A unifying model for activity-dependent and activity-independent mechanisms predicts complete structure of topographic maps in ephrin-A deficient mice

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Abstract

Axons of retinal ganglion cells establish orderly projections to the superior colliculus of the midbrain. Axons of neighboring cells terminate proximally in the superior colliculus thus forming a topographically precise representation of the visual world. Coordinate axes are encoded in retina and in the target through graded expression of chemical labels. Additional sharpening of projections is provided by electric activity, which is correlated between neighboring axons. Here we propose a quantitative model, which allows combining the effects of chemical labels and correlated activity in a single approach. Using this model we study a complete structure of two-dimensional topographic maps in mutant mice, in which the label encoding the horizontal retinal coordinate ephrin-A is reduced/eliminated. We show that topographic maps in ephrin-A deficient mice display a granular structure, with the regions of smooth mapping separated by linear discontinuities reminiscent of fractures observed in the maps of preferred orientation.

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