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It will be well to restate the main problem at this point and to examine how far the accumulated data can help to elucidate it. The problem is this: Why are old mice generally resistant to all forms of peripheral inoculation of vesicular stomatitis virus when intracerebral injection is equally fatal for mice of all ages? The results of experiments in which the presence of virus was demonstrated by animal passage suggested that the reason can perhaps be found in (a) the different mechanisms of virus progression after intracerebral and peripheral injection, and (b) the development with age of localized barriers capable of halting the spread of virus (1, 2). The present study sought histological evidence for the nature of virus progression and for the changes observed in the older animals. The results clearly demonstrate that after intracerebral injection virus spreads along an open system, the lesions being distributed almost entirely in contiguity with the ventricles and their extensions, while after peripheral inoculations the evidence points to progression of the virus in a closed system of neurons and their processes, at least in the stage preceding neuronal necrosis, the distribution of lesions depending upon the central connections of the primary neurons connected with the inoculated site. Thus, in young mice, nasal instillation of the virus was followed by necrosis of a long chain of neurons, starting with those in the olfactory mucosa and progressing through specific zones of the olfactory pathway, pursuing the same order in which the various regions are known to have their major connections with one another. It is important to note that after nasal instillation the apparent lesions were present where the cell bodies of the neurons are situated, and not along the tracts connecting one group of neurons with another, which accounts for the lack of contiguity between the affected zones and the normal appearing, intervening areas. The assumption that the primary progression of the virus in this case occurs in a closed system is based on the absence of lesions in unrelated areas contiguous to those which are necrotic and to the tracts which connect one affected zone with another. Additional evidence for the assumption that the initial dissemination of peripherally injected virus is in a closed system is found in the decussating optic nerve pathway primarily pursued by the intraocularly injected virus. The progression of the virus along this decussating pathway was indicated in the experimental data obtained on mice 21 days or older, while in younger animals the spread of virus was so rapid and diffuse that the pathways along which it might have occurred remained obscure (2). In the present study, in which 15 day old mice were used, the lesions in the retinal neurons and the constant involvement of only the contralateral superior colliculus left little doubt that the primary spread of the virus, even in these very young animals, must have occurred within the retinal neuron processes (axons) which decussate in the optic chiasm (in the mouse, as in the rat, very few of these go to the homolateral side) and synapse chiefly with the neurons of the contralateral superior colliculus and also, apparently to a lesser extent, with those of the contralateral external geniculate body, where lesions were also demonstrated. Virus spreading in the optic nerve along the perineural subarachnoid space would be found at the base of the brain at the optic chiasm; virus extending along the interstitial spaces in the optic nerve should involve not only the nuclei of both sides of the optic pathway but also non-optic structures, such as the medial geniculate bodies, posterior colliculi, etc., by means of the commissures of von Gudden and of Meynert, whose fibers course through the chiasm. The highly specific localization observed in the present study is best accounted for by progression along the suggested closed pathway. Hurst (10) observed that poliomyelitis virus, after injection into the left sciatic nerve, may, after invading the lumbar cord, be found first in the contralateral motor cortex or thalamus and he suggested that this was evidence of progression along a decussating pathway and in favor of the axonal hypothesis of virus spread. It was not shown, however, that this particular localization was specifically related to the introduction of virus in the left sciatic nerve, or that it could be reversed by inoculating the sciatic nerve of the opposite side. The hypothesis proposed by Hurst, however, finds support in the present instance for (a) the superior colliculi never showed lesions after intracerebral, intranasal, or intramuscular inoculations, and (b) necrosis was produced in either the right or the left superior colliculus, depending on whether the virus was injected into the left or right eyes. The localization of lesions after injection of virus into the muscles of one leg indicated that in the young the invasion occurred along the local peripheral nerves, especially the motor fibers (neurons destroyed in the lumbar cord with those in the spinal ganglia intact), after a primary attack on the muscle itself. The only other lesions found at a late stage were in the reticular substance of the medulla, the olfactory portions of the brain appearing entirely normal. In this respect the mechanism of progression of intramuscularly injected vesicular stomatitis virus differs from that of eastern equine encephalomyelitis and pseudorabies viruses similarly injected into mice of the same age and breed: the former (E.E.E.) invades the central nervous system in the majority of instances, by being eliminated on the nasal mucosa and then along the olfactory pathways (18), while the latter appears to employ chiefly the local sensory fibers, attacking primarily the neurons in the spinal ganglia (unpublished observations). Because the CNS of old mice remain for the most part susceptible to vesicular stomatitis virus (although definite evidence of resistance to necrosis of the neurons was observed), and because after intracerebral injection the virus has been shown to spread in an open (ventricular) system, it is clear why young and old mice are equally susceptible to inoculation by this route. After peripheral inoculation, however, it has been amply demonstrated by experimental and histological methods that the spread of this virus begins and continues, at least until the cells disintegrate, in a closed system within the neurons and their processes and apparently also across the synapses. The halting of the virus somewhere in the anterior rhinencephalon after nasal instillation in resistant mice (1) would appear to be due to an arrest in an insusceptible neuron or an impenetrable synapse somewhere in the chain, and to the failure of the affected neurons to disintegrate (no lesions were found in the CNS of these mice) and thus to liberate the virus into the open system. After intramuscular injection, on the other hand, the virus encounters a different kind of muscle cell in the old mouse, and its inability to invade the nerves may perhaps be bound up with its demonstrated inability to attack and multiply in these changed muscle cells, although the role of a possible alteration in the terminal nerve endings themselves is not yet clear. After intraocular injection, the virus fails to affect visibly the retinal neurons of resistant old mice and the further invasion of the CNS is inhibited. The resistance of old mice to peripheral inoculations of vesicular stomatitis virus thus appears to be the result of (a) changes produced by age not in the whole animal but in certain specific, isolated structures, and (b) the special mode of progression of peripherally injected virus. It may be of interest to point out two phenomena which may perhaps be related to the one investigated in the present study. Tobacco mosaic virus has been found to produce different types of disease in certain plants of different ages; thus a widespread, systemic necrosis leads to the death of young Nicotiana rustica plants, while in old plants it is possible to produce necrotic foci in many parts of the plant by direct inoculation, although generalization does not occur from an isolated focus as it does in young specimens (19). In other words, age apparently does not change the whole plant, but it does transform something which allows the virus to spread easily from one site to another. MacNider (20) has observed that dogs which survive a severe type of hepatic injury from uranium, repair this injury with a special type of atypical, epithelial cell and become resistant not only to secondary intoxications by uranium but also by chloroform; he has also found that this change in epithelial cell type may be acquired as a product of senility, and that when it develops it imparts to the liver a degree of resistance to chloroform comparable to that induced by a process of repair following a severe hepatic injury from uranium nitrate.
PMCID: PMC2133559  PMID: 19870715
2.  Segregated hemispheric pathways through the optic chiasm distinguish primates from rodents 
Neuroscience  2008;157(3):637-643.
At the optic chiasm retinal fibres either cross the midline, or remain uncrossed. Here we trace hemispheric pathways through the marmoset chiasm and show that fibres from the lateral optic nerve pass directly towards the ipsilateral optic tract without any significant change in fibre order and without approaching the midline, while those from medial regions of the nerve decussate directly. Anterograde labelling from one eye shows that the two hemispheric pathways remain segregated through the proximal nerve and chiasm with the uncrossed confined laterally. Retrograde labelling from the optic tract confirms this. This clearly demonstrates that hemispheric pathways are segregated through the primate chiasm.
Previous chiasmatic studies have been undertaken mainly on rodents and ferrets. In these species there is a major change in fibre order pre-chiasmatically, where crossed and uncrossed fibres mix, reflecting their embryological history when all fibres approach the midline prior to their commitment to innervate either hemisphere. This pattern was thought to be common to placental mammals. In marsupials there is no change in fibre order and uncrossed fibres remain confined laterally through nerve and chiasm, again, reflecting their developmental history when all uncrossed fibres avoid the midline. Recently it has been shown that this distinction is not a true dichotomy between placental mammals and marsupials, as fibre order in tree shrews and humans mirrors the marsupial pattern.
Architectural differences in the mature chiasm probably reflect different developmental mechanisms regulating pathway choice. Our results therefore suggest that both the organisation and development of the primate optic chiasm differ markedly from that revealed in rodents and carnivores.
PMCID: PMC2736912  PMID: 18854206
Retina; marmoset; vision development
3.  Switching retinogeniculate axon laterality leads to normal targeting but abnormal eye-specific segregation that is activity dependent 
Partial decussation of sensory pathways allows neural inputs from both sides of the body to project to the same target region where these signals will be integrated. Here, in order to better understand mechanisms of eye-specific targeting, we studied how retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons terminate in their thalamic target, the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), when crossing at the optic chiasm midline is altered. In models with gain- and loss-of-function of EphB1, the receptor that directs the ipsilateral projection at the optic chiasm, misrouted RGCs target the appropriate retinotopic zone in the opposite dLGN. However, in EphB1-/- mice, the misrouted axons do not intermingle with normally projecting RGC axons and segregate instead into a distinct patch. We also revisited the role of retinal activity on eye-specific targeting by blocking correlated waves of activity with epibatidine into both eyes. We show that in wild-type mice, retinal waves are necessary during the first postnatal week for both proper distribution and eye-specific segregation of ipsilateral axons in the mature dLGN. Moreover, in EphB1-/- mice, refinement of ipsilateral axons is perturbed in control conditions and is further impaired after epibatidine treatment. Finally, retinal waves are required for the formation of the segregated patch of misrouted axons in EphB1-/- mice. These findings implicate molecular determinants for targeting of eye-specific zones that are independent of midline guidance cues and that function in concert with correlated retinal activity to sculpt retinogeniculate projections.
PMCID: PMC2829946  PMID: 19940181
retinal ganglion cell; axon; retinogeniculate; lateral geniculate; visual; patterning; retina; activity; topography
4.  Overexpression of Pax6 results in microphthalmia, retinal dysplasia and defective retinal ganglion cell axon guidance 
The transcription factor Pax6 is expressed by many cell types in the developing eye. Eyes do not form in homozygous loss-of-function mouse mutants (Pax6Sey/Sey) and are abnormally small in Pax6Sey/+ mutants. Eyes are also abnormally small in PAX77 mice expressing multiple copies of human PAX6 in addition to endogenous Pax6; protein sequences are identical in the two species. The developmental events that lead to microphthalmia in PAX77 mice are not well-characterised, so it is not clear whether over- and under-expression of Pax6/PAX6 cause microphthalmia through similar mechanisms. Here, we examined the consequences of over-expression for the eye and its axonal connections.
Eyes form in PAX77+/+ embryos but subsequently degenerate. At E12.5, we found no abnormalities in ocular morphology, retinal cell cycle parameters and the incidence of retinal cell death. From E14.5 on, we observed malformations of the optic disc. From E16.5 into postnatal life there is progressively more severe retinal dysplasia and microphthalmia. Analyses of patterns of gene expression indicated that PAX77+/+ retinae produce a normal range of cell types, including retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). At E14.5 and E16.5, quantitative RT-PCR with probes for a range of molecules associated with retinal development showed only one significant change: a slight reduction in levels of mRNA encoding the secreted morphogen Shh at E16.5. At E16.5, tract-tracing with carbocyanine dyes in PAX77+/+ embryos revealed errors in intraretinal navigation by RGC axons, a decrease in the number of RGC axons reaching the thalamus and an increase in the proportion of ipsilateral projections among those RGC axons that do reach the thalamus. A survey of embryos with different Pax6/PAX6 gene dosage (Pax6Sey/+, Pax6+/+, PAX77+ and PAX77+/+) showed that (1) the total number of RGC axons projected by the retina and (2) the proportions that are sorted into the ipsilateral and contralateral optic tracts at the optic chiasm vary differently with gene dosage. Increasing dosage increases the proportion projecting ipsilaterally regardless of the size of the total projection.
Pax6 overexpression does not obviously impair the initial formation of the eye and its major cell-types but prevents normal development of the retina from about E14.5, leading eventually to severe retinal degeneration in postnatal life. This sequence is different to that underlying microphthalmia in Pax6+/- heterozygotes, which is due primarily to defects in the initial stages of lens formation. Before the onset of severe retinal dysplasia, Pax6 overexpression causes defects of retinal axons, preventing their normal growth and navigation through the optic chiasm.
PMCID: PMC2422841  PMID: 18507827
5.  In utero and ex vivo Electroporation for Gene Expression in Mouse Retinal Ganglion Cells 
The retina and its sole output neuron, the retinal ganglion cell (RGC), comprise an excellent model in which to examine biological questions such as cell differentiation, axon guidance, retinotopic organization and synapse formation[1]. One drawback is the inability to efficiently and reliably manipulate gene expression in RGCs in vivo, especially in the otherwise accessible murine visual pathways. Transgenic mice can be used to manipulate gene expression, but this approach is often expensive, time consuming, and can produce unwanted side effects. In chick, in ovo electroporation is used to manipulate gene expression in RGCs for examining retina and RGC development. Although similar electroporation techniques have been developed in neonatal mouse pups[2], adult rats[3], and embryonic murine retinae in vitro[4], none of these strategies allow full characterization of RGC development and axon projections in vivo. To this end, we have developed two applications of electroporation, one in utero and the other ex vivo, to specifically target embryonic murine RGCs[5, 6].
With in utero retinal electroporation, we can misexpress or downregulate specific genes in RGCs and follow their axon projections through the visual pathways in vivo, allowing examination of guidance decisions at intermediate targets, such as the optic chiasm, or at target regions, such as the lateral geniculate nucleus. Perturbing gene expression in a subset of RGCs in an otherwise wild-type background facilitates an understanding of gene function throughout the retinal pathway. Additionally, we have developed a companion technique for analyzing RGC axon growth in vitro. We electroporate embryonic heads ex vivo, collect and incubate the whole retina, then prepare explants from these retinae several days later. Retinal explants can be used in a variety of in vitro assays in order to examine the response of electroporated RGC axons to guidance cues or other factors. In sum, this set of techniques enhances our ability to misexpress or downregulate genes in RGCs and should greatly aid studies examining RGC development and axon projections.
PMCID: PMC3142865  PMID: 19779401
6.  Pre-target sorting of retino-collicular axons in the mouse 
The map of the retina onto the optic tectum is a highly conserved feature of the vertebrate visual system and the mechanism by which this mapping is accomplished during development is a long-standing problem of neurobiology. The early suggestion by Roger Sperry that the map is formed through interactions between retinal ganglion cell axons and target cells within the tectum has gained significant experimental support and wide spread acceptance. Nonetheless, reports in a variety of species indicate that some aspects of retinotopic order exist within the optic tract, leading to the suggestion that this ‘pre-ordering’ of retinal axons may play a role in the formation of the mature tectal map. A satisfactory account of pre-target order must provide the mechanism by which such axon order develops. Insofar as this mechanism must ultimately be genetically determined, the mouse suggests itself as the natural species in which to pursue these studies. Quantitative and repeatable methods are required to asses the contribution of candidate genes in mouse models. For these reasons, we have undertaken a quantitative study of the degree of retinotopic order within the optic tract and nerve of wild type mice both before and after the development of the retinotectal map. Our methods are based on tract-tracing using lipophilic dyes and our results indicate that there is a reestablishment of dorsoventral but not nasotemporal retinal order when the axons pass through the chiasm, and that this order is maintained throughout the subsequent tract. Furthermore, this dorsoventral retinotopic order is well-established by the day after birth, long before the final target zone is discernible within the tectum. We conclude that pretarget sorting of axons according to origin along the dorsoventral axis of the retina is both spatially and chronologically appropriate to contribute to the formation of the retinotectal map, and suggest that these methods be used to search for the molecular basis of such order using available mouse genetic models.
PMCID: PMC2716708  PMID: 16175549
Development; chemoaffinity; retinotectal; superior colliculus; vision; retinotopy
7.  Long-distance axon regeneration in the mature optic nerve: Contributions of Oncomodulin, cAMP, and pten gene deletion 
The inability of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) to regenerate damaged axons through the optic nerve has dire consequences for victims of traumatic nerve injury and certain neurodegenerative diseases. Several strategies have been shown to induce appreciable regeneration in vivo, but the regrowth of axons through the entire optic nerve and on into the brain remains a major challenge. We show here that the induction of a controlled inflammatory response in the eye, when combined with elevation of intracellular cAMP and deletion of the gene encoding pten (phosphatase and tensin homolog), enables RGCs to regenerate axons the full length of the optic nerve in mature mice; about half of these axons cross the chiasm, and a rare (~1%) subset manages to enter the thalamus. Consistent with our earlier findings, the axon-promoting effects of inflammation were shown to require the macrophage-derived growth factor oncomodulin (Ocm). Elevation of cAMP increased the ability of Ocm to bind to its receptors in the inner retina and augmented inflammation-induced regeneration twofold. Inflammation combined with elevated cAMP and PTEN deletion increased activation of the PI3K and MAP kinase signaling pathways and augmented regeneration approximately 10-fold over the level induced by either pten deletion or Zymosan alone. Thus, treatments that synergistically alter the intrinsic growth state of RGCs produce unprecedented levels of axon regeneration in the optic nerve, a CNS pathway long believed to be incapable of supporting such growth.
PMCID: PMC3001271  PMID: 21084621
Optic nerve; regeneration; oncomodulin; cAMP; PTEN; axon; retinal ganglion cell
8.  Bone morphogenetic proteins, eye patterning, and retinocollicular map formation in the mouse 
Patterning events during early eye formation determine retinal cell fate and can dictate the behavior of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons as they navigate toward central brain targets. The temporally and spatially regulated expression of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and their receptors in the retina are thought to play a key role in this process, initiating gene expression cascades that distinguish different regions of the retina, particularly along the dorsoventral axis. Here, we examine the role of BMP and a potential downstream effector, EphB, in retinotopic map formation in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and superior colliculus (SC). RGC axon behaviors during retinotopic map formation in wild type mice are compared with those in several strains of mice with engineered defects of BMP and EphB signaling. Normal RGC axon sorting produces axon order in the optic tract that reflects the dorsoventral position of the parent RGCs in the eye. A dramatic consequence of disrupting BMP signaling is a missorting of RGC axons as they exit the optic chiasm. This sorting is not dependent on EphB. When BMP signaling in the developing eye is genetically modified, RGC order in the optic tract and targeting in the LGN and SC are correspondingly disrupted. These experiments show that BMP signaling regulates dorsoventral RGC cell fate, RGC axon behavior in the ascending optic tract and retinotopic map formation in the LGN and SC through mechanisms that are in part distinct from EphB signaling in the LGN and SC.
PMCID: PMC2667968  PMID: 18614674
Bone Morphogenetic Proteins; retinotopic map; superior colliculus; lateral geniculate nucleus; visual development; EphB; EphrinB
9.  Retinal whole genome microarray analysis and early morphological changes in the optic nerves of monkeys after an intraorbital nerve irradiated injury 
Molecular Vision  2011;17:2920-2933.
To obtain and analyze early retinal changes at the molecular level 24 h after a radiation injury to the ipsilateral intraorbital nerve using gamma knife surgery (GKS), and to examine the morphological changes in bilateral optic nerves.
Unilateral intraorbital optic nerves of three rhesus macaques were treated by GKS with irradiated doses of 15 Gy, while contralateral optic nerves and retinas served as the control. Gene expression profiles of the control and affected retinas were analyzed with Affymetrix Rhesus Macaque Genome arrays. To verify the results, a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT–PCR) was performed to test the expression patterns of five function-known genes. Morphological changes in the bilateral optic nerves were examined using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and light microscopy. The glial cell reaction in bilateral optic nerves was studied using immunohistochemistry.
Of the probe sets, 1,597 (representing 1,081 genes) met the criteria for differential expression, of which 82 genes were significantly up-or down-regulated in treated retinas. There was prominent upregulation of genes associated with glial cell activation in the treated retina. Genes related to an early inflammatory reaction and to cell death were also significantly regulated in response to a radiation injury to the intraorbital optic nerve. In contrast, the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression levels of retinal ganglion cell (RGC)-specific genes were low. Morphologically, cytoplasmic processes of astrocytes in treated nerves were shorter than those of the control and were not straight, while also being accompanied by decreased GFAP immunostaining. More oligodendrocytes and inflammatory cells were apparent in treated nerves than in the control. In addition, swollen mitochondria and slight chromation condensation could be seen in the glial cells of treated nerves.
We conclude that the current irradiated dose of 15 Gy was sufficient to lead to a radiation injury of the optic nerve and retina. Several transcripts deregulated in retinas after a radiation injury play a key role in radiation-induced neurogenic visual loss, especially for genes associated with RGC, glial cell, and cell death. Glial cells in optic nerves might be the primary target of a radiation injury in the optic nerve.
PMCID: PMC3224835  PMID: 22128239
10.  The Role of the Macula OCT Scan in Neuro-ophthalmology 
Recent improvements in OCT resolution and automated segmentation software has provided a means of relating visual pathway damage to structural changes in the RNFL and corresponding soma of the ganglion cells in the inner layers of the macula and also in the outer photoreceptor layer in the macula.
Evidence Acquisition
Studies correlating retinal structure with function are reviewed in the context of optical coherence tomography (OCT) in optic nerve and retinal disorders
Recently published work provides evidence showing a strong relationship not only between the retinal nerve fiber layer and visual threshold in optic nerve disorders, but also between visual sensitivity and the inner layers of the retina in the macula where the cell bodies of ganglion cells reside. Acquired and genetic disorders affecting the outer retina show correlation between visual sensitivity and the thickness of the outer photoreceptors. These relationships helps localize unknown causes of visual field loss through segmentation of the retinal layers using spectral domain OCT.
Advances in relating the structure of the ganglion cell layer in the macula to the corresponding axons in the retinal nerve fiber layer and to visual function further our ability to differentiate and localize ambiguous causes of vision loss and visual field defects in neuro-ophthalmology. Ganglion cell layer analysis in volume OCT data may provide yet another piece of the puzzle to understanding structure-function relationships and its application to diagnosis and monitoring of optic nerve diseases, while similar structure-function relationships are also being elucidated in the outer retina for photoreceptor diseases.
PMCID: PMC3226727  PMID: 22089499
optical coherence tomography; macula; visual function; ganglion cell layer; retinal nerve fiber layer
11.  Wilbrand's knee of the primate optic chiasm is an artefact of monocular enucleation. 
PURPOSE: The anterior chiasmal syndrome consists of a temporal hemianopia or complete visual field loss in one eye, plus a superior temporal hemianopia in the other eye. The superior temporal hemianopia in the other eye is thought to result from injury to Wilbrand's Knee of the optic chiasm. Wilbrand's Knee is a loop of decussating fibers which detours into the contralateral optic nerve before entering the optic tract. I studied the organization of fibers in the optic chiasm of monkeys and humans to verify the existence of Wilbrand's Knee and to elucidate further the pattern of visual field loss seen from lesions of the sellar region. METHODS: The primary optic pathway was labelled in monkeys by injection of [3H] proline into one eye, followed by autoradiography. There were 8 intact Rhesus monkeys and 3 intact squirrel monkeys. In addition, the optic pathway was studied in the Rhesus monkey 6 months and 4 years after monocular enucleation. The optic chiasm was also examined using myelin stains in specimens obtained post-mortem from 3 patients. The patients had lost 1 eye 5 months, 2 years, and 28 years prior to their deaths. Finally, clinical observations were recorded in 3 patients with the anterior chiasmal syndrome. RESULTS: In normal Rhesus and squirrel monkeys, optic nerve fibers crossed the optic chiasm without entering the contralateral optic nerve. After short-term monocular enucleation, fibers from the normal optic nerve were drawn closer to the entry zone of the degenerating optic nerve, but Wilbrand's Knee was still absent. After long-term enucleation, a typical Wilbrand's Knee was induced to form. In the human, Wilbrand's Knee was absent 5 months after monocular enucleation, but emerged in the two cases involving long-term enucleation, in a fashion analogous to the monkey. The case reports describe 3 patients with variants of the anterior chiasmal syndrome from parasellar tumors. CONCLUSIONS: Wilbrand's Knee does not exist in the normal primate optic chiasm. It forms gradually over a period of years following monocular enucleation, presumably from shrinkage of the optic chiasm caused by atrophy of fibers from the enucleated eye. Therefore, the superior temporal hemianopia in the "other eye" seen in the anterior chiasmal syndrome cannot be due to compression of Wilbrand's Knee. I propose that it occurs from combined compression of the optic chiasm and one (or both) optic nerves.
PMCID: PMC1298376  PMID: 9440188
12.  The optic nerve: A “mito-window” on mitochondrial neurodegeneration 
Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) project their long axons, composing the optic nerve, to the brain, transmitting the visual information gathered by the retina, ultimately leading to formed vision in the visual cortex. The RGC cellular system, representing the anterior part of the visual pathway, is vulnerable to mitochondrial dysfunction and optic atrophy is a very frequent feature of mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases. The start of the molecular era of mitochondrial medicine, the year 1988, was marked by the identification of a maternally inherited form of optic atrophy, Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy, as the first disease due to mitochondrial DNA point mutations. The field of mitochondrial medicine has expanded enormously over the last two decades and many neurodegenerative diseases are now known to have a primary mitochondrial etiology or mitochondrial dysfunction plays a relevant role in their pathogenic mechanism. Recent technical advancements in neuro-ophthalmology, such as optical coherence tomography, prompted a still ongoing systematic re-investigation of retinal and optic nerve involvement in neurodegenerative disorders. In addition to inherited optic neuropathies, such as Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy and dominant optic atrophy, and in addition to the syndromic mitochondrial encephalomyopathies or mitochondrial neurodegenerative disorders such as some spinocerebellar ataxias or familial spastic paraparesis and other disorders, we draw attention to the involvement of the optic nerve in classic age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson and Alzheimer disease. We here provide an overview of optic nerve pathology in these different clinical settings, and we review the possible mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of optic atrophy. This may be a model of general value for the field of neurodegeneration. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Mitochondrial function and dysfunction in neurodegeneration’.
PMCID: PMC3629569  PMID: 22960139
Mitochondrial disease; Optic atrophy; Mitochondrial functions; LHON; DOA; Retinal ganglion cells
13.  BMP7 and SHH Regulate Pax2 in Mouse Retinal Astrocytes by Relieving TLX Repression 
Developmental biology  2009;332(2):429-443.
Pax2 is essential for development of the neural tube, urogenital system, optic vesicle, optic cup and optic tract. In the eye, Pax2 deficiency is associated with coloboma, a loss of astrocytes in the optic nerve and retina, and abnormal axonal pathfinding of the ganglion cells axons at the optic chiasm. Thus, appropriate expression of Pax2 is essential for astrocytes determination and differentiation. Although BMP7 and SHH have been shown to regulate Pax2 expression, the molecular mechanism by which this regulation occurs is not well understood. In this study, we determined that BMP7 and SHH activate Pax2 expression in mouse retinal astrocyte precursors in vitro. SHH appeared to play a dual role in Pax2 regulation; 1) SHH may regulate BMP7 expression, and 2) the SHH pathway cooperates with the BMP pathway to regulate Pax2 expression. BMP and SHH pathway members can interact separately or together with TLX, a repressor protein in the tailless transcription factor family. Here we show that the interaction of both pathways with TLX relieves the repression of Pax2 expression in mouse retinal astrocytes. Together these data reveal a new mechanism for the cooperative actions of signaling pathways in astrocyte determination and differentiation and suggest interactions of regulatory pathways that are applicable to other developmental programs.
PMCID: PMC2917894  PMID: 19505455
SHH; BMP7; TLX; PAX2; astrocytes; retina
14.  Canine and Human Visual Cortex Intact and Responsive Despite Early Retinal Blindness from RPE65 Mutation 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e230.
RPE65 is an essential molecule in the retinoid-visual cycle, and RPE65 gene mutations cause the congenital human blindness known as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Somatic gene therapy delivered to the retina of blind dogs with an RPE65 mutation dramatically restores retinal physiology and has sparked international interest in human treatment trials for this incurable disease. An unanswered question is how the visual cortex responds after prolonged sensory deprivation from retinal dysfunction. We therefore studied the cortex of RPE65-mutant dogs before and after retinal gene therapy. Then, we inquired whether there is visual pathway integrity and responsivity in adult humans with LCA due to RPE65 mutations (RPE65-LCA).
Methods and Findings
RPE65-mutant dogs were studied with fMRI. Prior to therapy, retinal and subcortical responses to light were markedly diminished, and there were minimal cortical responses within the primary visual areas of the lateral gyrus (activation amplitude mean ± standard deviation [SD] = 0.07% ± 0.06% and volume = 1.3 ± 0.6 cm3). Following therapy, retinal and subcortical response restoration was accompanied by increased amplitude (0.18% ± 0.06%) and volume (8.2 ± 0.8 cm3) of activation within the lateral gyrus (p < 0.005 for both). Cortical recovery occurred rapidly (within a month of treatment) and was persistent (as long as 2.5 y after treatment). Recovery was present even when treatment was provided as late as 1–4 y of age. Human RPE65-LCA patients (ages 18–23 y) were studied with structural magnetic resonance imaging. Optic nerve diameter (3.2 ± 0.5 mm) was within the normal range (3.2 ± 0.3 mm), and occipital cortical white matter density as judged by voxel-based morphometry was slightly but significantly altered (1.3 SD below control average, p = 0.005). Functional magnetic resonance imaging in human RPE65-LCA patients revealed cortical responses with a markedly diminished activation volume (8.8 ± 1.2 cm3) compared to controls (29.7 ± 8.3 cm3, p < 0.001) when stimulated with lower intensity light. Unexpectedly, cortical response volume (41.2 ± 11.1 cm3) was comparable to normal (48.8 ± 3.1 cm3, p = 0.2) with higher intensity light stimulation.
Visual cortical responses dramatically improve after retinal gene therapy in the canine model of RPE65-LCA. Human RPE65-LCA patients have preserved visual pathway anatomy and detectable cortical activation despite limited visual experience. Taken together, the results support the potential for human visual benefit from retinal therapies currently being aimed at restoring vision to the congenitally blind with genetic retinal disease.
The study by Samuel Jacobson and colleagues suggests that retinal gene therapy can improve retinal, visual pathway, and visual cortex responses to light stimulation, even after prolonged periods of blindness and in congenitally blind patients.
Editors' Summary
The eye captures light but the brain is where vision is experienced. Treatments for childhood blindness at the eye level are ready, but it is unknown whether the brain will be receptive to an improved neural message. Normal vision begins as photoreceptor cells in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue lining the inside of the eye) convert visual images into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent along the optic nerve to the visual cortex, the brain region where they are interpreted. The conversion of light into electrical impulses requires the activation of a molecule called retinal, which is subsequently recycled by retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells neighboring the retina. One of the key enzymes of the recycling reactions is encoded by a gene called RPE65. Genetic changes (mutations) in RPE65 cause an inherited form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). In this disease, retinal is not recycled and as a result, the photoreceptor cells cannot work properly and affected individuals have poor or nonexistent vision from birth. Previous studies in dog and mouse models of the human disease have demonstrated that the introduction of a functional copy of RPE65 into the RPE cells using a harmless virus (gene therapy) dramatically restores retinal activity. Very recently, a pioneering gene therapy operation took place in London (UK) where surgeons injected a functional copy of RPE65 into the retina of a man with LCA. Whether this operation results in improved vision is not known at this time.
Why Was This Study Done?
Gene therapy corrects the retinal defects in animal models of LCA but whether the visual pathway from the retina to the visual cortex of the brain can respond normally to the signals sent by the restored retina is not known. Early visual experience is thought to be necessary for the development of a functional visual cortex, so replacing the defective RPE65 gene might not improve the vision of people with LCA. In this study, the researchers have studied the visual cortex of RPE65-deficient dogs before and after gene therapy to see whether the therapy affects the activity of the visual cortex. They have also investigated visual pathway integrity and responsiveness in adults with LCA caused by RPE65 mutations. If the visual pathway is disrupted in these patients, they reasoned, gene therapy might not restore their vision.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure light-induced brain activity in RPE65-deficient dogs before and after gene therapy. They also examined the reactions of the dogs' pupils to light (in LCA, the pupils do not contract normally in response to light because there is reduced signal transmission along the visual pathway). Finally, they measured the electrical activity of the dogs' retinas in response to light flashes—the retinas of patients with LCA do not react to light. Gene therapy corrected the defective retinal and visual pathway responses to light in the RPE65-deficient dogs and, whereas before treatment there was no response in the visual cortex to light stimulation in these dogs, after treatment, its activity approached that seen in normal dogs. The recovery of cortical responses was permanent and occurred soon after treatment, even in animals that were 4 years old when treated. Next, using structural MRI, the researchers studied human patients with LCA and found that the optic nerve diameter in young adults was within the normal range and that the structure of the visual cortex was very similar to that of normal individuals. Finally, using fMRI, they found that, although the visual cortex of patients with LCA did not respond to dim light, its reaction to bright light was comparable to that of normal individuals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings from the dog study indicate that retinal gene therapy rapidly improves retinal, visual pathway, and visual cortex responses to light stimulation, even in animals that have been blind for years. In other words, in the dog model of LCA at least, all the components of the visual system remain receptive to visual inputs even after long periods of visual deprivation. The findings from the human study also indicate that the visual pathway remains anatomically intact despite years of disuse and that the visual cortex can be activated in patients with LCA even though these people have very limited visual experience. Taken together, these findings suggest that successful gene therapy of the retina might restore some functional vision to people with LCA but proof will have to await the outcomes of several clinical trials ongoing or being planned in Europe and the USA.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
General information on gene therapy is available from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Information is provided by the BBC about gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (includes an audio clip from a doctor about the operation)
The National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute (US) provides information about an ongoing gene therapy trial of RPE65-Leber congenital amaurosis gives details on treatment trials for Leber congenital amaurosis
The Foundation Fighting Blindness has a fact sheet on Leber congenital amaurosis (site includes Microsoft Webspeak links that read some content aloud)
The Foundation for Retinal Research has a fact sheet on Leber congenital amaurosis
Find more detailed information on Leber congenital amaurosis and the gene mutations that cause it from GeneReviews
WonderBaby, information for parents of babies with Leber congenital amaurosis
PMCID: PMC1896221  PMID: 17594175
15.  The Role of Optical Coherence Tomography in an Atypical Case of Oculocutaneous Albinism: A Case Report 
Case Reports in Ophthalmology  2012;3(1):113-117.
Oculocutaneous albinism is a group of autosomal recessive disorders featuring hypopigmentation of the hair, skin and eyes. Ocular signs associated with the disease are nystagmus, decreased visual acuity, hypopigmentation of the retina, foveal hypoplasia, translucency of the iris, macular transparency, photophobia and abnormal decussation of nerve fibers at the chiasm.
Case Report
An 8-year-old Caucasian girl presented to our clinic ‘Referral Center for Hereditary Retinopathies’ of the Second University of Naples with a diagnosis of Stargardt disease and a progressive reduction in visual acuity in both eyes. She underwent a complete ophthalmic examination including standard electroretinography and optical coherence tomography (OCT). A molecular analysis was also performed. Best-corrected visual acuity was 20/30 in the right eye and 20/40 in the left eye. Biomicroscopy of the anterior segment revealed a transparent cornea, in situ and transparent lens and normally pigmented iris. A mild diffuse depigmentation and macular dystrophy were observed at fundus examination. Standard electroretinography showed normal scotopic and photopic responses. OCT revealed high reflectivity across the fovea without depression. The typical OCT pattern led us to direct the molecular analysis towards the genes involved in oculocutaneous albinism. The molecular analysis identified mutations in the TYR gene.
In this case, the role of OCT was crucial in guiding the molecular analysis for the diagnosis of albinism. OCT is therefore instrumental in similar cases that do not present typical characteristics of a disease. The case also proves the relevance of molecular analysis to confirm clinical diagnoses in hereditary retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3339665  PMID: 22548044
Oculocutaneous albinism; Optical coherence tomography; Atypical albinism
16.  Susceptibility to Neurodegeneration in a Glaucoma Is Modified by Bax Gene Dosage 
PLoS Genetics  2005;1(1):e4.
In glaucoma, harmful intraocular pressure often contributes to retinal ganglion cell death. It is not clear, however, if intraocular pressure directly insults the retinal ganglion cell axon, the soma, or both. The pathways that mediate pressure-induced retinal ganglion cell death are poorly defined, and no molecules are known to be required. DBA/2J mice deficient in the proapoptotic molecule BCL2-associated X protein (BAX) were used to investigate the roles of BAX-mediated cell death pathways in glaucoma. Both Bax+/− and Bax−/− mice were protected from retinal ganglion cell death. In contrast, axonal degeneration was not prevented in either Bax+/− or Bax−/− mice. While BAX deficiency did not prevent axonal degeneration, it did slow axonal loss. Additionally, we compared the effects of BAX deficiency on the glaucoma to its effects on retinal ganglion cell death due to two insults that are proposed to participate in glaucoma. As in the glaucoma, BAX deficiency protected retinal ganglion cells after axon injury by optic nerve crush. However, it did not protect retinal ganglion cells from N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-induced excitotoxicity. BAX is required for retinal ganglion cell death in an inherited glaucoma; however, it is not required for retinal ganglion cell axon degeneration. This indicates that distinct somal and axonal degeneration pathways are active in this glaucoma. Finally, our data support a role for optic nerve injury but not for NMDA receptor-mediated excitotoxicity in this glaucoma. These findings indicate a need to understand axon-specific degeneration pathways in glaucoma, and they suggest that distinct somal and axonal degeneration pathways may need to be targeted to save vision.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases whose unifying characteristic is death of nerve cells (retinal ganglion cells) that connect the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is often associated with a harmfully high pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) contributing to nerve cell death. Various treatments are used to lower eye pressure, but currently no commonly used treatments directly protect the nerve cells. DBA/2J mice develop elevated eye pressure with age, and this pressure kills retinal nerve cells. The authors use this mouse model to investigate how these nerve cells die in glaucoma. They show that there are distinct degeneration pathways activated in different parts of the retinal nerve cells. They found that the biochemical pathway in the nerve cell body, which resides in the retina, requires a molecule called BAX (BCL2-associated X protein). In contrast, pathways in the part of the cell (axon) that connects the cell body to the brain do not require BAX. Because degeneration pathways in the cell body and of the axon also may be molecularly different in human glaucoma, it will be important to consider them all when designing therapies. Their data also suggest that the BAX gene is a candidate to modulate glaucoma susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC1183523  PMID: 16103918
17.  New views on retinal axon development: a navigation guide 
The eye is a peripheral outpost of the central nervous system (CNS) where the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) reside. RGC axons navigate to their targets in a remarkably stereotyped and error-free manner and it is this process of directed growth that underlies the complex organization of the adult brain. The RGCs are the only retinal neurons to project into the brain and their peripheral location makes them an unusually accessible population of projection neurons for experiments involving in vivo gene transfer, anatomical tracing, transplantation and in vitro culture. In this paper, we review recent findings that have contributed to our understanding of some of the guidance decisions that axons make in the developing visual system. We look at two choice points in the pathway, the optic nerve head (onh) and the midline chiasm, and discuss evidence that supports the idea that key molecules in guiding axon growth at these junctures are netrin-1 (onh) and ephrin-B (chiasm). In the optic tectum where RGC axon terminals are arrayed in topographic order, we present experimental evidence to suggest that in the dorso-ventral dimension, the B-type ephrins and Eph receptors are of prime importance, possibly through attractive interactions. This complements the anterior-posterior topographic mapping known to be mediated through A-type ephrin/Eph repulsive interactions. An emerging theme is that guidance molecules such as ephrin-B and netrin-1 have complex patterns of restricted expression in the pathway and play multiple and changing roles in axon guidance.
PMCID: PMC3683942  PMID: 15558486
retina; axon guidance; netrin; Eph receptor; ephrin
18.  Smad4 Is Required Predominantly in the Developmental Processes Dependent on the BMP Branch of the TGF-β Signaling System in the Embryonic Mouse Retina 
The study describes essential genetic roles of Smad4, a key signaling mediator of the TGF-β/BMP signaling pathways, in retinal growth, retinal spatial patterning, and axon guidance during mouse eye development.
The present study was aimed at defining developmental roles of Smad4, a key mediator of the TGF-β superfamily signaling system, in the embryonic mouse retina.
Using a Cre/loxP-mediated conditional gene targeting approach, Smad4 gene function was deleted from the embryonic mouse retina. Mutant phenotypes were morphologically and molecularly examined.
Loss of Smad4 in the developing retina led to varying degrees of microphthalmia at birth, presumably because of elevated apoptosis observed transiently at embryonic day 12.5 in the developing retina. This was also associated with an apparent delay in accumulation of retinal ganglion cells. Smad4 conditional mutants also exhibited alterations of retinal spatial patterning along the dorsal-ventral axis, consistent with a known function of BMP signaling in the embryonic retina. However, despite a known role for BMP signaling in retinal cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation, Smad4 mutant retinal progenitor cells were capable of maintaining growth and neurogenesis throughout embryonic development. We also found that the loss of Smad4 led to abnormal targeting of retinal ganglion cell axons to the optic nerve head, a phenotype consistent with reduced BMP signaling in the developing retina.
These results suggest that Smad4 is essential for a subset of, but not all, TGF-β/BMP–dependent developmental processes in the embryonic retina. In addition, genetic requirements for Smad4 in the embryonic retina are evident predominantly in the developmental events regulated by the BMP branch of the TGF-β signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3109008  PMID: 21273545
19.  Rodent Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (rAION) Induces Regional Retinal Ganglion Cell Apoptosis with a Unique Temporal Pattern 
Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) results in optic nerve damage with retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss. An NAION model, rodent anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (rAION), was used to determine AION-associated mechanisms of RGC death and associated regional retinal changes.
rAION was induced in male Wistar rats, and the retinas analyzed at various times after induction. RGCs were positively identified by both retrograde fluorogold labeling and brain-expressed X-linked protein-1/2 (Bex1/2) immunoreactivity. RGC death was analyzed by fluorescein-tagged annexin-V labeling (FITC-annexin-V), as well as by terminal nucleotide nick-end labeling (TUNEL). Retinal flatmount preparations enabled regional retinal analysis of labeled dying cells. Apoptosis pathway activation was confirmed by Western analysis, with an antibody that recognizes cleaved caspase-3.
Post-rAION, RGCs die by apoptosis over a longer period than previously recognized. Cleaved caspase-3 immunoreactivity was greatest between 11 and 15 days. rAION-induced RGC death occurs regionally, with sparing of large contiguous regions of RGCs.
rAION results in later RGC death than in traumatic optic nerve damage models. Apoptosis, measured by FITC-annexin, occurs maximally in the second to third week after infarct. Cleaved caspase-3 activation confirms that after rAION, RGCs undergo apoptosis by the caspase activation pathway. The regional pattern in dying RGCs after rAION implies that a measure of retinotopic organization occurs in the rodent optic nerve. The prolonged period from insult to death suggests that the window for successful treatment after ON infarct may be longer than previously recognized.
PMCID: PMC2692335  PMID: 18660428
20.  Eye-specific projections of retinogeniculate axons are altered in albino mice 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(14):4821-4826.
The divergence of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons into ipsilateral and contralateral projections at the optic chiasm and the subsequent segregation of retinal inputs into eye-specific domains in their target, the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), are crucial for binocular vision. In albinism, affected individuals exhibit a lack or reduction of pigmentation in the eye and skin, a concomitant reduced ipsilateral projection and diverse visual defects. Here we investigate how such altered decussation affects eye-specific retinogeniculate targeting in albino mice using the C57BL/6 Tyr c-2J/c-2J strain, in which tyrosinase, necessary for melanogenesis, is mutated. In albino mice, fewer RGCs from the ventrotemporal (VT) retina project ipsilaterally, reflected in a decrease in cells expressing ipsilateral markers. In addition, a population of RGCs from the VT retina projects contralaterally and within the dLGN their axons cluster into a patch separated from the contralateral termination area. Further, eye-specific segregation is not complete in the albino dLGN, and upon perturbing postnatal retinal activity with epibatidine, the ipsilateral projection fragments and the aberrant contralateral patch disappears. These results suggest that the defects in afferent targeting and activity-dependent refinement in the albino dLGN arise from RGC mis-specification together with potential perturbations of early activity patterns in the albino retina.
PMCID: PMC3329942  PMID: 22492037
retinal ganglion cell; lateral geniculate; visual; patterning; retina; activity; topography; albinism; siamese; epibatidine; tyrosinase; pigmented
21.  Morphometric Analysis of Optic Nerves and Retina from an End-Stage Retinitis Pigmentosa Patient with an Implanted Active Epiretinal Array 
Morphometric analysis of the eye of a patient with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa with an active epiretinal array implanted over the macula for more than 5 years was evaluated and compared with the fellow eye, with age-matched RP eyes, and with age-matched normal eyes. Long-term implantation and electrical stimulation with the epiretinal array did not result in damage, as evaluated in the morphometric analysis of the optic nerve and retina.
To characterize optic nerve and retinal changes in a patient with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP) with an implanted active epiretinal array.
A 74-year-old man with end-stage X-linked RP underwent implantation of an epiretinal array over the macula in the right eye and subsequent stimulation until his death at 5 years and 3 months after implantation. The optic nerves from this study patient, as well as those from two age-matched normal patients and two age-matched RP patients, were morphometrically analyzed against two different sets of criteria and compared. The retina underlying the array in the study patient was also morphometrically analyzed and compared with corresponding regions of the retina in the age-matched RP patients.
Optic nerve total axon counts were significantly lower in the study patient and RP patients than in normal patients. However, there was no significant difference when comparing total axon counts from the optic nerve corresponding to the patient's implanted right eye versus the optic nerves from the RP patients (P = 0.59 and P = 0.61 using the two different criteria). Degenerated axon data quantified damage and did not show increased damage in the optic nerve quadrant that retinotopically corresponded to the site of epiretinal array implantation and stimulation. Except for the tack site, there was no significant difference when comparing the retina underlying the array and the corresponding perimacular regions of two RP patients.
Long-term implantation and electrical stimulation with an epiretinal array did not result in damage that could be appreciated in a morphometric analysis of the optic nerve and retina. ( number, NCT00279500.)
PMCID: PMC3175977  PMID: 21296811
22.  Optic chiasm in the species of order Clupeiformes, family Clupeidae: Optic chiasm of Spratelloides gracilis shows an opposite laterality to that of Etrumeus teres 
Laterality  2009;14(5):495-514.
In most teleost fishes, the optic nerves decussate completely as they project to the mesencephalic region. Examination of the decussation pattern of 25 species from 11 different orders in Pisces revealed that each species shows a specific chiasmic type. In 11 species out of the 25, laterality of the chiasmic pattern was not determined; in half of the individuals examined, the left optic nerve ran dorsally to the right optic nerve, while in the other half, the right optic nerve was dorsal. In eight other species the optic nerves from both eyes branched into several bundles at the chiasmic point, and intercalated to form a complicated decussation pattern. In the present study we report our findings that Spratelloides gracilis, of the order Clupeiformes, family Clupeidae, shows a particular laterality of decussation: the left optic nerve ran dorsally to the right (n = 200/202). In contrast, Etrumeus teres, of the same order and family, had a strong preference of the opposite (complementary) chiasmic pattern to that of S. gracilis (n = 59/59), revealing that these two species display opposite left–right optic chiasm patterning. As far as we investigated, other species of Clupeiformes have not shown left–right preference in the decussation pattern. We conclude that the opposite laterality of the optic chiasms of these two closely related species, S. gracilis and E. teres, enables investigation of species-specific laterality in fishes of symmetric shapes.
PMCID: PMC2661845  PMID: 19229672
Optic nerve; Chiasma; Decussation; Spratelloides gracilis; Etrumeus teres; Clupeidae.
23.  Standard Anatomical and Visual Space for the Mouse Retina: Computational Reconstruction and Transformation of Flattened Retinae with the Retistruct Package 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(2):e1002921.
The concept of topographic mapping is central to the understanding of the visual system at many levels, from the developmental to the computational. It is important to be able to relate different coordinate systems, e.g. maps of the visual field and maps of the retina. Retinal maps are frequently based on flat-mount preparations. These use dissection and relaxing cuts to render the quasi-spherical retina into a 2D preparation. The variable nature of relaxing cuts and associated tears limits quantitative cross-animal comparisons. We present an algorithm, “Retistruct,” that reconstructs retinal flat-mounts by mapping them into a standard, spherical retinal space. This is achieved by: stitching the marked-up cuts of the flat-mount outline; dividing the stitched outline into a mesh whose vertices then are mapped onto a curtailed sphere; and finally moving the vertices so as to minimise a physically-inspired deformation energy function. Our validation studies indicate that the algorithm can estimate the position of a point on the intact adult retina to within 8° of arc (3.6% of nasotemporal axis). The coordinates in reconstructed retinae can be transformed to visuotopic coordinates. Retistruct is used to investigate the organisation of the adult mouse visual system. We orient the retina relative to the nictitating membrane and compare this to eye muscle insertions. To align the retinotopic and visuotopic coordinate systems in the mouse, we utilised the geometry of binocular vision. In standard retinal space, the composite decussation line for the uncrossed retinal projection is located 64° away from the retinal pole. Projecting anatomically defined uncrossed retinal projections into visual space gives binocular congruence if the optical axis of the mouse eye is oriented at 64° azimuth and 22° elevation, in concordance with previous results. Moreover, using these coordinates, the dorsoventral boundary for S-opsin expressing cones closely matches the horizontal meridian.
PMCID: PMC3585388  PMID: 23468609
24.  Dorsoventral patterning of the Xenopus eye involves differential temporal changes in the response of optic stalk and retinal progenitors to Hh signalling 
Neural Development  2015;10:7.
Hedgehog (Hh) signals are instrumental to the dorsoventral patterning of the vertebrate eye, promoting optic stalk and ventral retinal fates and repressing dorsal retinal identity. There has been limited analysis, however, of the critical window during which Hh molecules control eye polarity and of the temporal changes in the responsiveness of eye cells to these signals.
In this study, we used pharmacological and molecular tools to perform stage-specific manipulations of Hh signalling in the developing Xenopus eye. In gain-of-function experiments, most of the eye was sensitive to ventralization when the Hh pathway was activated starting from gastrula/neurula stages. During optic vesicle stages, the dorsal eye became resistant to Hh-dependent ventralization, but this pathway could partially upregulate optic stalk markers within the retina. In loss-of-function assays, inhibition of Hh signalling starting from neurula stages caused expansion of the dorsal retina at the expense of the ventral retina and the optic stalk, while the effects of Hh inhibition during optic vesicle stages were limited to the reduction of optic stalk size.
Our results suggest the existence of two competence windows during which the Hh pathway differentially controls patterning of the eye region. In the first window, between the neural plate and the optic vesicle stages, Hh signalling exerts a global influence on eye dorsoventral polarity, contributing to the specification of optic stalk, ventral retina and dorsal retinal domains. In the second window, between optic vesicle and optic cup stages, this pathway plays a more limited role in the maintenance of the optic stalk domain. We speculate that this temporal regulation is important to coordinate dorsoventral patterning with morphogenesis and differentiation processes during eye development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13064-015-0035-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4373414  PMID: 25886149
Optic vesicle; Optic stalk; Ventral retina; Dorsal retina; Hedgehog; Xenopus
25.  Characterization of optic nerve regeneration using transgenic zebrafish 
In contrast to the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS), fish are able to functionally regenerate severed axons upon injury. Although the zebrafish is a well-established model vertebrate for genetic and developmental studies, its use for anatomical studies of axon regeneration has been hampered by the paucity of appropriate tools to visualize re-growing axons in the adult CNS. On this account, we used transgenic zebrafish that express enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of a GAP-43 promoter. In adult, naïve retinae, GFP was restricted to young retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and their axons. Within the optic nerve, these fluorescent axons congregated in a distinct strand at the nerve periphery, indicating age-related order. Upon optic nerve crush, GFP expression was markedly induced in RGC somata and intra-retinal axons at 4 to at least 14 days post injury. Moreover, individual axons were visualized in their natural environment of the optic nerve using wholemount tissue clearing and confocal microscopy. With this novel approach, regenerating axons were clearly detectable beyond the injury site as early as 2 days after injury and grew past the optic chiasm by 4 days. Regenerating axons in the entire optic nerve were labeled from 6 to at least 14 days after injury, thereby allowing detailed visualization of the complete regeneration process. Therefore, this new approach could now be used in combination with expression knockdown or pharmacological manipulations to analyze the relevance of specific proteins and signaling cascades for axonal regeneration in vivo. In addition, the RGC-specific GFP expression facilitated accurate evaluation of neurite growth in dissociated retinal cultures. This fast in vitro assay now enables the screening of compound and expression libraries. Overall, the presented methodologies provide exciting possibilities to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying successful CNS regeneration in zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC4391235  PMID: 25914619
transgenic zebrafish; axon regeneration; GFP; optic nerve regeneration; tissue clearing

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