Topographic specificity in the retinocollicular projection of the developing ferret: An anterograde tracing study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Comparative Neurology








Fetal development; Retinotopy; Superior colliculus


To assess the degree of order exhibited during development by crossed and uncrossed retinocollicular pathways, focal deposits of 1,1'-dioctodecyl- 3,3,3'3'-tetramethylinodocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI) were made into the temporal or nasal retina of prenatal and postnatal ferrets. This procedure revealed that the first retinal fibers (from the ipsilateral temporal retina) grow into the superior colliculus at embryonic (E) day 30. Both crossed and uncrossed fibers innervate the colliculus by E34. At this age, terminal arbors were lacking, and there was no evidence of extensive axonal branching. Retinocollicular arbors first appeared at E38, with both the crossed and uncrossed projections forming well-defined terminal zones that appeared to be localized to topographically appropriate regions. At E38, the ipsilateral terminal zone was significantly larger but notably less dense than the contralateral zone. At this and later ages (postnatal day [P] 0 and P7), a few crossed and uncrossed fibers extended beyond the terminal zone. Four days later, at P0, the terminal zone of the uncrossed projection was reduced in size in comparison with that of earlier ages, whereas the crossed projection became substantially larger. By P7, the few misprojecting fibers seen in younger ferrets had been virtually eliminated. When focal retinal deposits of tracer were made into the nasal retina of E36 and E40 ferrets, crossed fibers were found to innervate the caudal segment of the superior colliculus. These crossed nasal cells appear to project to the topographically appropriate region of the superior colliculus (caudal segment) but on the wrong side of the brain. Collectively, the present findings indicate that throughout development the ferret retinocollicular pathway is characterized by a remarkable degree of topographic precision as evident by the paucity of axonal branches and the low number of grossly misprojecting axons.

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