Differential expression of Eph receptors and ephrins correlates with the formation of topographic projections in primary and secondary visual circuits of the embryonic chick forebrain

Dev Biol. 2001 Jun 15;234(2):289-303. doi: 10.1006/dbio.2001.0268.


Repulsion plays a fundamental role in the establishment of a topographic map of the chick retinotectal projections. This has been highlighted by studies demonstrating the role of opposing gradients of the EphA3 receptor tyrosine kinase on retinal axons and two of its ligands, ephrin-A2 and ephrin-A5, in the tectum. We have analyzed the distribution of these two ephrins in other retinorecipient structures in the chick diencephalon and mesencephalon during the period when visual connections are being established. We have found that both ephrin-A2 and ephrin-A5 and their receptors EphA4 and EphA7 are expressed in gradients whose orientation is consistent with the topography of the nasotemporal axis of the respective retinofugal projections. In addition, their distribution suggests that receptor-ligand interactions may be involved in the organization of connections between the different primary visual centers and, thus, in the topographic organization of secondary visual projections. Interestingly, where projections lack a clear topographic representation, a uniform expression of the Eph-ephrin molecules was observed. Finally, we also show that a similar patterning mechanism may be implicated in the transfer of visual information to the telencephalon. These results suggest a conserved function for EphA receptors and their ligands in the elaboration of topographic maps at multiple levels of the visual pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Ephrin-A2
  • Ephrin-A5
  • Fetal Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Mesencephalon / embryology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / embryology
  • Prosencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Prosencephalon / embryology*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Receptor, EphA4
  • Receptor, EphA7
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Superior Colliculi / anatomy & histology
  • Superior Colliculi / embryology*
  • Telencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Telencephalon / embryology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Ephrin-A2
  • Ephrin-A5
  • Fetal Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, EphA4
  • Receptor, EphA7