Establishing topographical maps of the external world is an important but still poorly understood feature of the vertebrate sensory system. To study the selective innervation of hindbrain regions by sensory afferents in the zebrafish embryo, we mapped the fine-grained topographical representation of sensory projections at the central level by specific photoconversion of sensory neurons. Sensory ganglia located anteriorly project more medially than do ganglia located posteriorly, and this relates to the order of sensory ganglion differentiation. By single-plane illumination microscopy (SPIM) in vivo imaging, we show that (1) the sequence of arrival of cranial ganglion inputs predicts the topography of central projections, and (2) delaminated neuroblasts differentiate in close contact with the neural tube, and they never loose contact with the neural ectoderm. Afferent entrance points are established by plasma membrane interactions between primary differentiated peripheral sensory neurons and neural tube border cells with the cooperation of neural crest cells. These first contacts remain during ensuing morphological growth to establish pioneer axons. Neural crest cells and repulsive slit1/robo2 signals then guide axons from later-differentiating neurons toward the neural tube. Thus, this study proposes a new model by which the topographical representation of cranial sensory ganglia is established by entrance order, with the entry points determined by cell contact between the sensory ganglion cell bodies and the hindbrain.
Keywords: axon navigation; inner ear; neural crest cells; neuron differentiation; sensory systems; somatotopy.
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