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We have examined expression of L1 and the polysialic acid-associated form of the neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) in mouse embryos during the major period of axon growth in the retinofugal pathway to determine whether they are expressed in patterns that relate to the changes in axon organization in the pathway. Immunostaining for L1 and PSA-NCAM was found on all axons in the retina and the optic stalk. In the chiasm, while L1 immunoreactivity remained high on the axons, PSA-NCAM staining was obviously reduced. At the threshold of the optic tract, L1 immunoreactivity was maintained only in a subpopulation of axons, whereas PSA-NCAM staining was dramatically elevated in axons at the caudal part of the tract. Further investigations of the tract showed that both L1 and PSA-NCAM were preferentially expressed on the dorsal but not ventral optic axons, indicating a regionally specific change of both adhesion molecules on the axons at the chiasm-tract junction. Moreover, intense PSA-NCAM expression was also observed in the tract of postoptic commissure (TPOC), which lies immediately caudal to the optic tract. Immunohistochemical and retrograde tracing studies showed that these PSA-NCAM-positive axons arose from a population of cells rostral to the CD44-positive chiasmatic neurons. These findings indicate that, in addition to the chiasmatic neurons, these PSA-NCAM-positive diencephalic cells also contribute axons to the TPOC. These early generated commissural axons together with the regionally specific pattern of cell adhesion molecule expression on the optic axons may control formation of the partial retinotopic axon order in the optic tract through homophilic or heterophilic interactions that involve PSA-NCAM.

Original publication




Journal article


J Comp Neurol

Publication Date





482 - 498


Animals, Embryo, Mammalian, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule L1, Neural Pathways, Optic Chiasm, Pregnancy, Retina, Sialic Acids, Visual Pathways