Studies of neuronal activity are often performed using neurons from rodents less than 2 months of age due to the technical difficulties associated with increasing connective tissue and decreased neuronal viability that occur with age. Here, we describe a methodology for the dissociation of healthy hypothalamic neurons from adult-aged mice. The ability to study neurons from adult-aged mice allows the use of disease models that manifest at a later age and might be more developmentally accurate for certain studies. Fluorescence imaging of dissociated neurons can be used to study the activity of a population of neurons, as opposed to using electrophysiology to study a single neuron. This is particularly useful when studying a heterogeneous neuronal population in which the desired neuronal type is rare such as for hypothalamic glucose sensing neurons. We utilized membrane potential dye imaging of adult ventromedial hypothalamic neurons to study their responses to changes in extracellular glucose. Glucose sensing neurons are believed to play a role in central regulation of energy balance. The ability to study glucose sensing in adult rodents is particularly useful since the predominance of diseases related to dysfunctional energy balance (e.g. obesity) increase with age.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Imaging Calcium Responses in GFP-tagged Neurons of Hypothalamic Mouse Brain Slices
Institutions: University of Saarland, Homburg, Germany.
Despite an enormous increase in our knowledge about the mechanisms underlying the encoding of information in the brain, a central question concerning the precise molecular steps as well as the activity of specific neurons in multi-functional nuclei of brain areas such as the hypothalamus remain. This problem includes identification of the molecular components involved in the regulation of various neurohormone signal transduction cascades. Elevations of intracellular Ca2+
play an important role in regulating the sensitivity of neurons, both at the level of signal transduction and at synaptic sites.
New tools have emerged to help identify neurons in the myriad of brain neurons by expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of a particular promoter. To monitor both spatially and temporally stimulus-induced Ca2+
responses in GFP-tagged neurons, a non-green fluorescent Ca2+
indicator dye needs to be used. In addition, confocal microscopy is a favorite method of imaging individual neurons in tissue slices due to its ability to visualize neurons in distinct planes of depth within the tissue and to limit out-of-focus fluorescence. The ratiometric Ca2+
indicator fura-2 has been used in combination with GFP-tagged neurons1
. However, the dye is excited by ultraviolet (UV) light. The cost of the laser and the limited optical penetration depth of UV light hindered its use in many laboratories. Moreover, GFP fluorescence may interfere with the fura-2 signals2
. Therefore, we decided to use a red fluorescent Ca2+
indicator dye. The huge Stokes shift of fura-red permits multicolor analysis of the red fluorescence in combination with GFP using a single excitation wavelength. We had previously good results using fura-red in combination with GFP-tagged olfactory neurons3
. The protocols for olfactory tissue slices seemed to work equally well in hypothalamic neurons4
. Fura-red based Ca2+
imaging was also successfully combined with GFP-tagged pancreatic β-cells and GFP-tagged receptors expressed in HEK cells5,6
. A little quirk of fura-red is that its fluorescence intensity at 650 nm decreases once the indicator binds calcium7
. Therefore, the fluorescence of resting neurons with low Ca2+
concentration has relatively high intensity. It should be noted, that other red Ca2+
-indicator dyes exist or are currently being developed, that might give better or improved results in different neurons and brain areas.
Neuroscience, Issue 66, Molecular Biology, Medicine, GFP, fura-red, calcium, confocal imaging, neuron, hypothalamus, brain, olfaction, mouse, slice preparation
Preparation and Culture of Chicken Auditory Brainstem Slices
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington.
The chicken auditory brainstem is a well-established model system that has been widely used to study the anatomy and physiology of auditory processing at discreet periods of development 1-4
as well as mechanisms for temporal coding in the central nervous system 5-7
Here we present a method to prepare chicken auditory brainstem slices that can be used for acute experimental procedures or to culture organotypic slices for long-term experimental manipulations.
The chicken auditory brainstem is composed of nucleus angularis, magnocellularis, laminaris and superior olive. These nuclei are responsible for binaural sound processing and single coronal slice preparations preserve the entire circuitry. Ultimately, organotypic slice cultures can provide the opportunity to manipulate several developmental parameters such as synaptic activity, expression of pre and postsynaptic components, expression of aspects controlling excitability and differential gene expression
This approach can be used to broaden general knowledge about neural circuit development, refinement and maturation.
Neuroscience, Issue 49, slice preparation, chicken auditory brainstem, organotypic cultures, nucleus laminaris, nucleus magnocellularis
Physiological, Morphological and Neurochemical Characterization of Neurons Modulated by Movement
Institutions: University of Maryland.
The role of individual neurons and their function in neuronal circuits is fundamental to understanding the neuronal mechanisms of sensory and motor functions. Most investigations of sensorimotor mechanisms rely on either examination of neurons while an animal is static1,2
or record extracellular neuronal activity during a movement.3,4
While these studies have provided the fundamental background for sensorimotor function, they either do not evaluate functional information which occurs during a movement or are limited in their ability to fully characterize the anatomy, physiology and neurochemical phenotype of the neuron. A technique is shown here which allows extensive characterization of individual neurons during an in vivo
movement. This technique can be used not only to study primary afferent neurons but also to characterize motoneurons and sensorimotor interneurons. Initially the response of a single neuron is recorded using electrophysiological methods during various movements of the mandible followed by determination of the receptive field for the neuron. A neuronal tracer is then intracellularly injected into the neuron and the brain is processed so that the neuron can be visualized with light, electron or confocal microscopy (Fig. 1). The detailed morphology of the characterized neuron is then reconstructed so that neuronal morphology can be correlated with the physiological response of the neuron (Figs. 2,3). In this communication important key details and tips for successful implementation of this technique are provided. Valuable additional information can be determined for the neuron under study by combining this method with other techniques. Retrograde neuronal labeling can be used to determine neurons with which the labeled neuron synapses; thus allowing detailed determination of neuronal circuitry. Immunocytochemistry can be combined with this method to examine neurotransmitters within the labeled neuron and to determine the chemical phenotypes of neurons with which the labeled neuron synapses. The labeled neuron can also be processed for electron microscopy to determine the ultrastructural features and microcircuitry of the labeled neuron. Overall this technique is a powerful method to thoroughly characterize neurons during in vivo
movement thus allowing substantial insight into the role of the neuron in sensorimotor function.
Neuroscience, Issue 50, neurophysiology, sensory neuron, motor control, proprioception, neurotransmitter, sensorimotor integration, rat
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
An Optic Nerve Crush Injury Murine Model to Study Retinal Ganglion Cell Survival
Institutions: NIH, The Second Hospital of Harbin Medical University.
Injury to the optic nerve can lead to axonal degeneration, followed by a gradual death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which results in irreversible vision loss. Examples of such diseases in human include traumatic optic neuropathy and optic nerve degeneration in glaucoma. It is characterized by typical changes in the optic nerve head, progressive optic nerve degeneration, and loss of retinal ganglion cells, if uncontrolled, leading to vision loss and blindness.
The optic nerve crush (ONC) injury mouse model is an important experimental disease model for traumatic optic neuropathy, glaucoma, etc. In this model, the crush injury to the optic nerve leads to gradual retinal ganglion cells apoptosis. This disease model can be used to study the general processes and mechanisms of neuronal death and survival, which is essential for the development of therapeutic measures. In addition, pharmacological and molecular approaches can be used in this model to identify and test potential therapeutic reagents to treat different types of optic neuropathy.
Here, we provide a step by step demonstration of (I) Baseline retrograde labeling of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) at day 1, (II) Optic nerve crush injury at day 4, (III) Harvest the retinae and analyze RGC survival at day 11, and (IV) Representative result.
Neuroscience, Issue 50, optic nerve crush injury, retinal ganglion cell, glaucoma, optic neuropathy, retrograde labeling
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
Proprioception and Tension Receptors in Crab Limbs: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Kentucky, University of Oregon.
The primary purpose of these procedures is to demonstrate for teaching and research purposes how to record the activity of living primary sensory neurons responsible for proprioception as they are detecting joint position and movement, and muscle tension. Electrical activity from crustacean proprioceptors and tension receptors is recorded by basic neurophysiological instrumentation, and a transducer is used to simultaneously measure force that is generated by stimulating a motor nerve. In addition, we demonstrate how to stain the neurons for a quick assessment of their anatomical arrangement or for permanent fixation. Staining reveals anatomical organization that is representative of chordotonal organs in most crustaceans. Comparing the tension nerve responses to the proprioceptive responses is an effective teaching tool in determining how these sensory neurons are defined functionally and how the anatomy is correlated to the function. Three staining techniques are presented allowing researchers and instructors to choose a method that is ideal for their laboratory.
Neuroscience, Issue 80, Crustacean, joint, Muscle, sensory, teaching, educational, neuroscience
An In Vitro Preparation for Eliciting and Recording Feeding Motor Programs with Physiological Movements in Aplysia californica
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University .
Multifunctionality, the ability of one peripheral structure to generate multiple, distinct behaviors1
, allows animals to rapidly adapt their behaviors to changing environments. The marine mollusk Aplysia californica
provides a tractable system for the study of multifunctionality. During feeding, Aplysia
generates several distinct types of behaviors using the same feeding apparatus, the buccal mass. The ganglia that control these behaviors contain a number of large, identified neurons that are accessible to electrophysiological study. The activity of these neurons has been described in motor programs that can be divided into two types, ingestive and egestive programs, based on the timing of neural activity that closes the food grasper relative to the neural activity that protracts or retracts the grasper2
. However, in isolated ganglia, the muscle movements that would produce these behaviors are absent, making it harder to be certain whether the motor programs observed are correlates of real behaviors. In vivo
, nerve and muscle recordings have been obtained corresponding to feeding programs2,3,4
, but it is very difficult to directly record from individual neurons5
. Additionally, in vivo
, ingestive programs can be further divided into bites and swallows1,2
, a distinction that is difficult to make in most previously described in vitro
The suspended buccal mass preparation (Figure 1
) bridges the gap between isolated ganglia and intact animals. In this preparation, ingestive behaviors - including both biting and swallowing - and egestive behaviors (rejection) can be elicited, at the same time as individual neurons can be recorded from and stimulated using extracellular electrodes6
. The feeding movements associated with these different behaviors can be recorded, quantified, and related directly to the motor programs. The motor programs in the suspended buccal mass preparation appear to be more similar to those observed in vivo
than are motor programs elicited in isolated ganglia. Thus, the motor programs in this preparation can be more directly related to in vivo
behavior; at the same time, individual neurons are more accessible to recording and stimulation than in intact animals. Additionally, as an intermediate step between isolated ganglia and intact animals, findings from the suspended buccal mass can aid in interpretation of data obtained in both more reduced and more intact settings. The suspended buccal mass preparation is a useful tool for characterizing the neural control of multifunctionality in Aplysia
Neuroscience, Issue 70, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Marine Biology, Aplysia, Aplysia californica, California sea slug, invertebrate, feeding, neurobiology, buccal mass, semi-intact preparation, extracellular electrodes, extracellular recording, neurons, animal model
Complete Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Dissection Protocol for Subsequent Wholemount In Situ Hybridization in Larval Sea Lamprey
Institutions: University of Edinburgh, Temple University School of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine.
After a complete spinal cord injury, sea lampreys at first are paralyzed below the level of transection. However, they recover locomotion after several weeks, and this is accompanied by short distance regeneration (a few mm) of propriospinal axons and spinal-projecting axons from the brainstem. Among the 36 large identifiable spinal-projecting neurons, some are good regenerators and others are bad regenerators. These neurons can most easily be identified in wholemount CNS preparations. In order to understand the neuron-intrinsic mechanisms that favor or inhibit axon regeneration after injury in the vertebrates CNS, we determine differences in gene expression between the good and bad regenerators, and how expression is influenced by spinal cord transection. This paper illustrates the techniques for housing larval and recently transformed adult sea lampreys in fresh water tanks, producing complete spinal cord transections under microscopic vision, and preparing brain and spinal cord wholemounts for in situ hybridization. Briefly, animals are kept at 16
°C and anesthetized in 1% Benzocaine in lamprey Ringer. The spinal cord is transected with iridectomy scissors via a dorsal approach and the animal is allowed to recover in fresh water tanks at 23 °C. For in situ
hybridization, animals are reanesthetized and the brain and cord removed via a dorsal approach.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, spinal cord injury, axonal guidance molecules, neurofilaments, regeneration
Identification of Specific Sensory Neuron Populations for Study of Expressed Ion Channels
Institutions: AT Still University of Health Sciences.
Sensory neurons transmit signals from various parts of the body to the central nervous system. The soma for these neurons are located in the dorsal root ganglia that line the spinal column. Understanding the receptors and channels expressed by these sensory afferent neurons could lead to novel therapies for disease. The initial step is to identify the specific subset of sensory neurons of interest. Here we describe a method to identify afferent neurons innervating the muscles by retrograde labeling using a fluorescent dye DiI (1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate). Understanding the contribution of ion channels to excitation of muscle afferents could help to better control excessive excitability induced by certain disease states such as peripheral vascular disease or heart failure. We used two approaches to identify the voltage dependent ion channels expressed by these neurons, patch clamp electrophysiology and immunocytochemistry. While electrophysiology plus pharmacological blockers can identify functional ion channel types, we used immunocytochemistry to identify channels for which specific blockers were unavailable and to better understand the ion channel distribution pattern in the cell population. These techniques can be applied to other areas of the nervous system to study specific neuronal groups.
Neuroscience, Issue 82, DiI, patch clamp, sensory neurons, muscle afferent neurons, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology
Functional Interrogation of Adult Hypothalamic Neurogenesis with Focal Radiological Inhibition
Institutions: California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University Of Washington Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The functional characterization of adult-born neurons remains a significant challenge. Approaches to inhibit adult neurogenesis via invasive viral delivery or transgenic animals have potential confounds that make interpretation of results from these studies difficult. New radiological tools are emerging, however, that allow one to noninvasively investigate the function of select groups of adult-born neurons through accurate and precise anatomical targeting in small animals. Focal ionizing radiation inhibits the birth and differentiation of new neurons, and allows targeting of specific neural progenitor regions. In order to illuminate the potential functional role that adult hypothalamic neurogenesis plays in the regulation of physiological processes, we developed a noninvasive focal irradiation technique to selectively inhibit the birth of adult-born neurons in the hypothalamic median eminence. We describe a method for C
omputer tomography-guided f
radiation (CFIR) delivery to enable precise and accurate anatomical targeting in small animals. CFIR uses three-dimensional volumetric image guidance for localization and targeting of the radiation dose, minimizes radiation exposure to nontargeted brain regions, and allows for conformal dose distribution with sharp beam boundaries. This protocol allows one to ask questions regarding the function of adult-born neurons, but also opens areas to questions in areas of radiobiology, tumor biology, and immunology. These radiological tools will facilitate the translation of discoveries at the bench to the bedside.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, Neural Stem Cells (NSCs), Body Weight, Radiotherapy, Image-Guided, Metabolism, Energy Metabolism, Neurogenesis, Cell Proliferation, Neurosciences, Irradiation, Radiological treatment, Computer-tomography (CT) imaging, Hypothalamus, Hypothalamic Proliferative Zone (HPZ), Median Eminence (ME), Small Animal Radiation Research Platform (SARRP)
Genetic Manipulation of the Mouse Developing Hypothalamus through In utero Electroporation
Institutions: University of Heidelberg , Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal.
Genetic modification of specific regions of the developing mammalian brain is a very powerful experimental approach. However, generating novel mouse mutants is often frustratingly slow. It has been shown that access to the mouse brain developing in utero
with reasonable post-operatory survival is possible. Still, results with this procedure have been reported almost exclusively for the most superficial and easily accessible part of the developing brain, i.e.
the cortex. The thalamus, a narrower and more medial region, has proven more difficult to target. Transfection into deeper nuclei, especially those of the hypothalamus, is perhaps the most challenging and therefore very few results have been reported. Here we demonstrate a procedure to target the entire hypothalamic neuroepithelium or part of it (hypothalamic regions) for transfection through electroporation. The keys to our approach are longer narcosis times, injection in the third ventricle, and appropriate kind and positioning of the electrodes. Additionally, we show results of targeting and subsequent histological analysis of the most recessed hypothalamic nucleus, the mammillary body.
Neuroscience, Issue 77, Neurobiology, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Developmental Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Embryo, Mammalian, Brain, Diencephalon, Hypothalamus, Genetic Techniques, Transfection, anesthesia, development, electrodes, electroporation, in utero, mammillary body, mouse, animal model
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
Simultaneous Electrophysiological Recording and Calcium Imaging of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Neurons
Institutions: Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon Health & Science University.
Simultaneous electrophysiological and fluorescent imaging recording methods were used to study the role of changes of membrane potential or current in regulating the intracellular calcium concentration. Changing environmental conditions, such as the light-dark cycle, can modify neuronal and neural network activity and the expression of a family of circadian clock genes within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the location of the master circadian clock in the mammalian brain. Excitatory synaptic transmission leads to an increase in the postsynaptic Ca2+
concentration that is believed to activate the signaling pathways that shifts the rhythmic expression of circadian clock genes. Hypothalamic slices containing the SCN were patch clamped using microelectrodes filled with an internal solution containing the calcium indicator bis-fura-2. After a seal was formed between the microelectrode and the SCN neuronal membrane, the membrane was ruptured using gentle suction and the calcium probe diffused into the neuron filling both the soma and dendrites. Quantitative ratiometric measurements of the intracellular calcium concentration were recorded simultaneously with membrane potential or current. Using these methods it is possible to study the role of changes of the intracellular calcium concentration produced by synaptic activity and action potential firing of individual neurons. In this presentation we demonstrate the methods to simultaneously record electrophysiological activity along with intracellular calcium from individual SCN neurons maintained in brain slices.
Neuroscience, Issue 82, Synaptic Transmission, Action Potentials, Circadian Rhythm, Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials, Life Sciences (General), circadian rhythm, suprachiasmatic nucleus, membrane potential, patch clamp recording, fluorescent probe, intracellular calcium
Extracellularly Identifying Motor Neurons for a Muscle Motor Pool in Aplysia californica
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University .
In animals with large identified neurons (e.g.
mollusks), analysis of motor pools is done using intracellular techniques1,2,3,4
. Recently, we developed a technique to extracellularly stimulate and record individual neurons in Aplysia californica5
. We now describe a protocol for using this technique to uniquely identify and characterize motor neurons within a motor pool.
This extracellular technique has advantages. First, extracellular electrodes can stimulate and record neurons through the sheath5
, so it does not need to be removed. Thus, neurons will be healthier in extracellular experiments than in intracellular ones. Second, if ganglia are rotated by appropriate pinning of the sheath, extracellular electrodes can access neurons on both sides of the ganglion, which makes it easier and more efficient to identify multiple neurons in the same preparation. Third, extracellular electrodes do not need to penetrate cells, and thus can be easily moved back and forth among neurons, causing less damage to them. This is especially useful when one tries to record multiple neurons during repeating motor patterns that may only persist for minutes. Fourth, extracellular electrodes are more flexible than intracellular ones during muscle movements. Intracellular electrodes may pull out and damage neurons during muscle contractions. In contrast, since extracellular electrodes are gently pressed onto the sheath above neurons, they usually stay above the same neuron during muscle contractions, and thus can be used in more intact preparations.
To uniquely identify motor neurons for a motor pool (in particular, the I1/I3 muscle in Aplysia
) using extracellular electrodes, one can use features that do not require intracellular measurements as criteria: soma size and location, axonal projection, and muscle innervation4,6,7
. For the particular motor pool used to illustrate the technique, we recorded from buccal nerves 2 and 3 to measure axonal projections, and measured the contraction forces of the I1/I3 muscle to determine the pattern of muscle innervation for the individual motor neurons.
We demonstrate the complete process of first identifying motor neurons using muscle innervation, then characterizing their timing during motor patterns, creating a simplified diagnostic method for rapid identification. The simplified and more rapid diagnostic method is superior for more intact preparations, e.g.
in the suspended buccal mass preparation8
or in vivo9
. This process can also be applied in other motor pools10,11,12
or in other animal systems2,3,13,14
Neuroscience, Issue 73, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Behavior, Neurobiology, Animal, Neurosciences, Neurophysiology, Electrophysiology, Aplysia, Aplysia californica, California sea slug, invertebrate, feeding, buccal mass, ganglia, motor neurons, neurons, extracellular stimulation and recordings, extracellular electrodes, animal model
Retrograde Fluorescent Labeling Allows for Targeted Extracellular Single-unit Recording from Identified Neurons In vivo
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis , Nagoya University, Washington University in St. Louis .
The overall goal of this method is to record single-unit responses from an identified population of neurons. In vivo
electrophysiological recordings from individual neurons are critical for understanding how neural circuits function under natural conditions. Traditionally, these recordings have been performed 'blind', meaning the identity of the recorded cell is unknown at the start of the recording. Cellular identity can be subsequently determined via intracellular1
iontophoresis of dye, but these recordings cannot be pre-targeted to specific neurons in regions with functionally heterogeneous cell types. Fluorescent proteins can be expressed in a cell-type specific manner permitting visually-guided single-cell electrophysiology4-6
. However, there are many model systems for which these genetic tools are not available. Even in genetically accessible model systems, the desired promoter may be unknown or genetically homogenous neurons may have varying projection patterns. Similarly, viral vectors have been used to label specific subgroups of projection neurons7
, but use of this method is limited by toxicity and lack of trans-synaptic specificity. Thus, additional techniques that offer specific pre-visualization to record from identified single neurons in vivo
are needed. Pre-visualization of the target neuron is particularly useful for challenging recording conditions, for which classical single-cell recordings are often prohibitively difficult8-11
. The novel technique described in this paper uses retrograde transport of a fluorescent dye applied using tungsten needles to rapidly and selectively label a specific subset of cells within a particular brain region based on their unique axonal projections, thereby providing a visual cue to obtain targeted electrophysiological recordings from identified neurons in an intact circuit within a vertebrate CNS.
The most significant novel advancement of our method is the use of fluorescent labeling to target specific cell types in a non-genetically accessible model system. Weakly electric fish are an excellent model system for studying neural circuits in awake, behaving animals12
. We utilized this technique to study sensory processing by "small cells" in the anterior exterolateral nucleus (ELa) of weakly electric mormyrid fish. "Small cells" are hypothesized to be time comparator neurons important for detecting submillisecond differences in the arrival times of presynaptic spikes13
. However, anatomical features such as dense myelin, engulfing synapses, and small cell bodies have made it extremely difficult to record from these cells using traditional methods11, 14
. Here we demonstrate that our novel method selectively labels these cells in 28% of preparations, allowing for reliable, robust recordings and characterization of responses to electrosensory stimulation.
Neuroscience, Issue 76, Neurobiology, Physiology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Fluorescent imaging, weakly electric fish, sensory processing, tract-tracing, electrophysiology, neuron, individual axons, labeling, injection, surgery, recording, mormyrids, animal model
Training Rats to Voluntarily Dive Underwater: Investigations of the Mammalian Diving Response
Institutions: Midwestern University.
Underwater submergence produces autonomic changes that are observed in virtually all diving animals. This reflexly-induced response consists of apnea, a parasympathetically-induced bradycardia and a sympathetically-induced alteration of vascular resistance that maintains blood flow to the heart, brain and exercising muscles. While many of the metabolic and cardiorespiratory aspects of the diving response have been studied in marine animals, investigations of the central integrative aspects of this brainstem reflex have been relatively lacking. Because the physiology and neuroanatomy of the rat are well characterized, the rat can be used to help ascertain the central pathways of the mammalian diving response. Detailed instructions are provided on how to train rats to swim and voluntarily dive underwater through a 5 m long Plexiglas maze. Considerations regarding tank design and procedure room requirements are also given. The behavioral training is conducted in such a way as to reduce the stressfulness that could otherwise be associated with forced underwater submergence, thus minimizing activation of central stress pathways. The training procedures are not technically difficult, but they can be time-consuming. Since behavioral training of animals can only provide a model to be used with other experimental techniques, examples of how voluntarily diving rats have been used in conjunction with other physiological and neuroanatomical research techniques, and how the basic training procedures may need to be modified to accommodate these techniques, are also provided. These experiments show that voluntarily diving rats exhibit the same cardiorespiratory changes typically seen in other diving animals. The ease with which rats can be trained to voluntarily dive underwater, and the already available data from rats collected in other neurophysiological studies, makes voluntarily diving rats a good behavioral model to be used in studies investigating the central aspects of the mammalian diving response.
Behavior, Issue 93, Rat, Rattus norvegicus, voluntary diving, diving response, diving reflex, autonomic reflex, central integration
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
A Practical Approach to Genetic Inducible Fate Mapping: A Visual Guide to Mark and Track Cells In Vivo
Institutions: Brown University, Brown University.
Fate maps are generated by marking and tracking cells in vivo to determine how progenitors contribute to specific structures and cell types in developing and adult tissue. An advance in this concept is Genetic Inducible Fate Mapping (GIFM), linking gene expression, cell fate, and cell behaviors in vivo, to create fate maps based on genetic lineage.
GIFM exploits X-CreER
lines where X is a gene or set of gene regulatory elements that confers spatial expression of a modified bacteriophage protein, Cre recombinase (CreERT
contains a modified estrogen receptor ligand binding domain which renders CreERT
sequestered in the cytoplasm in the absence of the drug tamoxifen. The binding of tamoxifen releases CreERT
, which translocates to the nucleus and mediates recombination between DNA sequences flanked by loxP sites. In GIFM, recombination typically occurs between a loxP flanked Stop cassette preceding a reporter gene such as GFP.
Mice are bred to contain either a region- or cell type-specific CreER
and a conditional reporter allele. Untreated mice will not have marking because the Stop cassette in the reporter prevents further transcription of the reporter gene. We administer tamoxifen by oral gavage to timed-pregnant females, which provides temporal control of CreERT
release and subsequent translocation to the nucleus removing the Stop cassette from the reporter. Following recombination, the reporter allele is constitutively and heritably expressed. This series of events marks cells such that their genetic history is indelibly recorded. The recombined reporter thus serves as a high fidelity genetic lineage tracer that, once on, is uncoupled from the gene expression initially used to drive CreERT
We apply GIFM in mouse to study normal development and ascertain the contribution of genetic lineages to adult cell types and tissues. We also use GIFM to follow cells on mutant genetic backgrounds to better understand complex phenotypes that mimic salient features of human genetic disorders.
This video article guides researchers through experimental methods to successfully apply GIFM. We demonstrate the method using our well characterized Wnt1-CreERT;mGFP
mice by administering tamoxifen at embryonic day (E)8.5 via oral gavage followed by dissection at E12.5 and analysis by epifluorescence stereomicroscopy. We also demonstrate how to micro-dissect fate mapped domains for explant preparation or FACS analysis and dissect adult fate-mapped brains for whole mount fluorescent imaging. Collectively, these procedures allow researchers to address critical questions in developmental biology and disease models.
Developmental Biology, Issue 34, neurodevelopment, genetics, genetic inducible fate mapping (GIFM), immunostaining, mouse, embryo, GIFM, lineage tracer, fate mapping
BioMEMS: Forging New Collaborations Between Biologists and Engineers
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
This video describes the fabrication and use of a microfluidic device to culture central nervous system (CNS) neurons. This device is compatible with live-cell optical microscopy (DIC and phase contrast), as well as confocal and two photon microscopy approaches. This method uses precision-molded polymer parts to create miniature multi-compartment cell culture with fluidic isolation. The compartments are made of tiny channels with dimensions that are large enough to culture neurons in well-controlled fluidic microenvironments. Neurons can be cultured for 2-3 weeks within the device, after which they can be fixed and stained for immunocytochemistry. Axonal and somal compartments can be maintained fluidically isolated from each other by using a small hydrostatic pressure difference; this feature can be used to localize soluble insults to one compartment for up to 20 h after each medium change. Fluidic isolation enables collection of pure axonal fraction and biochemical analysis by PCR. The microfluidic device provides a highly adaptable platform for neuroscience research and may find applications in modeling CNS injury and neurodegeneration.
Neuroscience, Issue 9, Microfluidics, Bioengineering, Neuron
Propagation of Human Embryonic Stem (ES) Cells
Institutions: MGH - Massachusetts General Hospital.
Cellular Biology, Issue 1, ES, embryonic stem cells, tissue culture