Analysis of growth cone extension in standardized coordinates highlights self-organization rules during wiring of the Drosophila visual system

PLoS Genet. 2021 Nov 3;17(11):e1009857. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009857. eCollection 2021 Nov.


A fascinating question in neuroscience is how ensembles of neurons, originating from different locations, extend to the proper place and by the right time to create precise circuits. Here, we investigate this question in the Drosophila visual system, where photoreceptors re-sort in the lamina to form the crystalline-like neural superposition circuit. The repeated nature of this circuit allowed us to establish a data-driven, standardized coordinate system for quantitative comparison of sparsely perturbed growth cones within and across specimens. Using this common frame of reference, we investigated the extension of the R3 and R4 photoreceptors, which is the only pair of symmetrically arranged photoreceptors with asymmetric target choices. Specifically, we found that extension speeds of the R3 and R4 growth cones are inherent to their cell identities. The ability to parameterize local regularity in tissue organization facilitated the characterization of ensemble cellular behaviors and dissection of mechanisms governing neural circuit formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Growth Cones / physiology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular*


  • Drosophila Proteins