Ephrin-B2 and EphB1 mediate retinal axon divergence at the optic chiasm.
In animals with binocular vision, retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons either cross or avoid the midline at the optic chiasm. Here, we show that ephrin-Bs in the chiasm region direct the divergence of retinal axons through the selective repulsion of a subset of RGCs that express EphB1. Ephrin-B2 is expressed at the mouse chiasm midline as the ipsilateral projection is generated and is selectively inhibitory to axons from ventrotemporal (VT) retina, where ipsilaterally projecting RGCs reside. Moreover, blocking ephrin-B2 function in vitro rescues the inhibitory effect of chiasm cells and eliminates the ipsilateral projection in the semiintact mouse visual system. A receptor for ephrin-B2, EphB1, is found exclusively in regions of retina that give rise to the ipsilateral projection. EphB1 null mice exhibit a dramatically reduced ipsilateral projection, suggesting that this receptor contributes to the formation of the ipsilateral retinal projection, most likely through its repulsive interaction with ephrin-B2.