Neural specification, targeting, and circuit formation during visual system assembly

Jennifer Malin, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Like other sensory systems, the visual system is topographically organized: Its sensory neurons, the photoreceptors, and their targets maintain point-to-point correspondence in physical space, forming a retinotopic map. The iterative wiring of circuits in the visual system conveniently facilitates the study of its development. Over the past few decades, experiments in Drosophila have shed light on the principles that guide the specification and connectivity of visual system neurons. In this review, we describe the main findings unearthed by the study of the Drosophila visual system and compare them with similar events in mammals. We focus on how temporal and spatial patterning generates diverse cell types, how guidance molecules distribute the axons and dendrites of neurons within the correct target regions, how vertebrates and invertebrates generate their retinotopic map, and the molecules and mechanisms required for neuronal migration. We suggest that basic principles used to wire the fly visual system are broadly applicable to other systems and highlight its importance as a model to study nervous system development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberPNAS 2021 Vol. 118 No. 28 e2101823118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 13 2021


  • Drosophila
  • Neural development
  • Patterning
  • Retina
  • Visual system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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