Xenopus sonic hedgehog guides retinal axons along the optic tract

Laura Gordon, Matthew Mansh, Helen Kinsman, Andrea R. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The role of classic morphogens such as Sonic hedgehog (Shh) as axon guidance cues has been reported in a variety of vertebrate organisms (Charron and Tessier-Lavigne [2005] Development 132:2251-2262). In this work, we provide the first evidence that Xenopus sonic hedgehog (Xshh) signaling is involved in guiding retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons along the optic tract. Xshh is expressed in the brain during retinal axon extension, adjacent to these axons in the ventral diencephalon. Retinal axons themselves express Patched 1 and Smoothened co-receptors during RGC axon growth. Blocking Shh signaling causes abnormal ventral pathfinding, and targeting errors at the optic tectum. Misexpression of exogenous N-Shh peptide in vivo also causes pathfinding errors. Retinal axons grown in culture respond to N-Shh in a dose-dependent manner, either by decreasing extension at lower concentrations, or retracting axons in the presence of higher doses. These data suggest that Shh signaling is required for normal RGC axon pathfinding and tectal targeting in the developing visual system of Xenopus. We propose that Shh serves as a ventral optic tract repellent that helps to define the caudal boundary for retinal axons in the diencephalon, and that this signaling is also required for initial target recognition at the optic tectum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2921-2932
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Diencephalon
  • Optic tract
  • Retinal ganglion cells
  • Retinotectal pathfinding
  • Xenopus axon guidance
  • sonic hedgehog


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