Similar to other vertebrate species, the zebrafish retina is simpler than other regions of the central nervous system (CNS). Relative simplicity, rapid development, and accessibility to genetic analysis make the zebrafish retina an excellent model system for the studies of neurogenesis in the vertebrate CNS. Numerous genetic screens have led to isolation of an impressive collection of mutations affecting the retina and the retinotectal projection in zebrafish. Mutant phenotypes are being studied using a rich variety of markers: antibodies, RNA probes, retrograde and anterograde tracers, as well as transgenic lines. Particularly impressive progress has been made in the characterization of the zebrafish genome. Consequently, positional and candidate cloning of mutant genes are now fairly easy to accomplish in zebrafish. Many mutant genes have, in fact, already been cloned and their analysis has provided important insights into the gene circuitry that regulates retinal neurogenesis. Genetic screens for visual system defects will continue in the future and progressively more sophisticated screening approaches will make it possible to detect a variety of subtle mutant phenotypes in retinal development. The remarkable evolutionary conservation of the vertebrate eye provides the basis for the use of the zebrafish retina as a model of human disorders. Some of the genetic defects of the zebrafish retina indeed resemble human retinopathies. As new techniques are being introduced and improved at a rapid pace, the zebrafish will continue to be an important organism for the studies of the vertebrate visual system.
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