Mammalian binocular vision relies on the divergence of retinal ganglion cell axons at the optic chiasm, with strictly controlled numbers projecting contralaterally and ipsilaterally. In mouse, contralateral projections arise from the entire retina, whereas ipsilateral projections arise from ventrotemporal retina. We investigate how development of these patterns of projection is regulated by the contralateral determinant Foxg1, a forkhead box transcription factor expressed in nasal retina and at the chiasm. In nasal retina, loss of Foxg1 causes increased numbers of ipsilateral projections and ectopic expression of the ipsilateral determinants Zic2, Ephb1 and Foxd1, indicating that nasal retina is competent to express an ipsilateral program that is normally suppressed by Foxg1. Using co-cultures that combine Foxg1-expressing with Foxg1-null retinal explants and chiasm cells, we provide functional evidence that Foxg1 promotes contralateral projections through actions in nasal retina, and that in chiasm cells, Foxg1 is required for the generation of a hitherto unrecognized activity supporting RGC axon growth.
- Retinal ganglion cell