The visualization of full-length neuronal projections in embryos is essential to gain an understanding of how mammalian neuronal networks develop. Here we describe a method to label in situ a subset of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) axon projections to assess their phenotypic characteristics using several genetically manipulated mouse lines. The TrkA-positive neurons are nociceptor neurons, dedicated to the transmission of pain signals. We utilize a TrkAtaulacZ mouse line to label the trajectories of all TrkA-positive peripheral axons in the intact mouse embryo. We further breed the TrkAtaulacZ line onto a Bax null background, which essentially abolishes neuronal apoptosis, in order to assess growth-related questions independently of possible effects of genetic manipulations on neuronal survival. Subsequently, genetically modified mice of interest are bred with the TrkAtaulacZ/Bax null line and are then ready for study using the techniques described herein. This presentation includes detailed information on mouse breeding plans, genotyping at the time of dissection, tissue preparation, staining and clearing to allow for visualization of full-length axonal trajectories in whole-mount preparation.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
Chromatin Immunoprecipitation from Dorsal Root Ganglia Tissue following Axonal Injury
Institutions: University of Tuebingen , University of Tuebingen .
Axons in the central nervous system (CNS) do not regenerate while those in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) do regenerate
to a limited extent after injury (Teng et al.
, 2006). It is recognized that transcriptional programs essential for neurite and axonal outgrowth are
reactivated upon injury in the PNS (Makwana et al.
, 2005). However the tools available to analyze neuronal gene regulation in vivo
are limited and
The dorsal root ganglia (DRG) offer an excellent injury model system because both the CNS and PNS are innervated by a
bifurcated axon originating from the same soma. The ganglia represent a discrete collection of cell bodies where all transcriptional events occur,
and thus provide a clearly defined region of transcriptional activity that can be easily and reproducibly removed from the animal. Injury of nerve
fibers in the PNS (e.g. sciatic nerve), where axonal regeneration does occur, should reveal a set of transcriptional programs that are distinct from
those responding to a similar injury in the CNS, where regeneration does not take place (e.g. spinal cord). Sites for transcription factor binding,
histone and DNA modification resulting from injury to either PNS or CNS can be characterized using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP).
Here, we describe a ChIP protocol using fixed mouse DRG tissue following axonal injury. This powerful combination provides a means for characterizing the pro-regeneration chromatin environment necessary for promoting axonal regeneration.
Neuroscience, Issue 53, Chromatin immunoprecipitation, dorsal root ganglia, transcription factor, epigenetic, axonal regeneration
Organotypic Slice Cultures of Embryonic Ventral Midbrain: A System to Study Dopaminergic Neuronal Development in vitro
Institutions: University of Bonn.
The mouse is an excellent model organism to study mammalian brain development due to the abundance of molecular and genetic data. However, the developing mouse brain is not suitable for easy manipulation and imaging in vivo
since the mouse embryo is inaccessible and opaque. Organotypic slice cultures of embryonic brains are therefore widely used to study murine brain development in vitro
manipulation or the use of transgenic mice allows the modification of gene expression so that subpopulations of neuronal or glial cells can be labeled with fluorescent proteins. The behavior of labeled cells can then be observed using time-lapse imaging. Time-lapse imaging has been particularly successful for studying cell behaviors that underlie the development of the cerebral cortex at late embryonic stages 1-2
. Embryonic organotypic slice culture systems in brain regions outside of the forebrain are less well established. Therefore, the wealth of time-lapse imaging data describing neuronal cell migration is restricted to the forebrain 3,4
. It is still not known, whether the principles discovered for the dorsal brain hold true for ventral brain areas. In the ventral brain, neurons are organized in neuronal clusters rather than layers and they often have to undergo complicated migratory trajectories to reach their final position. The ventral midbrain is not only a good model system for ventral brain development, but also contains neuronal populations such as dopaminergic neurons that are relevant in disease processes. While the function and degeneration of dopaminergic neurons has been investigated in great detail in the adult and ageing brain, little is known about the behavior of these neurons during their differentiation and migration phase 5
. We describe here the generation of slice cultures from the embryonic day (E) 12.5 mouse ventral midbrain. These slice cultures are potentially suitable for monitoring dopaminergic neuron development over several days in vitro
. We highlight the critical steps in generating brain slices at these early stages of embryonic development and discuss the conditions necessary for maintaining normal development of dopaminergic neurons in vitro
. We also present results from time lapse imaging experiments. In these experiments, ventral midbrain precursors (including dopaminergic precursors) and their descendants were labeled in a mosaic manner using a Cre/loxP based inducible fate mapping system 6
Neuroscience, Issue 59, Developmental Biology, organotypic slice culture, midbrain, mouse, time-lapse imaging, neurons
Organotypic Slice Culture of GFP-expressing Mouse Embryos for Real-time Imaging of Peripheral Nerve Outgrowth
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
For many purposes, the cultivation of mouse embryos ex vivo
as organotypic slices is desirable. For example, we employ a transgenic mouse line (tauGFP
) in which the enhanced version of the green fluorescent protein (EGFP) is exclusively expressed in all neurons of the developing central and peripheral nervous system1
, allowing the possibility to both film the innervation of the forelimb and to manipulate this process with pharmacological and genetic techniques2
. The most critical parameter in the successful cultivation of such slice cultures is the method by which the slices are prepared. After extensive testing of a variety of methods, we have found that a vibratome is the best possible device to slice the embryos such that they routinely result in a culture that demonstrates viability over a period of several days, and most importantly, develops in an age-specific manner. For mid-gestation embryos, this includes the normal outgrowth of spinal nerves from the spinal cord and the dorsal root ganglia to their targets in the periphery and the proper determination of skeletal and muscle tissue.
In this work, we present a method for processing whole embryos of embryonic day (E) E10 to E12 into 300 - 400 micrometer slices for cultivation in a standard tissue culture incubator, which can be studied for up to two days after slice preparation. Critical for the success of this approach is the use of a vibratome to slice each agarose-embedded embryo. This is followed by the cultivation of the slices upon Millicell culture membrane inserts placed upon a small volume of medium, resulting in an interface culture technique. One litter with an average of 7 embryos routinely produces at least 14 slices (2-3 slices of the forelimb region per embryo), which varies slightly due to the age of the embryos as well as to the thickness of the slices. About 80% of the cultured slices show nerve outgrowth, which can be measured througout the culturing period2
. Representative results using the tauGFP
mouse line are demonstrated.
Neuroscience, Issue 49, imaging, organotypic slice culture, GFP, spinal nerves, mouse, developmental biology, axonal pathfinding, DRG
Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+
on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
The Swimmeret System of Crayfish: A Practical Guide for the Dissection of the Nerve Cord and Extracellular Recordings of the Motor Pattern
Institutions: University of Cologne.
Here we demonstrate the dissection of the crayfish abdominal nerve cord. The preparation comprises the last two thoracic ganglia (T4, T5) and the chain of abdominal ganglia (A1 to A6). This chain of ganglia includes the part of the central nervous system (CNS) that drives coordinated locomotion of the pleopods (swimmerets): the swimmeret system. It is known for over five decades that in crayfish each swimmeret is driven by its own independent pattern generating kernel that generates rhythmic alternating activity 1-3
. The motor neurons innervating the musculature of each swimmeret comprise two anatomically and functionally distinct populations 4
. One is responsible for the retraction (power stroke, PS) of the swimmeret. The other drives the protraction (return stroke, RS) of the swimmeret. Motor neurons of the swimmeret system are able to produce spontaneously a fictive motor pattern, which is identical to the pattern recorded in vivo 1
The aim of this report is to introduce an interesting and convenient model system for studying rhythm generating networks and coordination of independent microcircuits for students’ practical laboratory courses. The protocol provided includes step-by-step instructions for the dissection of the crayfish’s abdominal nerve cord, pinning of the isolated chain of ganglia, desheathing the ganglia and recording the swimmerets fictive motor pattern extracellularly from the isolated nervous system.
Additionally, we can monitor the activity of swimmeret neurons recorded intracellularly from dendrites. Here we also describe briefly these techniques and provide some examples. Furthermore, the morphology of swimmeret neurons can be assessed using various staining techniques. Here we provide examples of intracellular (by iontophoresis) dye filled neurons and backfills of pools of swimmeret motor neurons. In our lab we use this preparation to study basic functions of fictive locomotion, the effect of sensory feedback on the activity of the CNS, and coordination between microcircuits on a cellular level.
Neurobiology, Issue 93, crustacean, dissection, extracellular recording, fictive locomotion, motor neurons, locomotion
An Ex Vivo Laser-induced Spinal Cord Injury Model to Assess Mechanisms of Axonal Degeneration in Real-time
Institutions: University of Louisville, University of Calgary.
Injured CNS axons fail to regenerate and often retract away from the injury site. Axons spared from the initial injury may later undergo secondary axonal degeneration. Lack of growth cone formation, regeneration, and loss of additional myelinated axonal projections within the spinal cord greatly limits neurological recovery following injury. To assess how central myelinated axons of the spinal cord respond to injury, we developed an ex vivo
living spinal cord model utilizing transgenic mice that express yellow fluorescent protein in axons and a focal and highly reproducible laser-induced spinal cord injury to document the fate of axons and myelin (lipophilic fluorescent dye Nile Red) over time using two-photon excitation time-lapse microscopy. Dynamic processes such as acute axonal injury, axonal retraction, and myelin degeneration are best studied in real-time. However, the non-focal nature of contusion-based injuries and movement artifacts encountered during in vivo
spinal cord imaging make differentiating primary and secondary axonal injury responses using high resolution microscopy challenging. The ex vivo
spinal cord model described here mimics several aspects of clinically relevant contusion/compression-induced axonal pathologies including axonal swelling, spheroid formation, axonal transection, and peri-axonal swelling providing a useful model to study these dynamic processes in real-time. Major advantages of this model are excellent spatiotemporal resolution that allows differentiation between the primary insult that directly injures axons and secondary injury mechanisms; controlled infusion of reagents directly to the perfusate bathing the cord; precise alterations of the environmental milieu (e.g.,
calcium, sodium ions, known contributors to axonal injury, but near impossible to manipulate in vivo
); and murine models also offer an advantage as they provide an opportunity to visualize and manipulate genetically identified cell populations and subcellular structures. Here, we describe how to isolate and image the living spinal cord from mice to capture dynamics of acute axonal injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, spinal cord injury, axon, myelin, two-photon excitation microscopy, Nile Red, axonal degeneration, axonal dieback, axonal retraction
Pharmacologic Induction of Epidermal Melanin and Protection Against Sunburn in a Humanized Mouse Model
Institutions: University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Fairness of skin, UV sensitivity and skin cancer risk all correlate with the physiologic function of the melanocortin 1 receptor, a Gs
-coupled signaling protein found on the surface of melanocytes. Mc1r stimulates adenylyl cyclase and cAMP production which, in turn, up-regulates melanocytic production of melanin in the skin. In order to study the mechanisms by which Mc1r signaling protects the skin against UV injury, this study relies on a mouse model with "humanized skin" based on epidermal expression of stem cell factor (Scf). K14-Scf
transgenic mice retain melanocytes in the epidermis and therefore have the ability to deposit melanin in the epidermis. In this animal model, wild type Mc1r status results in robust deposition of black eumelanin pigment and a UV-protected phenotype. In contrast, K14-Scf
animals with defective Mc1r signaling ability exhibit a red/blonde pigmentation, very little eumelanin in the skin and a UV-sensitive phenotype. Reasoning that eumelanin deposition might be enhanced by topical agents that mimic Mc1r signaling, we found that direct application of forskolin extract to the skin of Mc1r-defective fair-skinned mice resulted in robust eumelanin induction and UV protection 1
. Here we describe the method for preparing and applying a forskolin-containing natural root extract to K14-Scf
fair-skinned mice and report a method for measuring UV sensitivity by determining minimal erythematous dose (MED). Using this animal model, it is possible to study how epidermal cAMP induction and melanization of the skin affect physiologic responses to UV exposure.
Medicine, Issue 79, Skin, Inflammation, Photometry, Ultraviolet Rays, Skin Pigmentation, melanocortin 1 receptor, Mc1r, forskolin, cAMP, mean erythematous dose, skin pigmentation, melanocyte, melanin, sunburn, UV, inflammation
Derivation of Enriched Oligodendrocyte Cultures and Oligodendrocyte/Neuron Myelinating Co-cultures from Post-natal Murine Tissues
Institutions: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa , Stony Brook University, University of Ottawa .
Identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying OL development is not only critical to furthering our knowledge of OL biology, but also has implications for understanding the pathogenesis of demyelinating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Cellular development is commonly studied with primary cell culture models. Primary cell culture facilitates the evaluation of a given cell type by providing a controlled environment, free of the extraneous variables that are present in vivo
. While OL cultures derived from rats have provided a vast amount of insight into OL biology, similar efforts at establishing OL cultures from mice has been met with major obstacles. Developing methods to culture murine primary OLs is imperative in order to take advantage of the available transgenic mouse lines.
Multiple methods for extraction of OPCs from rodent tissue have been described, ranging from neurosphere derivation, differential adhesion purification and immunopurification 1-3
. While many methods offer success, most require extensive culture times and/or costly equipment/reagents. To circumvent this, purifying OPCs from murine tissue with an adaptation of the method originally described by McCarthy &
de Vellis 2
is preferred. This method involves physically separating OPCs from a mixed glial culture derived from neonatal rodent cortices. The result is a purified OPC population that can be differentiated into an OL-enriched culture. This approach is appealing due to its relatively short culture time and the unnecessary requirement for growth factors or immunopanning antibodies.
While exploring the mechanisms of OL development in a purified culture is informative, it does not provide the most physiologically relevant environment for assessing myelin sheath formation. Co-culturing OLs with neurons would lend insight into the molecular underpinnings regulating OL-mediated myelination of axons. For many OL/neuron co-culture studies, dorsal root ganglion neurons (DRGNs) have proven to be the neuron type of choice. They are ideal for co-culture with OLs due to their ease of extraction, minimal amount of contaminating cells, and formation of dense neurite beds. While studies using rat/mouse myelinating xenocultures have been published 4-6
, a method for the derivation of such OL/DRGN myelinating co-cultures from post-natal murine tissue has not been described. Here we present detailed methods on how to effectively produce such cultures, along with examples of expected results. These methods are useful for addressing questions relevant to OL development/myelinating function, and are useful tools in the field of neuroscience.
Neuroscience, Issue 54, Oligodendrocyte, myelination, in vitro, dorsal root ganglion neuron, co-culture, primary cells, mouse, neuroscience
Study Glial Cell Heterogeneity Influence on Axon Growth Using a New Coculture Method
Institutions: Cedars Sinai Medical Center, UCLA, Fourth Military Medical University, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Fourth Military Medical Univeristy.
In the central nervous system of all mammals, severed axons after injury are unable to regenerate to their original targets and functional recovery is very poor 1
. The failure of axon regeneration is a combined result of several factors including the hostile glial cell environment, inhibitory myelin related molecules and decreased intrinsic neuron regenerative capacity 2
. Astrocytes are the most predominant glial cell type in central nervous system and play important role in axon functions under physiology and pathology conditions 3
. Contrast to the homologous oligodendrocytes, astrocytes are a heterogeneous cell population composed by different astrocyte subpopulations with diverse morphologies and gene expression 4
. The functional significance of this heterogeneity, such as their influences on axon growth, is largely unknown.
To study the glial cell, especially the function of astrocyte heterogeneity in neuron behavior, we established a new method by co-culturing high purified dorsal root ganglia neurons with glial cells obtained from the rat cortex. By this technique, we were able to directly compare neuron adhesion and axon growth on different astrocytes subpopulations under the same condition.
In this report, we give the detailed protocol of this method for astrocytes isolation and culture, dorsal root ganglia neurons isolation and purification, and the co-culture of DRG neurons with astrocytes. This method could also be extended to other brain regions to study cellular or regional specific interaction between neurons and glial cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, Dorsal root ganglia, glial cell, heterogeneity, co-culture, regeneration, axon growth
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA
Rs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials.
During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAA
Rs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other.
To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro
co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro
model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo
conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAA
Rs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
Organotypic Slice Cultures to Study Oligodendrocyte Dynamics and Myelination
Institutions: University of Connecticut, University of Connecticut, Yale University School of Medicine.
NG2 expressing cells (polydendrocytes, oligodendrocyte precursor cells) are the fourth major glial cell population in the central nervous system. During embryonic and postnatal development they actively proliferate and generate myelinating oligodendrocytes. These cells have commonly been studied in primary dissociated cultures, neuron cocultures, and in fixed tissue. Using newly available transgenic mouse lines slice culture systems can be used to investigate proliferation and differentiation of oligodendrocyte lineage cells in both gray and white matter regions of the forebrain and cerebellum. Slice cultures are prepared from early postnatal mice and are kept in culture for up to 1 month. These slices can be imaged multiple times over the culture period to investigate cellular behavior and interactions. This method allows visualization of NG2 cell division and the steps leading to oligodendrocyte differentiation while enabling detailed analysis of region-dependent NG2 cell and oligodendrocyte functional heterogeneity. This is a powerful technique that can be used to investigate the intrinsic and extrinsic signals influencing these cells over time in a cellular environment that closely resembles that found in vivo
Neuroscience, Issue 90,
NG2, CSPG4, polydendrocyte, oligodendrocyte progenitor cell, oligodendrocyte, myelin, organotypic slice culture, time-lapse
DiI-Labeling of DRG Neurons to Study Axonal Branching in a Whole Mount Preparation of Mouse Embryonic Spinal Cord
Institutions: Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine.
Here we present a technique to label the trajectories of small groups of DRG neurons into the embryonic spinal cord by diffusive staining using the lipophilic tracer 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI)1
. The comparison of axonal pathways of wild-type with those of mouse lines in which genes are mutated allows testing for a functional role of candidate proteins in the control of axonal branching which is an essential mechanism in the wiring of the nervous system. Axonal branching enables an individual neuron to connect with multiple targets, thereby providing the physical basis for the parallel processing of information. Ramifications at intermediate target regions of axonal growth may be distinguished from terminal arborization. Furthermore, different modes of axonal branch formation may be classified depending on whether branching results from the activities of the growth cone (splitting or delayed branching) or from the budding of collaterals from the axon shaft in a process called interstitial branching2
The central projections of neurons from the DRG offer a useful experimental system to study both types of axonal branching: when their afferent axons reach the dorsal root entry zone (DREZ) of the spinal cord between embryonic days 10 to 13 (E10 - E13) they display a stereotyped pattern of T- or Y-shaped bifurcation. The two resulting daughter axons then proceed in rostral or caudal directions, respectively, at the dorsolateral margin of the cord and only after a waiting period collaterals sprout from these stem axons to penetrate the gray matter (interstitial branching) and project to relay neurons in specific laminae of the spinal cord where they further arborize (terminal branching)3
. DiI tracings have revealed growth cones at the dorsal root entry zone of the spinal cord that appeared to be in the process of splitting suggesting that bifurcation is caused by splitting of the growth cone itself4
), however, other options have been discussed as well5
This video demonstrates first how to dissect the spinal cord of E12.5 mice leaving the DRG attached. Following fixation of the specimen tiny amounts of DiI are applied to DRG using glass needles pulled from capillary tubes. After an incubation step, the labeled spinal cord is mounted as an inverted open-book preparation to analyze individual axons using fluorescence microscopy.
Neuroscience, Issue 58, neurons, axonal branching, DRG, Spinal cord, DiI labeling, cGMP signaling
Simulating Pancreatic Neuroplasticity: In Vitro Dual-neuron Plasticity Assay
Institutions: Technische Universität München, University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern/Zweibrücken.
Neuroplasticity is an inherent feature of the enteric nervous system and gastrointestinal (GI) innervation under pathological conditions. However, the pathophysiological role of neuroplasticity in GI disorders remains unknown. Novel experimental models which allow simulation and modulation of GI neuroplasticity may enable enhanced appreciation of the contribution of neuroplasticity in particular GI diseases such as pancreatic cancer (PCa) and chronic pancreatitis (CP). Here, we present a protocol for simulation of pancreatic neuroplasticity under in vitro
conditions using newborn rat dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and myenteric plexus (MP) neurons. This dual-neuron approach not only permits monitoring of both organ-intrinsic and -extrinsic neuroplasticity, but also represents a valuable tool to assess neuronal and glial morphology and electrophysiology. Moreover, it allows functional modulation of supplied microenvironmental contents for studying their impact on neuroplasticity. Once established, the present neuroplasticity assay bears the potential of being applicable to the study of neuroplasticity in any GI organ.
Medicine, Issue 86, Autonomic Nervous System Diseases, Digestive System Neoplasms, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Pancreatic Diseases, Pancreatic Neoplasms, Pancreatitis, Pancreatic neuroplasticity, dorsal root ganglia, myenteric plexus, Morphometry, neurite density, neurite branching, perikaryonal hypertrophy, neuronal plasticity
Preparation of Primary Neurons for Visualizing Neurites in a Frozen-hydrated State Using Cryo-Electron Tomography
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, Baylor College of Medicine.
Neurites, both dendrites and axons, are neuronal cellular processes that enable the conduction of electrical impulses between neurons. Defining the structure of neurites is critical to understanding how these processes move materials and signals that support synaptic communication. Electron microscopy (EM) has been traditionally used to assess the ultrastructural features within neurites; however, the exposure to organic solvent during dehydration and resin embedding can distort structures. An important unmet goal is the formulation of procedures that allow for structural evaluations not impacted by such artifacts.
Here, we have established a detailed and reproducible protocol for growing and flash-freezing whole neurites of different primary neurons on electron microscopy grids followed by their examination with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). This technique allows for 3-D visualization of frozen, hydrated neurites at nanometer resolution, facilitating assessment of their morphological differences. Our protocol yields an unprecedented view of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurites, and a visualization of hippocampal neurites in their near-native state. As such, these methods create a foundation for future studies on neurites of both normal neurons and those impacted by neurological disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, Neurons, Cryo-electron Microscopy, Electron Microscope Tomography, Brain, rat, primary neuron culture, morphological assay
Isolation and Culture of Dissociated Sensory Neurons From Chick Embryos
Institutions: Assumption College.
Neurons are multifaceted cells that carry information essential for a variety of functions including sensation, motor movement, learning, and memory. Studying neurons in vivo
can be challenging due to their complexity, their varied and dynamic environments, and technical limitations. For these reasons, studying neurons in vitro
can prove beneficial to unravel the complex mysteries of neurons. The well-defined nature of cell culture models provides detailed control over environmental conditions and variables. Here we describe how to isolate, dissociate, and culture primary neurons from chick embryos. This technique is rapid, inexpensive, and generates robustly growing sensory neurons. The procedure consistently produces cultures that are highly enriched for neurons and has very few non-neuronal cells (less than 5%). Primary neurons do not adhere well to untreated glass or tissue culture plastic, therefore detailed procedures to create two distinct, well-defined laminin-containing substrata for neuronal plating are described. Cultured neurons are highly amenable to multiple cellular and molecular techniques, including co-immunoprecipitation, live cell imagining, RNAi, and immunocytochemistry. Procedures for double immunocytochemistry on these cultured neurons have been optimized and described here.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, dorsal root gangia, DRG, chicken, in vitro, avian, laminin-1, embryonic, primary
Production and Isolation of Axons from Sensory Neurons for Biochemical Analysis Using Porous Filters
Institutions: Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University.
Neuronal axons use specific mechanisms to mediate extension, maintain integrity, and induce degeneration. An appropriate balance of these events is required to shape functional neuronal circuits. The protocol described here explains how to use cell culture inserts bearing a porous membrane (filter) to obtain large amounts of pure axonal preparations suitable for examination by conventional biochemical or immunocytochemical techniques. The functionality of these filter inserts will be demonstrated with models of developmental pruning and Wallerian degeneration, using explants of embryonic dorsal root ganglion. Axonal integrity and function is compromised in a wide variety of neurodegenerative pathologies. Indeed, it is now clear that axonal dysfunction appears much earlier in the course of the disease than neuronal soma loss in several neurodegenerative diseases, indicating that axonal-specific processes are primarily targeted in these disorders. By obtaining pure axonal samples for analysis by molecular and biochemical techniques, this technique has the potential to shed new light into mechanisms regulating the physiology and pathophysiology of axons. This in turn will have an impact in our understanding of the processes that drive degenerative diseases of the nervous system.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, neuron, axon, filter inserts, culture system, dorsal root ganglion, axonal degeneration
Genetic Study of Axon Regeneration with Cultured Adult Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
It is well known that mature neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) cannot regenerate their axons after injuries due to diminished intrinsic ability to support axon growth and a hostile environment in the mature CNS1,2
. In contrast, mature neurons in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) regenerate readily after injuries3
. Adult dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons are well known to regenerate robustly after peripheral nerve injuries. Each DRG neuron grows one axon from the cell soma, which branches into two axonal branches: a peripheral branch innervating peripheral targets and a central branch extending into the spinal cord. Injury of the DRG peripheral axons results in substantial axon regeneration, whereas central axons in the spinal cord regenerate poorly after the injury. However, if the peripheral axonal injury occurs prior to the spinal cord injury (a process called the conditioning lesion), regeneration of central axons is greatly improved4
. Moreover, the central axons of DRG neurons share the same hostile environment as descending corticospinal axons in the spinal cord. Together, it is hypothesized that the molecular mechanisms controlling axon regeneration of adult DRG neurons can be harnessed to enhance CNS axon regeneration. As a result, adult DRG neurons are now widely used as a model system to study regenerative axon growth5-7
Here we describe a method of adult DRG neuron culture that can be used for genetic study of axon regeneration in vitro
. In this model adult DRG neurons are genetically manipulated via electroporation-mediated gene transfection6,8
. By transfecting neurons with DNA plasmid or si/shRNA, this approach enables both gain- and loss-of-function experiments to investigate the role of any gene-of-interest in axon growth from adult DRG neurons. When neurons are transfected with si/shRNA, the targeted endogenous protein is usually depleted after 3-4 days in culture, during which time robust axon growth has already occurred, making the loss-of-function studies less effective. To solve this problem, the method described here includes a re-suspension and re-plating step after transfection, which allows axons to re-grow from neurons in the absence of the targeted protein. Finally, we provide an example of using this in vitro
model to study the role of an axon regeneration-associated gene, c-Jun, in mediating axon growth from adult DRG neurons9
Neuroscience, Issue 66, Physiology, Developmental Biology, cell culture, axon regeneration, axon growth, dorsal root ganglion, spinal cord injury
A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ
hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
Detection of the Genome and Transcripts of a Persistent DNA Virus in Neuronal Tissues by Fluorescent In situ Hybridization Combined with Immunostaining
Institutions: CNRS UMR 5534, Université de Lyon 1, LabEX DEVweCAN, CNRS UPR 3296, CNRS UMR 5286.
Single cell codetection of a gene, its RNA product and cellular regulatory proteins is critical to study gene expression regulation. This is a challenge in the field of virology; in particular for nuclear-replicating persistent DNA viruses that involve animal models for their study. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) establishes a life-long latent infection in peripheral neurons. Latent virus serves as reservoir, from which it reactivates and induces a new herpetic episode. The cell biology of HSV-1 latency remains poorly understood, in part due to the lack of methods to detect HSV-1 genomes in situ
in animal models. We describe a DNA-fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH) approach efficiently detecting low-copy viral genomes within sections of neuronal tissues from infected animal models. The method relies on heat-based antigen unmasking, and directly labeled home-made DNA probes, or commercially available probes. We developed a triple staining approach, combining DNA-FISH with RNA-FISH and immunofluorescence, using peroxidase based signal amplification to accommodate each staining requirement. A major improvement is the ability to obtain, within 10 µm tissue sections, low-background signals that can be imaged at high resolution by confocal microscopy and wide-field conventional epifluorescence. Additionally, the triple staining worked with a wide range of antibodies directed against cellular and viral proteins. The complete protocol takes 2.5 days to accommodate antibody and probe penetration within the tissue.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Life Sciences (General), Virology, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Latency, In situ hybridization, Nuclear organization, Gene expression, Microscopy
A Novel Light Damage Paradigm for Use in Retinal Regeneration Studies in Adult Zebrafish
Institutions: Wayne State University School of Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Light-induced retinal degeneration (LIRD) is commonly used in both rodents and zebrafish to damage rod and cone photoreceptors. In adult zebrafish, photoreceptor degeneration triggers Müller glial cells to re-enter the cell cycle and produce transient-amplifying progenitors. These progenitors continue to proliferate as they migrate to the damaged area, where they ultimately give rise to new photoreceptors. Currently, there are two widely-used LIRD paradigms, each of which results in varying degrees of photoreceptor loss and corresponding differences in the regeneration response. As more genetic and pharmacological tools are available to test the role of individual genes of interest during regeneration, there is a need to develop a robust LIRD paradigm. Here we describe a LIRD protocol that results in widespread and consistent loss of both rod and cone photoreceptors in which we have combined the use of two previously established LIRD techniques. Furthermore, this protocol can be extended for use in pigmented animals, which eliminates the need to maintain transgenic lines of interest on the albino background for LIRD studies.
Neuroscience, Issue 80, Zebrafish, Retinal Degeneration, Retina, Photoreceptor, Müller glia, Light damage
Preparation and Maintenance of Dorsal Root Ganglia Neurons in Compartmented Cultures
Institutions: Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School.
Neurons extend axonal processes that are far removed from the cell body to innervate target tissues, where target-derived growth factors are required for neuronal survival and function. Neurotrophins are specifically required to maintain the survival and differentiation of innervating sensory neurons but the question of how these target-derived neurotrophins communicate to the cell body of innervating neurons has been an area of active research for over 30 years. The most commonly accepted model of how neurotrophin signals reach the cell body proposes that signaling endosomes carry this signal retrogradely along the axon. In order to study retrograde transport, a culture system was originally devised by Robert Campenot, in which cell bodies are isolated from their axons. The technique of preparing these compartmented chambers for culturing sensory neurons recapitulates the selective stimulation of neuron terminals that occurs in vivo following release of target-derived neurotrophins. Retrograde signaling events that require long-range microtubule dependent retrograde transport have important implications for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 20, campenot cultures, cell culture, dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons, neuronal culture
Propagation of Human Embryonic Stem (ES) Cells
Institutions: MGH - Massachusetts General Hospital.
Cellular Biology, Issue 1, ES, embryonic stem cells, tissue culture