Synaptic laminae in the visual system: molecular mechanisms forming layers of perception

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2013;29:385-416. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-101011-155748.

Abstract

Synaptic connections between neurons form the basis for perception and behavior. Synapses are often clustered in space, forming stereotyped layers. In the retina and optic tectum, multiple such synaptic laminae are stacked on top of each other, giving rise to stratified neuropil regions in which each layer combines synapses responsive to a particular sensory feature. Recently, several cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of multilaminar arrays of synapses have been discovered. These mechanisms include neurite guidance and cell-cell recognition. Molecules of the Slit, Semaphorin, Netrin, and Hedgehog families, binding to their matching receptors, bring axons and dendrites into spatial register. These guidance cues may diffuse over short distances or bind to sheets of extracellular matrix, thus conditioning the local extracellular milieu, or are presented on the surface of cells bordering the future neuropil. In addition, mutual recognition of axons and dendrites through adhesion molecules with immunoglobulin domains ensures cell type-specific connections within a given layer. Thus, an elaborate genetic program assembles the parallel processing channels that underlie visual perception.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Visual Pathways*
  • Visual Perception*

Substances

  • Eye Proteins