Axon-axon interactions in neuronal circuit assembly: lessons from olfactory map formation

Eur J Neurosci. 2011 Nov;34(10):1647-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07817.x.


During the development of the nervous system, neurons often connect axons and dendrites over long distances, which are navigated by chemical cues. During the past few decades, studies on axon guidance have focused on chemical cues provided by the axonal target or intermediate target. However, recent studies have shed light on the roles and mechanisms underlying axon-axon interactions during neuronal circuit assembly. The roles of axon-axon interactions are best exemplified in recent studies on olfactory map formation in vertebrates. Pioneer-follower interaction is essential for the axonal pathfinding process. Pre-target axon sorting establishes the anterior-posterior map order. The temporal order of axonal projection is converted to dorsal-ventral topography with the aid of secreted molecules provided by early-arriving axons. An activity-dependent process to form a discrete map also depends on axon sorting. Thus, an emerging principle of olfactory map formation is the 'self-organisation' of axons rather than the 'lock and key' matching between axons and targets. In this review, we discuss how axon-axon interactions contribute to neuronal circuit assembly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Olfactory Bulb / growth & development
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / cytology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins