Retinal ganglion cell axon pathfinding and retinotopic projection during optic nerve development

Ryan A. Gallo, Michelle G. Zhang, Thomas A. Strong, Daniel Pelaez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Visual input is converted to electrical signals that travel from the retina to image-forming centers of the brain along the axons of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). RGCs are the eye's sole output neurons to the brain and they terminate in a highly organized manner to form retinotopic maps. Over a half century ago, Roger Sperry proposed the chemoaffinity hypothesis for how these maps develop based off a series of experiments on the invertebrate visual system. According to this hypothesis, neurons and their targets have complementary markers formed during cellular differentiation that direct specific synaptic connections. Since then, many distinct guidance signaling cues and molecular gradients have been identified that aid in establishing orderly synaptic connections. These cues direct RGC axon pathfinding tasks and target selection at decisionmaking steps such as within the retina, through the optic nerve, at the chiasm and to the primary visual cortex. Failure to establish the proper neuronal connectivity results in visual impairment. In this chapter, we focus on the current understanding of mechanisms regulating retinotopic axonal projection within the retina, optic nerve, and optic chiasm during visual system development. We briefly discuss disorders of defective RGC axon development and guidance, such as optic nerve hypoplasia, septo-optic dysplasia, and albinism. We also discuss the aberrant reactivation of developmental ephrin signaling observed in glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Optic Nerve
Subtitle of host publicationStructure, Functions and Clinical Aspects
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)9781536155440
ISBN (Print)9781536143812
StatePublished - May 28 2019


  • Fasciculation
  • Glaucoma
  • Intraretinal axon guidance
  • Optic chiasm
  • Optic nerve
  • Retinal ganglion cell
  • Retinotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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