Severity of infantile nystagmus syndrome-like ocular motor phenotype is linked to the extent of the underlying optic nerve projection defect in zebrafish belladonna mutant

J Neurosci. 2012 Dec 12;32(50):18079-86. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4378-12.2012.


Infantile nystagmus syndrome (INS), formerly known as congenital nystagmus, is an ocular motor disorder in humans characterized by spontaneous eye oscillations (SOs) and, in several cases, reversed optokinetic response (OKR). Its etiology and pathomechanism is largely unknown, but misrouting of the optic nerve has been observed in some patients. Likewise, optic nerve misrouting, a reversed OKR and SOs with INS-like waveforms are observed in zebrafish belladonna (bel) mutants. We aimed to investigate whether and how misrouting of the optic nerve correlates with the ocular motor behaviors in bel larvae. OKR and SOs were quantified and subsequently the optic nerve fibers were stained with fluorescent lipophilic dyes. Eye velocity during OKR was reduced in larvae with few misprojecting optic nerve fibers and reversed in larvae with a substantial fraction of misprojecting fibers. All larvae with reversed OKR also displayed SOs. A stronger reversed OKR correlated with more frequent SOs. Since we did not find a correlation between additional retinal defects and ocular motor behavior, we suggest that axon misrouting is in fact origin of INS in the zebrafish animal model. Depending on the ratio between misprojecting ipsilateral and correctly projecting contralateral fibers, the negative feedback loop normally regulating OKR can turn into a positive loop, resulting in an increase in retinal slip. Our data not only give new insights into the etiology of INS but may also be of interest for studies on how the brain deals with and adapts to conflicting inputs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Larva
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nystagmus, Congenital / pathology*
  • Optic Nerve / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics


  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • lhx2b protein, zebrafish