Neural - Tectum Development

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Stage10 sem6.jpg


Neural groove closing to neural tube, early week 4
(Stage 10)

Neural development is one of the earliest systems to begin and the last to be completed after birth. This development generates the most complex structure within the embryo and the long time period of development means in utero insult during pregnancy may have consequences to development of the nervous system.

Differences between birds and mammals:

  • both - have retinal axons projecting topographically to targets in the brain.
  • birds - the visual fibers from the entire retina decussate at the optic chiasm.
  • mammals - some axons from the temporal retina diverge at the midline to project ipsilaterally.

Neural development beginnings quite early, therefore also look at notes covering Week 3- neural tube and Week 4-early nervous system. Development of the neural crest and sensory systems (hearing/vision/smell) are only introduced in these notes and are covered in other notes sections.

Neural Links: ectoderm | neural | neural crest | ventricular | sensory | Stage 22 | gliogenesis | neural fetal | Medicine Lecture - Neural | Lecture - Ectoderm | Lecture - Neural Crest | Lab - Early Neural | neural abnormalities | folic acid | iodine deficiency | Fetal Alcohol Syndrome | neural postnatal | neural examination | Histology | Historic Neural | Category:Neural
Neural Parts: neural | prosencephalon | telencephalon cerebrum | amygdala | hippocampus | basal ganglia | diencephalon | epithalamus | thalamus | hypothalamus‎ | pituitary | pineal | mesencephalon | tectum | rhombencephalon | metencephalon | pons | cerebellum | myelencephalon | medulla oblongata | spinal cord | neural vascular | ventricular | lateral ventricles | third ventricle | cerebral aqueduct | fourth ventricle | central canal | meninges | Category:Ventricular System | Category:Neural

Some Recent Findings

  • Dispersing movement of tangential neuronal migration in superficial layers of the developing chick optic tectum[1] "Two distinct types of tangential migration in the middle and superficial layers have been reported in the development of the avian optic tectum. Here we show the dynamics of tangential cell movement in superficial layers of developing chicken optic tectum. Confocal time-lapse microscopy in organotypic slice cultures and flat-mount cultures revealed that vigorous cell migration continued during E6.5-E13.5, where horizontally elongated superficial cells spread out tangentially. Motile cells exhibited exploratory behavior in reforming the branched leading processes to determine their pathway, and intersected with each other for dispersion. At the tectal peripheral border, the cells retraced or turned around to avoid protruding over the border. The tangentially migrating cells were eventually distributed in the outer stratum griseum et fibrosum superficiale and differentiated into neurons of various morphologies."
  • Sonic Hedgehog Regulation of the Neural Precursor Cell Fate During chicken Optic Tectum Development[2] "Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a secreted protein and plays a key role in regulating vertebrate embryogenesis, especially in central nervous system (CNS) patterning, including neuronal migration and axonal projection in the brain and spinal cord. In the developing ventral midbrain, Shh is sufficient to specify a striped pattern of cell fates. Little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying the Shh regulation of the neural precursor cell fate during the optic tectum development. ...In conclusion, we provide evidence that Shh regulates the neural precursor cell fate during chicken optic tectum development. Shh over-expression impairs neuronal migration and may affect the fate determination of transfected neurons."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Tectum Embryology

<pubmed limit=5>Tectum Embryology</pubmed>

Older papers  
  • Genetic and physical interaction of Meis2, Pax3 and Pax7 during dorsal midbrain development[3] "During early stages of brain development, secreted molecules, components of intracellular signaling pathways and transcriptional regulators act in positive and negative feed-back or feed-forward loops at the mid-hindbrain boundary. These genetic interactions are of central importance for the specification and subsequent development of the adjacent mid- and hindbrain. Much less, however, is known about the regulatory relationship and functional interaction of molecules that are expressed in the tectal anlage after tectal fate specification has taken place and tectal development has commenced. The results described here suggest a model in which interdependent regulatory loops involving Pax3 and Pax7 in the dorsal mesencephalic vesicle modulate Meis2 expression. Physical interaction with Meis2 may then confer tectal specificity to a wide range of otherwise broadly expressed transcriptional regulators, including Otx2, Pax3 and Pax7."
  • Dynamic imaging of mammalian neural tube closure[4]

Developmental Signaling Model

Tectum signaling model 01.jpg

Model of interaction of Meis2, Pax3 and Pax7 during dorsal midbrain development. [3]

Development Overview

Neuralation begins at the trilaminar embryo with formation of the notochord and somites, both of which underly the ectoderm and do not contribute to the nervous system, but are involved with patterning its initial formation. The central portion of the ectoderm then forms the neural plate that folds to form the neural tube, that will eventually form the entire central nervous system.

Early developmental sequence: Epiblast - Ectoderm - Neural Plate - Neural groove and Neural Crest - Neural Tube and Neural Crest

Neural Tube Development
Neural Tube Primary Vesicles Secondary Vesicles Adult Structures
week 3 week 4 week 5 adult
neural plate
neural groove
neural tube

prosencephalon (forebrain) telencephalon Rhinencephalon, Amygdala, hippocampus, cerebrum (cortex), hypothalamus‎, pituitary | Basal Ganglia, lateral ventricles
diencephalon epithalamus, thalamus, Subthalamus, pineal, posterior commissure, pretectum, third ventricle
mesencephalon (midbrain) mesencephalon tectum, Cerebral peduncle, cerebral aqueduct, pons
rhombencephalon (hindbrain) metencephalon cerebellum
myelencephalon medulla oblongata, isthmus
spinal cord, pyramidal decussation, central canal

Early Brain Vesicles

Primary Vesicles

CNS primary vesicles.jpg

Secondary Vesicles

CNS secondary vesicles.jpg



Tectum signaling model 01.jpg

Model of molecular interactions during dorsal midbrain development[3]

Model for a possible cooperation of Meis2, Pax3, Pax7 and Otx2 during tectal development.
  • MHB - mid-hindbrain boundary

Red lines indicate negative regulation, green arrows positive regulation. Dashed lines indicate hypothetical direct regulation of the Meis2 promoter/enhancer by different Pax3 concentrations. Solid lines indicate indirect regulation of Meis2 expression via Pax3/7 mediated induction of Fgf8 as previously reported:

  1. Regulation of Meis2 expression in response to Ras-MAPK signaling levels
  2. Induction of Fgf8 by Pax3 and Pax7
  3. Existence of Meis2-Otx2 containing protein complexes in the tectal anlage


Optic tectum (chicken) actin-binding protein, with two major isoforms (A, E) produced by alternative splicing from a single DBN1 gene, isoform conversion occurs in parallel with synaptogenesis.[5]

  • drebrin E - (5q35.3) widespread but not ubiquitous cell types in various tissues.
  • drebrin A - adult brain neuron-specific, concentrated in dendritic spines, and its accumulation level is regulated by synaptic activity.

OMIM: DBN1 drebrin E


  1. Watanabe Y, Sakuma C & Yaginuma H. (2018). Dispersing movement of tangential neuronal migration in superficial layers of the developing chick optic tectum. Dev. Biol. , 437, 131-139. PMID: 29548944 DOI.
  2. Yang C, Li X, Li Q, Li H, Qiao L, Guo Z & Lin J. (2018). Sonic Hedgehog Regulation of the Neural Precursor Cell Fate During Chicken Optic Tectum Development. J. Mol. Neurosci. , 64, 287-299. PMID: 29285739 DOI.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Agoston Z, Li N, Haslinger A, Wizenmann A & Schulte D. (2012). Genetic and physical interaction of Meis2, Pax3 and Pax7 during dorsal midbrain development. BMC Dev. Biol. , 12, 10. PMID: 22390724 DOI.
  4. Pyrgaki C, Trainor P, Hadjantonakis AK & Niswander L. (2010). Dynamic imaging of mammalian neural tube closure. Dev. Biol. , 344, 941-7. PMID: 20558153 DOI.
  5. Shirao T & Sekino Y. (2017). General Introduction to Drebrin. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. , 1006, 3-22. PMID: 28865011 DOI.


Takahashi M & Shinoda Y. (2018). Brain Stem Neural Circuits of Horizontal and Vertical Saccade Systems and their Frame of Reference. Neuroscience , , . PMID: 30193861 DOI.

Marachlian E, Avitan L, Goodhill GJ & Sumbre G. (2018). Principles of Functional Circuit Connectivity: Insights From Spontaneous Activity in the Zebrafish Optic Tectum. Front Neural Circuits , 12, 46. PMID: 29977193 DOI.

Avitan L & Goodhill GJ. (2018). Code Under Construction: Neural Coding Over Development. Trends Neurosci. , 41, 599-609. PMID: 29935867 DOI.

Joly JS, Recher G, Brombin A, Ngo K & Hartenstein V. (2016). A Conserved Developmental Mechanism Builds Complex Visual Systems in Insects and Vertebrates. Curr. Biol. , 26, R1001-R1009. PMID: 27780043 DOI.

Zhaoping L. (2016). From the optic tectum to the primary visual cortex: migration through evolution of the saliency map for exogenous attentional guidance. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. , 40, 94-102. PMID: 27420378 DOI.

Greene ND & Copp AJ. (2009). Development of the vertebrate central nervous system: formation of the neural tube. Prenat. Diagn. , 29, 303-11. PMID: 19206138 DOI.


Triplett MA, Avitan L & Goodhill GJ. (2018). Emergence of spontaneous assembly activity in developing neural networks without afferent input. PLoS Comput. Biol. , 14, e1006421. PMID: 30265665 DOI.

Lischka K, Yan J, Weigel S & Luksch H. (2018). Effects of early eye removal on the morphology of a multisensory neuron in the chicken optic tectum. Brain Res. , 1691, 9-14. PMID: 29680273 DOI.

Saitsu H & Shiota K. (2008). Involvement of the axially condensed tail bud mesenchyme in normal and abnormal human posterior neural tube development. Congenit Anom (Kyoto) , 48, 1-6. PMID: 18230116 DOI.

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 22) Embryology Neural - Tectum Development. Retrieved from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G