Background: The formation of visuotopically-aligned projections in the brain is required for the generation of functional binocular circuits. The mechanisms which underlie this process are unknown. Ten-m3 is expressed in a broad high-ventral to low-dorsal gradient across the retina and in topographically-corresponding gradients in primary visual centres. Deletion of Ten-m3 causes profound disruption of binocular visual alignment and function. Surprisingly, one of the most apparent neuroanatomical changes-dramatic mismapping of ipsilateral, but not contralateral, retinal axons along the representation of the nasotemporal retinal axis-does not correlate well with Ten-m3's expression pattern, raising questions regarding mechanism. The aim of this study was to further our understanding of the molecular interactions which enable the formation of functional binocular visual circuits.
Methods: Anterograde tracing, gene expression studies and protein pull-down experiments were performed. Statistical significance was tested using a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, pairwise-fixed random reallocation tests and univariate ANOVAs.
Results: We show that the ipsilateral retinal axons in Ten-m3 knockout mice are mismapped as a consequence of early axonal guidance defects. The aberrant invasion of the ventral-most region of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus by ipsilateral retinal axons in Ten-m3 knockouts suggested changes in the expression of other axonal guidance molecules, particularly members of the EphA-ephrinA family. We identified a consistent down-regulation of EphA7, but none of the other EphA-ephrinA genes tested, as well as an up-regulation of ipsilateral-determinants Zic2 and EphB1 in visual structures. We also found that Zic2 binds specifically to the intracellular domain of Ten-m3 in vitro.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that Zic2, EphB1 and EphA7 molecules may work as effectors of Ten-m3 signalling, acting together to enable the wiring of functional binocular visual circuits.
Keywords: Binocular vision; Contralateral; EphA7; Ipsilateral; Neural development; Retina; Retinotopic mapping; Teneurin/Odz; Zic2.