In Utero Electroporation of Multiaddressable Genome-Integrating Color (MAGIC) Markers to Individualize Cortical Mouse Astrocytes

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Protoplasmic astrocytes (PrA) located in the mouse cerebral cortex are tightly juxtaposed, forming an apparently continuous three-dimensional matrix at adult stages. Thus far, no immunostaining strategy can single them out and segment their morphology in mature animals and over the course of corticogenesis. Cortical PrA originate from progenitors located in the dorsal pallium and can easily be targeted using in utero electroporation of integrative vectors. A protocol is presented here to label these cells with the multiaddressable genome-integrating color (MAGIC) Markers strategy, which relies on piggyBac/Tol2 transposition and Cre/lox recombination to stochastically express distinct fluorescent proteins (blue, cyan, yellow, and red) addressed to specific subcellular compartments. This multicolor fate mapping strategy enables to mark in situ nearby cortical progenitors with combinations of color markers prior to the start of gliogenesis and to track their descendants, including astrocytes, from embryonic to adult stages at the individual cell level. Semisparse labeling achieved by adjusting the concentration of electroporated vectors and color contrasts provided by the Multiaddressable Genome-Integrating Color Markers (MAGIC Markers or MM) enable to individualize astrocytes and single out their territory and complex morphology despite their dense anatomical arrangement. Presented is a comprehensive experimental workflow including the details of the electroporation procedure, multichannel image stacks acquisition by confocal microscopy, and computer-assisted three-dimensional segmentation that will enable the experimenter to assess individual PrA volume and morphology. In summary, electroporation of MAGIC Markers provides a convenient method to individually label numerous astrocytes and gain access to their anatomical features at different developmental stages. This technique will be useful to analyze cortical astrocyte morphological properties in various mouse models without resorting to complex crosses with transgenic reporter lines.