Abstract / Description of output
During normal development, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) project axons along the optic nerve to the optic chiasm on the ventral surface of the hypothalamus. In rodents, most RGC growth cones then cross the ventral midline to join the contralateral optic tract; those that do not cross join the ipsilateral optic tract. Contralaterally projecting RGCs are distributed across the retina whereas ipsilaterally projecting RGCs are concentrated in temporal retina. The transcription factor Foxg1 (also known as BF1) is expressed at several key locations along this pathway. Analysis of Foxg1 expression using lacZ reporter transgenes shows that Foxg1 is normally expressed in most, if not all, nasal RGCs but not in most temporal RGCs, neither at the time they project nor earlier in their lineage. Foxg1 is also expressed at the optic chiasm. Mice that lack Foxg1 die at birth and, although the shape of their eyes is abnormal, their retinas still project axons to the brain via the optic chiasm. Using anterograde and retrograde tract tracing, we show that there is an eightfold increase in the ipsilateral projection in Foxg1-/- embryos. The distributions of cells expressing the transcription factors Foxg1 and Nkx2.2, and cell-surface molecules Ephb2, ephrin B2 and SSEA-1 (Fut4) have been correlated to the normally developing retinothalamic projection and we show they are not much altered in the developing Foxg1-/- retina and optic chiasm. As much of the increased ipsilateral projection in Foxg1-/- embryos arises from temporal RGCs that are unlikely to have an autonomous requirement for Foxg1, we propose that the phenotype reflects at least in part a requirement for Foxg1 outwith the RGCs themselves, most likely at the optic chiasm.