Optic cup morphogenesis (OCM) generates the basic structure of the vertebrate eye. Although it is commonly depicted as a series of epithelial sheet folding events, this does not represent an empirically supported model. Here, we combine four-dimensional imaging with custom cell tracking software and photoactivatable fluorophore labeling to determine the cellular dynamics underlying OCM in zebrafish. Although cell division contributes to growth, we find it dispensable for eye formation. OCM depends instead on a complex set of cell movements coordinated between the prospective neural retina, retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and lens. Optic vesicle evagination persists for longer than expected; cells move in a pinwheel pattern during optic vesicle elongation and retinal precursors involute around the rim of the invaginating optic cup. We identify unanticipated movements, particularly of central and peripheral retina, RPE and lens. From cell tracking data, we generate retina, RPE and lens subdomain fate maps, which reveal novel adjacencies that might determine corresponding developmental signaling events. Finally, we find that similar movements also occur during chick eye morphogenesis, suggesting that the underlying choreography is conserved among vertebrates.
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