Large-scale synaptic errors during map formation by regeneration optic axons in the goldfish

J Comp Neurol. 1999 Jun 28;409(2):299-312.


During the formation of visual maps, growing axons initially form a map by using topographically distributed cues that direct their growth and branching to the appropriate target region. This initial map is typically roughly retinotopic and is subsequently refined through activity-dependent rearrangement or cell death. Although synaptic connections are thought to be rearranged during the later refinement phase, there is no clear evidence that synapses are being formed during the initial targeting phase of development. Also, because optic fiber growth can be accurately directed during normal development, it is unclear whether regenerative fibers that have more pathway disorder would behave similarly. This issue was addressed by using optic fibers of goldfish that have the capacity to regenerate a retinotopic projection and can reestablish a rough retinotopic order without impulse activity. The optic nerve of goldfish was crushed, and at various times later, a small number of optic fibers in ventronasal retina was labeled with wheatgerm agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase. The tectum was then processed for electron microscopy to look at the distribution of labeled synapses during regeneration. At 3 weeks, synapses were observed at the far anterior end of the tectum and none were yet seen at the correct posterior retinotopic position. At 4-5 weeks, synapses were seen in nearly equal numbers at the incorrect anterior end and at both correct (retinotopic) and incorrect posterior positions. At late stages of regeneration, synapses were restricted to their correct posterior retinotopic position in the tectum, as they were in normal fish. These findings show that the formation of global retinotopic order entails the formation and subsequent elimination of a large number of highly ectopic synapses. Synaptic rearrangement is a major feature of targeting in this system and may be required for the regeneration of a retinotopic projection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Brain Mapping
  • Goldfish / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Optic Nerve / cytology
  • Optic Nerve / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate


  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate