Factors guiding optic fibers in developing Xenopus retina. Academic Article uri icon


  • We have characterized, by electron microscopy, the growth of pioneering axons from the retina into the visual pathway during early development of Xenopus laevis. The subsequent development of following fibers from the growing retinal margin as they accumulated in the ganglion cell fiber layer (GCFL) of the retina was also studied. Extracellular channels bordered by neuroepithelial cells appear in the developing retina in a dorsal to ventral gradient before any pioneering axons are seen. Pioneering axons are subsequently observed in these channels, usually surrounded by neuroepithelial cell processes. Ruthenium red treatment of embryonic retinas reveals extracellular matrix (ECM) within these retinal channels, while extracellular spaces in the proximal optic stalk, just beyond the optic disc, lack this material. ECM is also seen in optic tectum wherever ingrowing retinal and nonretinal axons are found. The channels and the ECM contained within them may provide guidance cues for pioneering retinal axons. The early association of pioneering retinal axons with neuroepithelial cell processes (putative glia) appears to be important in further development of the GCFL. The so-called following fibers of ganglion cells, arising later in development, fasciculate with pioneer axons in extracellular spaces and form fiber bundles of the GCFL on top of the layer of glial cell endfeet. It is not clear whether pioneering axons, glial cell surfaces, or both serve as guidance cues for following fiber migration.

publication date

  • October 8, 1987