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Expression of Eph-Family Receptor Tyrosine Kinases and Ephrins in the Tadpole of the Frog Xenopus Laevis, and Possible Roles in the Development of Retinotectal Topography


Gould, Anita (2001) Expression of Eph-Family Receptor Tyrosine Kinases and Ephrins in the Tadpole of the Frog Xenopus Laevis, and Possible Roles in the Development of Retinotectal Topography. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/cj8r-nj43.


Assembling a nervous system requires exquisite specificity in the construction of neuronal connectivity. One method by which such specificity is implemented is the presence of chemical cues within the tissues, differentiating one region from another, and the presence of receptors for those cues on the surface of neurons and their axons that are navigating within this cellular environment.

Connections from one part of the nervous system to another often take the form of a topographic mapping. One widely studied model system that involves such a mapping is the vertebrate retinotectal projection-the set of connections between the eye and the optic tectum of the midbrain, which is the primary visual center in non-mammals and is homologous to the superior colliculus in mammals. In this projection the two-dimensional surface of the retina is mapped smoothly onto the two-dimensional surface of the tectum, such that light from neighboring points in visual space excites neighboring cells in the brain. This mapping is implemented at least in part via differential chemical cues in different regions of the tectum.

The Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their cell-surface ligands, the ephrins, have been implicated in a wide variety of processes, generally involving cellular movement in response to extracellular cues. In particular, they possess expression patterns-i.e., complementary gradients of receptor in retina and ligand in tectum- and in vitro and in vivo activities and phenotypes-i.e., repulsive guidance of axons and defective mapping in mutants, respectively-consistent with the long-sought retinotectal chemical mapping cues.

The tadpole of Xenopus laevis, the South African clawed frog, is advantageous for in vivo retinotectal studies because of its transparency and manipulability. However, neither the expression patterns nor the retinotectal roles of these proteins have been well characterized in this system. We report here comprehensive descriptions in swimming stage tadpoles of the messenger RNA expression patterns of eleven known Xenopus Eph and ephrin genes, including xephrin-A3, which is novel, and xEphB2, whose expression pattern has not previously been published in detail. We also report the results of in vivo protein injection perturbation studies on Xenopus retinotectal topography, which were negative, and of in vitro axonal guidance assays, which suggest a previously unrecognized attractive activity of ephrins at low concentrations on retinal ganglion cell axons. This raises the possibility that these axons find their correct targets in part by seeking out a preferred concentration of ligands appropriate to their individual receptor expression levels, rather than by being repelled to greater or lesser degrees by the ephrins but attracted by some as-yet-unknown cue(s).

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Biology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Dreyer, William J.
Thesis Committee:
  • Fraser, Scott E. (chair)
  • Sternberg, Paul W.
  • Wold, Barbara J.
  • Zinn, Kai George
  • Dreyer, William J.
Defense Date:30 May 2001
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03102014-111038092
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8117
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:10 Mar 2014 18:22
Last Modified:13 Sep 2022 18:39

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