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Ephrin-A2 and -A5 influence patterning of normal and novel retinal projections to the thalamus: conserved mapping mechanisms in visual and auditory thalamic targets.

Published Article
The Journal of Comparative Neurology
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
UCSC Neuro biomedical-ucsc


Sensory axons are targeted to modality-specific nuclei in the thalamus. Retinal ganglion cell axons project retinotopically to their principal thalamic target, the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGd), in a pattern likely dictated by the expression of molecular gradients in the LGd. Deafferenting the auditory thalamus induces retinal axons to innervate the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN). These retino-MGN projections also show retinotopic organization. Here we show that ephrin-A2 and -A5, which are expressed in similar gradients in the MGN and LGd, can be used to pattern novel retinal projections in the MGN. As in the LGd, retinal axons from each eye terminate in discrete eye-specific zones in the MGN of rewired wild-type and ephrin-A2/A5 knockout mice. However, ipsilateral eye axons, which arise from retinal regions of high EphA5 receptor expression and represent central visual field, terminate in markedly different ways in the two mice. In rewired wild-type mice, ipsilateral axons specifically avoid areas of high ephrin expression in the MGN. In rewired ephrin knockout mice, ipsilateral projections shift in location and spread more broadly, leading to an expanded representation of the ipsilateral eye in the MGN. Similarly, ipsilateral projections to the LGd in ephrin knockout mice are shifted and are more widespread than in the LGd of wild-type mice. In the MGN, as in the LGd, terminations from the two eyes show little overlap even in the knockout mice, suggesting that local interocular segregation occurs regardless of other patterning determinants. Our data demonstrate that graded topographic labels, such as the ephrins, can serve to shape multiple related aspects of afferent patterning, including topographic mapping and the extent and spread of eye-specific projections. Furthermore, when mapping labels and other cues are expressed in multiple target zones, novel projections are patterned according to rules that operate in their canonical targets.

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