The vertebrate eye is a laterally extended structure of the forebrain. It develops through a series of events, including specification and regionalization of the anterior neural plate, evagination of the optic vesicle (OV), and development of three distinct optic structures: the neural retina (NR), optic stalk (OS), and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Various external signals that act on the optic neuroepithelium in a spatial- and temporal-specific manner control the fates of OV subdomains by inducing localized expression of key transcription factors. Investigating the mechanisms underlying compartmentalization of these distinct optic neuroepithelium-derived tissues is therefore not only important from the standpoint of accounting for vertebrate eye morphogenesis, it is also helpful for understanding the fundamental basis of fate determination of other neuroectoderm- derived tissues. This review focuses on the molecular signatures of OV subdomains and the external factors that direct the development of tissues originating from the OV.