The retina is a tremendously complex image processor, containing numerous cell types that form microcircuits encoding different aspects of the visual scene. Each microcircuit exhibits a distinct pattern of synaptic connectivity. The developmental mechanisms responsible for this patterning are just beginning to be revealed. Furthermore, signals processed by different retinal circuits are relayed to specific, often distinct, brain regions. Thus, much work has focused on understanding the mechanisms that wire retinal axonal projections to their appropriate central targets. Here, we highlight recently discovered cellular and molecular mechanisms that together shape stereotypic wiring patterns along the visual pathway, from within the retina to the brain. Although some mechanisms are common across circuits, others play unconventional and circuit-specific roles. Indeed, the highly organized connectivity of the visual system has greatly facilitated the discovery of novel mechanisms that establish precise synaptic connections within the nervous system.


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