Candidate molecular mechanisms for establishing cell identity in the developing retina.

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Animals, Dendrites, Humans, Neurons, Retina, Synapses, Visual Pathways

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Dev Neurobiol 2011 Dec; 71(12):1258-72.




In the developing nervous system, individual neurons must occupy appropriate positions within circuits. This requires that these neurons recognize and form connections with specific pre- and postsynaptic partners. Cellular recognition is also required for the spacing of cell bodies and the arborization of dendrites, factors that determine the inputs onto a given neuron. These issues are particularly evident in the retina, where different types of neurons are evenly spaced relative to other cells of the same type. This establishes a reiterated columnar circuitry resembling the insect retina. Establishing these mosaic patterns requires that cells of a given type (homotypic cells) be able to sense their neighbors. Therefore, both synaptic specificity and mosaic spacing require cellular identifiers. In synaptic specificity, recognition often occurs between different types of cells in a pre- and postsynaptic pairing. In mosaic spacing, recognition is often occurring between different cells of the same type, orhomotypic self-recognition. Dendritic arborization can require recognition of different neurites of the same cell, or isoneuronal self-recognition. The retina is an extremely amenable system for studying the molecular identifiers that drive these various forms of recognition. The different neuronal types in the retina are well defined, and the genetic tools for marking cell types are increasingly available. In this review we will summarize retinal anatomy and describe cell types in the retina and how they are defined. We will then describe the requirements of a recognition code and discuss newly emerging candidate molecular mechanisms for recognition that may meet these requirements.

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