At the optic chiasm, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) project ipsi- or contralaterally to establish the circuitry for binocular vision. Ipsilateral guidance programs have been characterized, but contralateral guidance programs are not well understood. Here, we identify a tripartite molecular system for contralateral RGC projections: Semaphorin6D (Sema6D) and Nr-CAM are expressed on midline radial glia and Plexin-A1 on chiasm neurons, and Plexin-A1 and Nr-CAM are also expressed on contralateral RGCs. Sema6D is repulsive to contralateral RGCs, but Sema6D in combination with Nr-CAM and Plexin-A1 converts repulsion to growth promotion. Nr-CAM functions as a receptor for Sema6D. Sema6D, Plexin-A1, and Nr-CAM are all required for efficient RGC decussation at the optic chiasm. These findings suggest a mechanism by which a complex of Sema6D, Nr-CAM, and Plexin-A1 at the chiasm midline alters the sign of Sema6D and signals Nr-CAM/Plexin-A1 receptors on RGCs to implement the contralateral RGC projection.
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