly regarded as a region where axons from the temporal retina take an uncrossed course and separate from axons arising in the nasal retina that take a crossed course. However, this is but a rough approximation of the adult situation, and developmental studies must take account of several distinctive stages and axon rearrangements that characterize the region of the chiasm. At the early and late stages of development of nonprimate species the axons do not segregate in accordance with a strict naso-temporal rule at all, and their behavior at the chiasm is not relevant to the formation of the naso-temporal division. As the axons pass from the eye to the chiasm they tend to lose their retinotopic order, to gain a chronotopic order, and then, in the region of the chiasm, to regain some aspects of the retinotopic order before reaching their terminal sites. Molecular or cellular cues that allow the several distinct organizational steps to occur must be expected in the retina, on the axons themselves, and also along the pathway of the axons, prechiasmatically and at the chiasm. Some of these cues will be associated with local nerve cells, some with specialized glial elements and some with the retinofugal axons themselves. Several candidate molecules have been identified in the retina and along the path of the axons, but to date no clearly defined role in the specific events of the pathway determination have been identified. The sequence of developmental processes that characterizes the formation of the optic chiasm provides an interesting and useful challenge to experimentalists, because the advancing axons can now be observed in vitro and in the living brain. The pattern of growth changes as development proceeds, it shows distinctive properties in different species and in their genetic mutants, and it can be readily modified by simple experimental procedures. These all provide opportunities for investigating the function of proposed molecular cues that act in the development of the chiasm.


Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





4727 - 4737


Animals, Embryo, Mammalian, Embryonic and Fetal Development, Eye, Marsupialia, Optic Chiasm, Retinal Ganglion Cells, Synaptic Transmission, Visual Pathways