Ipsilateral and contralateral retinal ganglion cells express distinct genes during decussation at the optic chiasm

Qing Wang, Florencia Marcucci, Isadora Cerullo, Carol Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The increasing availability of transcriptomic technologies within the last decade has facilitated high-throughput identification of gene expression differences that define distinct cell types as well as the molecular pathways that drive their specification. The retinal projection neurons, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), can be categorized into distinct morphological and functional subtypes and by the laterality of their projections. Here, we present a method for purifying the sparse population of ipsilaterally projecting RGCs in mouse retina from their contralaterally projecting counterparts during embryonic development through rapid retrograde labeling followed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Through microarray analysis, we uncovered the distinct molecular signatures that define and distinguish ipsilateral and contralateral RGCs during the critical period of axonal outgrowth and decussation, with more than 300 genes differentially expressed within these two cell populations. Among the differentially expressed genes confirmed through in vivo expression validation, several genes that mark “immaturity” are expressed within postmitotic ipsilateral RGCs. Moreover, at least one complementary pair, Igf1 and Igfbp5, is upregulated in contralateral or ipsilateral RGCs, respectively, and may represent signaling pathways that determine ipsilateral versus contralateral RGC identity. Importantly, the cell cycle regulator cyclin D2 is highly expressed in peripheral ventral retina with a dynamic expression pattern that peaks during the period of ipsilateral RGC production. Thus, the molecular signatures of ipsilateral and contralateral RGCs and the mechanisms that regulate their differentiation are more diverse than previously expected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0169
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 17 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell specification
  • Contralateral
  • Decussation
  • Ipsilateral
  • Optic chiasm
  • Retinal ganglion cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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