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Encyclopedia of Experiments

Injection of Adult Drosophila Flies: A Method of Compound or Label Delivery


This video describes how to perform an injection of live adult flies and includes an example protocol in which labeled particles and trypan blue are injected in fly abdomens to assay phagocytosis.


This protocol is an excerpt from Nazario-Toole and Wu, Assessing the Cellular Immune Response of the Fruit Fly, Drosophila melanogaster, Using an In Vivo Phagocytosis Assay, J. Vis. Exp. (2019).

1. Prepare Fluorescein particles for injection

  1. Reconstitute 10 mg of commercially available, heat-killed bacteria particles labeled with fluorescein (see Table of Materials) to a stock concentration of 10 mg/mL by adding 990 µL sterile 1x PBS and 10 µL 50 mM sodium azide. Vortex to mix.
    1. Divide into single-use 8 µL aliquots in 0.2 mL tubes and store in a dark box at 4 °C to minimize light associated sensitivity.
      NOTE: Sodium azide preservative is optional and can be omitted if 10 mg/mL stocks are made with 1 mL sterile 1x PBS, aliquoted, and stored at -20 °C.
  2. Make a 10 mL solution of 5% food coloring in 1x PBS by mixing 500 µL syringe filtered green food coloring and 9.5 mL sterile 1x PBS.
  3. Wash particles before injection to remove sodium azide. Mix 42 µL sterile 1x PBS and 8 µL of 10 mg/mL in a 1.7 mL tube. Centrifuge at max speed for 2.5 min at room temperature.
    1. Remove the supernatant, add 50 µL 1x PBS, and centrifuge at max speed for 2.5 min at room temperature.
    2. Repeat steps 1.3 and 1.3.1 2x, for a total of 3 washes.
    3. After the final wash, discard the supernatant and re-suspend particles to 1.6 mg/mL in 50 µL of 5% food coloring in 1x PBS.
    4. Wrap the tube in aluminum foil to protect from light. Store at 4 °C, discard after 1 week.

2. Prepare the injection station and flies

  1. Prepare the injection pad. To inject up to 4 genotypes of flies at the same time, use laboratory tape to divide a rectangular CO2 fly pad into 4 sections. On the bench near the microscope, designate areas to place the vials once flies have been lined up on the pad (one for each corner of the pad).
  2. Prepare vials of age-matched, 4-7 days-old, flies for injection. For each strain to be tested, transfer 5 males and 5 females into a fresh, labeled vial of prepared fly food and keep at 25 °C.
  3. Prepare the pneumatic injector (see Table of Materials) by setting the instrument to a 100 ms (short bursts of gas pressure to expel the liquid – allowing the delivery of sub-nanoliter volumes) TIMED mode.
  4. Prepare the microscope slides. Cut 1.5-inch strips of electrical tape, fold into a loop with the adhesive side out, and place onto a labeled microscope slide.

3. Prepare glass capillary needles

  1. Pull glass needles (thin wall glass capillaries) using a needle puller.
    1. Hold the needle under the microscope with a micrometer and break the tip using #5 fine point stainless steel tweezers. 100 µm tips are sufficient to pierce the fly's cuticle while minimizing wounding.
    2. Measure the volume of liquid that will be injected into each fly. Load the needle with sterile 5% food coloring in 1x PBS and expel the liquid onto a drop of mineral oil on a 0.01 mm stage micrometer.
      NOTE: If the liquid droplet is spherical, the volume in picoliters is calculated as (size)3/1910. A needle with a 100 µm diameter will eject ~2 nL in 100 ms.

4. Inject flies

  1. Pipette 10 µL of 1.6 mg/mL particles onto a small square of parafilm.
    1. Pull the liquid into the needle and mount in the injector nozzle (see Table of Materials).
    2. Anesthetize flies with CO2 and line them up in their designated area on the flypad, with the ventral side up and the heads oriented towards the front of the pad. Place vials in corresponding areas on the bench.
    3. Inject flies at the upper corner of the abdomen with 5, 100 ms pumps of liquid (~10 nL total).
    4. Transfer the injected flies to the appropriate vials, note the time on the vial. Keep at 25 °C.
  2. Load a new needle with 0.4% Trypan Blue Solution.
  3. Set the pneumatic injector to GATED, which allows a constant flow of air to push the liquid out of the needle.
  4. Anesthetize flies after they have rested for 30 min and inject with Trypan Blue until the abdomen is full and distended.
    NOTE: When examining phagosome maturation with particles labeled with a pH-sensitive dye, allow flies to rest for 1 h and do not inject with trypan blue before mounting flies.
  5. Mount flies on microscope slides with electrical tape, ventral side down. Push the wings to the side of the fly and secure them to the tape. Also, gently push the head into the tape to ensure that the fly will not move.

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
5430-10 PicoNozzle Kit World Precision Instruments 5430-10 Holder for 1.0mm pipette
E. coli (K-12 Strain) BioParticles, Fluorescein conjugate Invitrogen E2861 Killed E. coli labeled with FITC (Fluorescein). Use to test phagocyte recogntion and uptake of gram-negative bacteria. (~494/~518 nm)
Needle Pipette Puller David Kopf Instruments Model 725
Pneumatic PicoPump PV820 World Precision Instruments SYS-PV820 The World Precision Instruments Pneumatic PicoPump PV820 uses differential pressures to hold liquid in the glass needle between injections.
The user manually controls short bursts of gas pressure to expel the liquid – allowing delivery of sub-nanoliter volumes.
The amount of liquid delivered depends on two main variables – the size of the glass needle opening and the amount of time injection pressure is applied.
set the instrument to 100 ms "TIMED" mode.
Thin Wall Glass Capillaries World Precision Instruments TW100F-3 Needles for injection. OD = 1.0 mm
Trypan Blue Solution (0.4%) Sigma T8154 Used to quench extracellular fluorescence of Fluorescein, Alexa Fluor, or Texas Red labeled particles.


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