Protocadherins control the modular assembly of neuronal columns in the zebrafish optic tectum

J Cell Biol. 2015 Nov 23;211(4):807-14. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201507108.


Cell-cell recognition guides the assembly of the vertebrate brain during development. δ-Protocadherins comprise a family of neural adhesion molecules that are differentially expressed and have been implicated in a range of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we show that the expression of δ-protocadherins partitions the zebrafish optic tectum into radial columns of neurons. Using in vivo two-photon imaging of bacterial artificial chromosome transgenic zebrafish, we show that pcdh19 is expressed in discrete columns of neurons, and that these columnar modules are derived from proliferative pcdh19(+) neuroepithelial precursors. Elimination of pcdh19 results in both a disruption of columnar organization and defects in visually guided behaviors. These results reveal a fundamental mechanism for organizing the developing nervous system: subdivision of the early neuroepithelium into precursors with distinct molecular identities guides the autonomous development of parallel neuronal units, organizing neural circuit formation and behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Protocadherins
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology*
  • Superior Colliculi / metabolism
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / physiology*


  • Cadherins
  • Pcdh19 protein, zebrafish
  • Protocadherins
  • Zebrafish Proteins