Development of the retina

Methods Cell Biol. 1999;59:273-99. doi: 10.1016/s0091-679x(08)61830-0.


As in other vertebrate species, the zebrafish retina is simpler than other regions of the central nervous system. This relative simplicity along with rapid development, and accessibility to genetic analysis make the zebrafish retina an excellent model system for studies of neurogenesis in the vertebrate CNS. Several genetic screens have led to the isolation of an impressive collection of mutants affecting the retina and the retinotectal projections in zebrafish. A variety of techniques and markers are available to study the isolated mutants. These include several antigen- and transcript-detection methods, retrograde and anterograde labeling of neurons, blastomere transplantations, H3 labeling, and others. As past genetic screens have achieved a rather low level of saturation, the current collection of mutants can only grow in the future. Morphological and behavioral criteria have been successfully applied in zebrafish to search for defects in spinal development. In future genetic screens, progressively more sophisticated screening approaches will make it possible to detect very subtle changes in the retinal development. The remarkable evolutionary conservation of the vertebrate eye provides the basis for using the zebrafish as a model system for the detection and analysis of genetic defects potentially related to human eye disorders. Some of the genetic defects of the zebrafish retina indeed resemble human retinopathies. As the genetic analysis of the vertebrate visual system is far from being complete and new techniques are being introduced at a rapid pace, the zebrafish embryo will become increasingly useful as a model for studies of the vertebrate retina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics