Retinotectal mapping: new insights from molecular genetics

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2005;21:551-80. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.20.022403.093702.


The sensory and motor components of nervous systems are connected topographically and contain neural maps of the external world. The paradigm for such maps is the precisely ordered wiring of the output cells of the eye to their synaptic targets in the tectum of the midbrain. The retinotectal map is organized in development through the graded activity of Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ephrin ligands. These signaling proteins are arrayed in complementary expression gradients along the orthogonal axes of the retina and tectum, and provide both input and recipient cells with Cartesian coordinates that specify their location. Molecular genetic studies in the mouse indicate that these coordinates are interpreted in the context of neuronal competition for termination sites in the tectum. They further suggest that order in the retinotectal map is determined by ratiometric rather than absolute difference comparisons in Eph signaling along the temporal-nasal and dorsal-ventral axes of the eye.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ephrins / genetics
  • Ephrins / metabolism
  • Models, Statistical
  • Molecular Biology*
  • Receptors, Eph Family / metabolism*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Superior Colliculi / embryology
  • Superior Colliculi / metabolism


  • Ephrins
  • Receptors, Eph Family