Diversity in mammalian chiasmatic architecture: ipsilateral axons are deflected at glial arches in the prechiasmatic optic nerve of the eutherian Tupaia belangeri

J Comp Neurol. 2008 May 20;508(3):437-57. doi: 10.1002/cne.21694.


Permanent ipsilaterally projecting axons approach the chiasmatic midline in rodents but are confined to lateral parts of the optic chiasm in marsupials. Hence, principally different mechanisms were thought to underlie axon pathway choice in eutherian (placental) and marsupial mammals. First evidence of diversity in eutherian chiasmatic architecture came from studies in the newborn and adult tree shrew Tupaia belangeri (Jeffery et al. [1998] J. Comp. Neurol. 390:183-193). Here, as in marsupials, ipsilaterally projecting axons do not approach the midline. The present study aims to clarify how the developing tree shrew chiasm is organized, how glial cells are arranged therein, and the extent to which the tree shrew chiasm is similar to that of marsupials or other eutherians. By using routinely stained serial sections as well as immunohistochemistry with antibodies against glial fibrillary acidic protein, vimentin, and medium-molecular-weight neurofilament protein, we investigated chiasm formation from embryonic day 18 (E18) to birth (E43). From E22 onward, ipsilaterally projecting axons diverged from contralaterally projecting axons in prechiasmatic parts of the optic nerve. They made sharp turns when arriving at glial arches found at the transition from the optic nerve to the chiasm. Thus, during the ingrowth period of axons, Tupaia belangeri and marsupials have specialized glial arrays in common, which probably help to deflect ipsilaterally projecting axons to lateral parts of the chiasm. Our observations provide new evidence of diversity in eutherian chiasmatic architecture and identify Tupaia belangeri as an appropriate animal model for studies on the mechanisms underlying axon guidance in the developing chiasm of higher primates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Optic Chiasm / cytology*
  • Optic Chiasm / embryology
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Optic Nerve / embryology
  • Tupaia / anatomy & histology*
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Vimentin
  • neurofilament protein M