Prenatal development of retinogeniculate axons in the macaque monkey during segregation of binocular inputs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neuroscience








Binocular segregation; Dorsal lateral geniculate; Prenatal development; Primate; Retinogeniculate projections; Terminal arborizations


In the fetal monkey the projections from the two eyes are initially completely intermingled within the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (DLGN) before separating into eye-specific layers (Rakic, 1976). To assess the cellular basis of this developmental process, we examined the morphological properties of individual retinogeniculate axons in prenatal monkeys of known gestational ages. The period studied spanned the time from when binocular overlap has been reported to be maximum, circa embryonic (E) day 77 through E112, when the segregation process is already largely completed in the caudal portion of the nucleus. Retinogeniculate fibers were labeled by making small deposits of Dil crystals into the fixed optic tract. After adequate time was allowed for diffusion of the tracer, fibers were visualized by confocal microscopy, and morphometric measures were made from photomontages. This revealed that retinogeniculate fibers in the embryonic monkey undergo continuous growth and elaboration during binocular overlap and subsequent segregation. Importantly, very few side-branches were found along the preterminal axon throughout the developmental period studied. Thus, restructuring of retinogeniculate fibers does not underlie the formation of eye-restricted projections in the primate. Rather, the results support the hypothesis that binocular segregation in the embryonic monkey is caused by the loss of retinal fibers that initially innervate inappropriate territories (Rakic, 1986).

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