One of the central tasks in retinal neuroscience is to understand the circuitry of retinal neurons and how those connections are responsible for shaping the signals transmitted to the brain. Photons are detected in the retina by rod and cone photoreceptors, which convert that energy into an electrical signal, transmitting it to other retinal neurons, where it is processed and communicated to central targets in the brain via the optic nerve. Important early insights into retinal circuitry and visual processing came from the histological studies of Cajal1,2 and, later, from electrophysiological recordings of the spiking activity of retinal ganglion cells - the output cells of the retina3,4.
A detailed understanding of visual processing in the retina requires an understanding of the signaling at each step in the pathway from photoreceptor to retinal ganglion cell. However, many retinal cell types are buried deep in the tissue and therefore relatively inaccessible for electrophysiological recording. This limitation can be overcome by working with vertical slices, in which cells residing within each of the retinal layers are clearly visible and accessible for electrophysiological recording.
Here, we describe a method for making vertical sections of retinas from larval tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum). While this preparation was originally developed for recordings with sharp microelectrodes5,6, we describe a method for dual whole-cell voltage clamp recordings from photoreceptors and second-order horizontal and bipolar cells in which we manipulate the photoreceptor's membrane potential while simultaneously recording post-synaptic responses in horizontal or bipolar cells. The photoreceptors of the tiger salamander are considerably larger than those of mammalian species, making this an ideal preparation in which to undertake this technically challenging experimental approach. These experiments are described with an eye toward probing the signaling properties of the synaptic ribbon - a specialized synaptic structure found in a only a handful of neurons, including rod and cone photoreceptors, that is well suited for maintaining a high rate of tonic neurotransmitter release7,8 - and how it contributes to the unique signaling properties of this first retinal synapse.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
Morphometric Analyses of Retinal Sections
Institutions: The University of Hong Kong, The University of Hong Kong, The University of Hong Kong.
Morphometric analyses of retinal sections have been used in examining retinal diseases. For examples, neuronal cells were significantly lost in the retinal ganglion cell layer (RGCL) in rat models with N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)–induced excitotoxicity1
, retinal ischemia-reperfusion injury2
. Reduction of INL and inner plexiform layer (IPL) thicknesses were reversed with citicoline treatment in rats' eyes subjected to kainic acid-mediated glutamate excitotoxicity4
. Alteration of RGC density and soma sizes were observed with different drug treatments in eyes with elevated intraocular pressure3,5,6
. Therefore, having objective methods of analyzing the retinal morphometries may be of great significance in evaluating retinal pathologies and the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies.
The retinal structure is multi-layers and several different kinds of neurons exist in the retina. The morphometric parameters of retina such as cell number, cell size and thickness of different layers are more complex than the cell culture system. Early on, these parameters can be detected using other commercial imaging software. The values are normally of relative value, and changing to the precise value may need further accurate calculation. Also, the tracing of the cell size and morphology may not be accurate and sensitive enough for statistic analysis, especially in the chronic glaucoma model. The measurements used in this protocol provided a more precise and easy way. And the absolute length of the line and size of the cell can be reported directly and easy to be copied to other files. For example, we traced the margin of the inner and outer most nuclei in the INL and formed a line then using the software to draw a 90 degree angle to measure the thickness. While without the help of the software, the line maybe oblique and the changing of retinal thickness may not be repeatable among individual observers. In addition, the number and density of RGCs can also be quantified. This protocol successfully decreases the variability in quantitating features of the retina, increases the sensitivity in detecting minimal changes.
This video will demonstrate three types of morphometric analyses of the retinal sections. They include measuring the INL thickness, quantifying the number of RGCs and measuring the sizes of RGCs in absolute value. These three analyses are carried out with Stereo Investigator (MBF Bioscience — MicroBrightField, Inc.). The technique can offer a simple but scientific platform for morphometric analyses.
Neuroscience, Issue 60, morphometric analysis, retina, thickness, cell size, Stereo Investigator, neuroscience
An Isolated Retinal Preparation to Record Light Response from Genetically Labeled Retinal Ganglion Cells
Institutions: University of Minnesota.
The first steps in vertebrate vision take place when light stimulates the rod and cone photoreceptors of the retina 1
. This information is then segregated into what are known as the ON and OFF pathways. The photoreceptors signal light information to the bipolar cells (BCs), which depolarize in response to increases (On BCs) or decreases (Off BCs) in light intensity. This segregation of light information is maintained at the level of the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which have dendrites stratifying in either the Off sublamina of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), where they receive direct excitatory input from Off BCs, or stratifying in the On sublamina of the IPL, where they receive direct excitatory input from On BCs. This segregation of information regarding increases or decreases in illumination (the On and Off pathways) is conserved and signaled to the brain in parallel.
The RGCs are the output cells of the retina, and are thus an important cell to study in order to understand how light information is signaled to visual nuclei in the brain. Advances in mouse genetics over recent decades have resulted in a variety of fluorescent reporter mouse lines where specific RGC populations are labeled with a fluorescent protein to allow for identification of RGC subtypes 2 3 4
and specific targeting for electrophysiological recording. Here, we present a method for recording light responses from fluorescently labeled ganglion cells in an intact, isolated retinal preparation. This isolated retinal preparation allows for recordings from RGCs where the dendritic arbor is intact and the inputs across the entire RGC dendritic arbor are preserved. This method is applicable across a variety of ganglion cell subtypes and is amenable to a wide variety of single-cell physiological techniques.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, isolated, retina, ganglion cell, electrophysiology, patch clamp, transgenic, mouse, fluorescent
Slow-release Drug Delivery through Elvax 40W to the Rat Retina: Implications for the Treatment of Chronic Conditions
Institutions: University of L'Aquila, ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, Australian National University, Australian National University.
Diseases of the retina are difficult to treat as the retina lies deep within the eye. Invasive methods of drug delivery are often needed to treat these diseases. Chronic retinal diseases such as retinal oedema or neovascularization usually require multiple intraocular injections to effectively treat the condition. However, the risks associated with these injections increase with repeated delivery of the drug. Therefore, alternative delivery methods need to be established in order to minimize the risks of reinjection. Several other investigations have developed methods to deliver drugs over extended time, through materials capable of releasing chemicals slowly into the eye. In this investigation, we outline the use of Elvax 40W, a copolymer resin, to act as a vehicle for drug delivery to the adult rat retina. The resin is made and loaded with the drug. The drug-resin complex is then implanted into the vitreous cavity, where it will slowly release the drug over time. This method was tested using 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (APB), a glutamate analogue that blocks the light response of the retina. It was demonstrated that the APB was slowly released from the resin, and was able to block the retinal response by 7 days after implantation. This indicates that slow-release drug delivery using this copolymer resin is effective for treating the retina, and could be used therapeutically with further testing.
Medicine, Issue 91, slow-release drug delivery, Elvax 40W, co-polymer resin, eye, retina, rat, APB, retinal degeneration, treatment of chronic retinal conditions
Transretinal ERG Recordings from Mouse Retina: Rod and Cone Photoresponses
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine.
There are two distinct classes of image-forming photoreceptors in the vertebrate retina: rods and cones. Rods are able to detect single photons of light whereas cones operate continuously under rapidly changing bright light conditions. Absorption of light by rod- and cone-specific visual pigments in the outer segments of photoreceptors triggers a phototransduction cascade that eventually leads to closure of cyclic nucleotide-gated channels on the plasma membrane and cell hyperpolarization. This light-induced change in membrane current and potential can be registered as a photoresponse, by either classical suction electrode recording technique1,2
or by transretinal electroretinogram recordings (ERG) from isolated retinas with pharmacologically blocked postsynaptic response components3-5
. The latter method allows drug-accessible long-lasting recordings from mouse photoreceptors and is particularly useful for obtaining stable photoresponses from the scarce and fragile mouse cones. In the case of cones, such experiments can be performed both in dark-adapted conditions and following intense illumination that bleaches essentially all visual pigment, to monitor the process of cone photosensitivity recovery during dark adaptation6,7
. In this video, we will show how to perform rod- and M/L-cone-driven transretinal recordings from dark-adapted mouse retina. Rod recordings will be carried out using retina of wild type (C57Bl/6) mice. For simplicity, cone recordings will be obtained from genetically modified rod transducin α-subunit knockout (Tα-/-
) mice which lack rod signaling8
Neuroscience, Issue 61, Rod and cone photoreceptors, retina, phototransduction, electrophysiology, vision, mouse
In vivo Electroporation of Morpholinos into the Adult Zebrafish Retina
Institutions: Wayne State University School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame , University of Notre Dame .
Many devastating inherited eye diseases result in progressive and irreversible blindness because humans cannot regenerate dying or diseased retinal neurons. In contrast, the adult zebrafish retina possesses the robust ability to spontaneously regenerate any neuronal class that is lost in a variety of different retinal damage models, including retinal puncture, chemical ablation, concentrated high temperature, and intense light treatment 1-8
. Our lab extensively characterized regeneration of photoreceptors following constant intense light treatment and inner retinal neurons after intravitreal ouabain injection 2, 5, 9
. In all cases, resident Müller glia re-enter the cell cycle to produce neuronal progenitors, which continue to proliferate and migrate to the proper retinal layer, where they differentiate into the deficient neurons.
We characterized five different stages during regeneration of the light-damaged retina that were highlighted by specific cellular responses. We identified several differentially expressed genes at each stage of retinal regeneration by mRNA microarray analysis 10
. Many of these genes are also critical for ocular development. To test the role of each candidate gene/protein during retinal regeneration, we needed to develop a method to conditionally limit the expression of a candidate protein only at times during regeneration of the adult retina.
Morpholino oligos are widely used to study loss of function of specific proteins during the development of zebrafish, Xenopus
, chick, mouse, and tumors in human xenografts 11-14
. These modified oligos basepair with complementary RNA sequence to either block the splicing or translation of the target RNA. Morpholinos are stable in the cell and can eliminate or "knockdown" protein expression for three to five days 12
Here, we describe a method to efficiently knockdown target protein expression in the adult zebrafish retina. This method employs lissamine-tagged antisense morpholinos that are injected into the vitreous of the adult zebrafish eye. Using electrode forceps, the morpholino is then electroporated into all the cell types of the dorsal and central retina. Lissamine provides the charge on the morpholino for electroporation and can be visualized to assess the presence of the morpholino in the retinal cells.
Conditional knockdown in the retina can be used to examine the role of specific proteins at different times during regeneration. Additionally, this approach can be used to study the role of specific proteins in the undamaged retina, in such processes as visual transduction and visual processing in second order neurons.
Developmental Biology, Issue 58, Electroporation, morpholino, zebrafish, retina, regeneration
Quantifying the Activity of cis-Regulatory Elements in the Mouse Retina by Explant Electroporation
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine.
Transcription factors within cellular gene networks control the spatiotemporal pattern and levels of expression of their target genes by binding to cis
-regulatory elements (CREs), short (˜300-600 bp) stretches of genomic DNA which can lie upstream, downstream, or within the introns of the genes they control. CREs (i.e.
, enhancers/promoters) typically consist of multiple clustered binding sites for both transcriptional activators and repressors1-3
. They serve as logical integrators of transcriptional input giving a unitary output in the form of spatiotemporally precise and quantitatively exact promoter activity. Most studies of mammalian cis
-regulation to date have relied on mouse transgenesis as a means of assaying the enhancer function of CREs4-5
. This technique is time-consuming, costly and, on account of insertion site effects, largely non-quantitative. On the other hand, quantitative assays for mammalian CRE function have been developed in tissue culture systems (e.g.
, dual luciferase assays), but the in vivo
relevance of these results is often uncertain.
Electroporation offers an excellent alternative to traditional mouse transgenesis in that it permits both spatiotemporal and quantitative assessment of cis
-regulatory activity in living mammalian tissue. This technique has been particularly useful in the analysis of cis
-regulation in the central nervous system, especially in the cerebral cortex and the retina6-8
. While mouse retinal electroporation, both in vivo
and ex vivo
, has been developed and extensively described by Matsuda and Cepko6-7,9
, we have recently developed a simple approach to quantify the activity of photoreceptor-specific CREs in electroporated mouse retinas10
. Given that the amount of DNA that is introduced into the retina by electroporation can vary from experiment to experiment, it is necessary to include a co-electroporated 'loading control' in all experiments. In this respect, the technique is very similar to the dual luciferase assay used to quantify promoter activity in cultured cells.
When assaying photoreceptor cis
-regulatory activity, electroporation is usually performed in newborn mice (postnatal day 0, P0) which is the time of peak rod production11-12
. Once retinal cell types become post-mitotic, electroporation is much less efficient. Given the high rate of rod birth in newborn mice and the fact that rods constitute more than 70% of the cells in the adult mouse retina, the majority of cells that are electroporated at P0 are rods. For this reason, rod photoreceptors are the easiest retinal cell type to study via electroporation. The technique we describe here is primarily useful for quantifying the activity of photoreceptor CREs.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, retina, photoreceptor, cis-regulatory element, quantification, electroporation, promoter analysis
Larval RNA Interference in the Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum
Institutions: Miami University.
The red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum
, offers a repertoire of experimental tools for genetic and developmental studies, including a fully annotated genome sequence, transposon-based transgenesis, and effective RNA interference (RNAi). Among these advantages, RNAi-based gene knockdown techniques are at the core of Tribolium
research. T. castaneum
show a robust systemic RNAi response, making it possible to perform RNAi at any life stage by simply injecting double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) into the beetle’s body cavity.
In this report, we provide an overview of our larval RNAi technique in T. castaneum
. The protocol includes (i) isolation of the proper stage of T. castaneum
larvae for injection, (ii) preparation for the injection setting, and (iii) dsRNA injection. Larval RNAi is a simple, but powerful technique that provides us with quick access to loss-of-function phenotypes, including multiple gene knockdown phenotypes as well as a series of hypomorphic phenotypes. Since virtually all T. castaneum
tissues are susceptible to extracellular dsRNA, the larval RNAi technique allows researchers to study a wide variety of tissues in diverse contexts, including the genetic basis of organismal responses to the outside environment. In addition, the simplicity of this technique stimulates more student involvement in research, making T. castaneum
an ideal genetic system for use in a classroom setting.
Molecular Biology, Issue 92, RNA interference, RNAi, gene knockdown, red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, injection, double-stranded RNA, functional analysis, teaching laboratories
Dissection, Culture, and Analysis of Xenopus laevis Embryonic Retinal Tissue
Institutions: College of William and Mary.
The process by which the anterior region of the neural plate gives rise to the vertebrate retina continues to be a major focus of both clinical and basic research. In addition to the obvious medical relevance for understanding and treating retinal disease, the development of the vertebrate retina continues to serve as an important and elegant model system for understanding neuronal cell type determination and differentiation1-16
. The neural retina consists of six discrete cell types (ganglion, amacrine, horizontal, photoreceptors, bipolar cells, and Müller glial cells) arranged in stereotypical layers, a pattern that is largely conserved among all vertebrates 12,14-18
While studying the retina in the intact developing embryo is clearly required for understanding how this complex organ develops from a protrusion of the forebrain into a layered structure, there are many questions that benefit from employing approaches using primary cell culture of presumptive retinal cells 7,19-23
. For example, analyzing cells from tissues removed and dissociated at different stages allows one to discern the state of specification of individual cells at different developmental stages, that is, the fate of the cells in the absence of interactions with neighboring tissues 8,19-22,24-33
. Primary cell culture also allows the investigator to treat the culture with specific reagents and analyze the results on a single cell level 5,8,21,24,27-30,33-39
. Xenopus laevis,
a classic model system for the study of early neural development 19,27,29,31-32,40-42
, serves as a particularly suitable system for retinal primary cell culture 10,38,43-45
Presumptive retinal tissue is accessible from the earliest stages of development, immediately following neural induction 25,38,43
. In addition, given that each cell in the embryo contains a supply of yolk, retinal cells can be cultured in a very simple defined media consisting of a buffered salt solution, thus removing the confounding effects of incubation or other sera-based products 10,24,44-45
However, the isolation of the retinal tissue from surrounding tissues and the subsequent processing is challenging. Here, we present a method for the dissection and dissociation of retinal cells in Xenopus laevis
that will be used to prepare primary cell cultures that will, in turn, be analyzed for calcium activity and gene expression at the resolution of single cells. While the topic presented in this paper is the analysis of spontaneous calcium transients, the technique is broadly applicable to a wide array of research questions and approaches (Figure 1
Developmental Biology, Issue 70, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Surgery, Anatomy, Physiology, Ophthalmology, retina, primary cell culture, dissection, confocal microscopy, calcium imaging, fluorescent in situ hybridization, FISH, Xenopus laevis, animal model
Immunohistochemical and Calcium Imaging Methods in Wholemount Rat Retina
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles, Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Dalhousie University, University of California, Los Angeles.
In this paper we describe the tools, reagents, and the practical steps that are needed for: 1) successful preparation of wholemount retinas for immunohistochemistry and, 2) calcium imaging for the study of voltage gated calcium channel (VGCC) mediated calcium signaling in retinal ganglion cells. The calcium imaging method we describe circumvents issues concerning non-specific loading of displaced amacrine cells in the ganglion cell layer.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, immunohistochemistry, antibody, fluo-4, calcium imaging, ganglion cells, retina, rat
Whole Mount Immunofluorescent Staining of the Neonatal Mouse Retina to Investigate Angiogenesis In vivo
Institutions: Newcastle University , University College, London.
Angiogenesis is the complex process of new blood vessel formation defined by the sprouting of new blood vessels from a pre-existing vessel network. Angiogenesis plays a key role not only in normal development of organs and tissues, but also in many diseases in which blood vessel formation is dysregulated, such as cancer, blindness and ischemic diseases. In adult life, blood vessels are generally quiescent so angiogenesis is an important target for novel drug development to try and regulate new vessel formation specifically in disease. In order to better understand angiogenesis and to develop appropriate strategies to regulate it, models are required that accurately reflect the different biological steps that are involved. The mouse neonatal retina provides an excellent model of angiogenesis because arteries, veins and capillaries develop to form a vascular plexus during the first week after birth. This model also has the advantage of having a two-dimensional (2D) structure making analysis straightforward compared with the complex 3D anatomy of other vascular networks. By analyzing the retinal vascular plexus at different times after birth, it is possible to observe the various stages of angiogenesis under the microscope. This article demonstrates a straightforward procedure for analyzing the vasculature of a mouse retina using fluorescent staining with isolectin and vascular specific antibodies.
Developmental Biology, Issue 77, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Ophthalmology, Angiogenesis Modulating Agents, Growth and Development, Lymphangiogenesis, Angiogenesis, Mouse Neonatal Retina, Immunofluorescent-Staining, confocal microscopy, imaging, animal model
The Gateway to the Brain: Dissecting the Primate Eye
Institutions: University of Montreal, University of Montreal, Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres.
The visual system in humans is considered the gateway to the world and plays a principal role in the plethora of sensory, perceptual and cognitive processes. It is therefore not surprising that quality of vision is tied to quality of life . Despite widespread clinical and basic research surrounding the causes of visual disorders, many forms of visual impairments, such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, lack effective treatments. Non-human primates have the closest general features of eye development to that of humans. Not only do they have a similar vascular anatomy, but amongst other mammals, primates have the unique characteristic of having a region in the temporal retina specialized for high visual acuity, the fovea1
. Here we describe a general technique for dissecting the primate retina to provide tissue for retinal histology, immunohistochemistry, laser capture microdissection, as well as light and electron microscopy. With the extended use of the non-human primate as a translational model, our hope is that improved understanding of the retina will provide insights into effective approaches towards attenuating or reversing the negative impact of visual disorders on the quality of life of affected individuals.
Neuroscience, Issue 27, Non-human primate, eye, retina, dissection, retina ganglion cells, cornea
Preparation of Living Isolated Vertebrate Photoreceptor Cells for Fluorescence Imaging
Institutions: Medical University of South Carolina.
In the vertebrate retina, phototransduction, the conversion of light to an electrical signal, is carried out by the rod and cone photoreceptor cells1-4
. Rod photoreceptors are responsible for vision in dim light, cones in bright light. Phototransduction takes place in the outer segment of the photoreceptor cell, a specialized compartment that contains a high concentration of visual pigment, the primary light detector. The visual pigment is composed of a chromophore, 11-cis
retinal, attached to a protein, opsin. A photon absorbed by the visual pigment isomerizes the chromophore from 11-cis
. This photoisomerization brings about a conformational change in the visual pigment that
initiates a cascade of reactions culminating in a change in membrane potential, and bringing about the transduction of the light stimulus to an electrical signal. The
recovery of the cell from light stimulation involves the deactivation of the intermediates activated by light, and the reestablishment of the membrane potential. Ca2+
modulates the activity of several of the enzymes involved in phototransduction, and its concentration is reduced upon light stimulation. In this way, Ca2+
plays an important role in the recovery of the cell from light stimulation and its adaptation to background light.
Another essential part of the recovery process is the regeneration of the visual pigment that has been destroyed during light-detection by the
photoisomerization of its 11-cis
chromophore to all-trans5-7
. This regeneration begins with the release of all-trans
the photoactivated pigment, leaving behind the apo-protein opsin. The released all-trans
retinal is rapidly reduced in a reaction utilizing NADPH to all-
retinol, and opsin combines with fresh 11-cis
retinal brought into the outer segment to reform the visual pigment. All-trans
then transferred out of the outer segment and into neighboring cells by the specialized carrier Interphotoreceptor Retinoid Binding Protein (IRBP).
Fluorescence imaging of single photoreceptor cells can be used to study their physiology and cell biology. Ca2+
-sensitive fluorescent dyes can be used to examine in detail the interplay between outer
changes and response to light8-12
as well as the role of inner segment Ca2+
stores in Ca2+
Fluorescent dyes can also be used for measuring Mg2+
, pH, and as tracers of aqueous and membrane compartments16
Finally, the intrinsic fluorescence of all-trans
retinol (vitamin A) can be used to monitor the kinetics of its formation and removal in single
Neuroscience, Issue 52, retina, rods, cones, vision, fluorescence
Using the Horseshoe Crab, Limulus Polyphemus, in Vision Research
Institutions: Boston University.
The American horseshoe crab, Limulus Polyphemus
is one of the oldest creatures on earth, and the animal continues to play an indispensable role in biomedical research. Not only does their blood contain special cells that scientists use to detect bacteriotoxins in our medicines, but their eyes also contain a neural network that has provided much insight about physiological processes operating in our visual system, such as light adaptation and lateral inhibition. The horseshoe crab remains an attractive model for vision research because the animal is large and hardy for an invertebrate, its retinal neurons are big and easily accessible, its visual system is compact and extensively studied, and its visual behavior is well defined. Moreover, the structure and function of the eyes are modulated on a daily basis by a circadian clock in the animal s brain. In short, the visual system of horseshoe crabs is simple enough to be understood yet complex enough to be interesting.
In this video we present three electrophysiological paradigms for investigating the neural basis of vision that can be performed in vivo with Limulus. They are electroretinogram recording, optic nerve recording, and intraretinal recording. Electroretinogram (ERG) recordings measure with a surface electrode the summed electrical response of all cells in the eye to a flash of light. They can be used to monitor the overall sensitivity of the eye for prolong periods of time. Optic nerve recordings measure the spiking activity of single nerve fibers with an extracellular microsuction electrode. They can be used to study visual messages conveyed from the eye to the brain as well as circadian-clock messages fed back from the brain to the eye. Intraretinal recordings measure with an intracellular microelectrode the voltage fluctuations induced by light in individual cells of the eye. They can be used to elucidate cellular mechanisms of retinal processing.
Neuroscience, Issue 29, electroretinogram, intracellular recording, extracellular recording, retina
Optimized Protocol for Retinal Wholemount Preparation for Imaging and Immunohistochemistry
Institutions: Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Working with delicate tissue can be a complicating factor when performing immunohistochemical assessment. Here, we present a method that utilizes a ring-supported hydrophilized PTFE membrane to provide structural support to both living and fixed tissue during immunohistochemical processing, which allows for the use of a variety of protocols that would otherwise cause damage to the tissue. First, this is demonstrated with bolus loading of fluorescent markers into living retinal tissue. This method allows for quick visualization of targeted structures, while the membrane support maintains tissue integrity during the injection and allows for easy transfer of the preparation for further imaging or processing.
Second, a procedure for antibody staining in tissue fixed with carbodiimide is described. Though paraformaldehyde fixation is more common, carbodiimide fixation provides a superior substrate for the visualization of synaptic proteins. A limitation of carbodiimide is that the resulting fixed tissue is relatively fragile; however, this is overcome with the use of the supporting membrane. Retinal tissue is used to demonstrate these techniques, but they may be applied to any fragile tissue.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, hydrophilized PTFE membrane, retina, bolus loading, carbodiimide fixation, immunohistochemistry, antibody staining, microscopy
In vivo Imaging of Optic Nerve Fiber Integrity by Contrast-Enhanced MRI in Mice
Institutions: Jena University Hospital, Fritz Lipmann Institute, Jena, Jena University Hospital.
The rodent visual system encompasses retinal ganglion cells and their axons that form the optic nerve to enter thalamic and midbrain centers, and postsynaptic projections to the visual cortex. Based on its distinct anatomical structure and convenient accessibility, it has become the favored structure for studies on neuronal survival, axonal regeneration, and synaptic plasticity. Recent advancements in MR imaging have enabled the in vivo
visualization of the retino-tectal part of this projection using manganese mediated contrast enhancement (MEMRI). Here, we present a MEMRI protocol for illustration of the visual projection in mice, by which resolutions of (200 µm)3
can be achieved using common 3 Tesla scanners. We demonstrate how intravitreal injection of a single dosage of 15 nmol MnCl2
leads to a saturated enhancement of the intact projection within 24 hr. With exception of the retina, changes in signal intensity are independent of coincided visual stimulation or physiological aging. We further apply this technique to longitudinally monitor axonal degeneration in response to acute optic nerve injury, a paradigm by which Mn2+
transport completely arrests at the lesion site. Conversely, active Mn2+
transport is quantitatively proportionate to the viability, number, and electrical activity of axon fibers. For such an analysis, we exemplify Mn2+
transport kinetics along the visual path in a transgenic mouse model (NF-κB p50KO
) displaying spontaneous atrophy of sensory, including visual, projections. In these mice, MEMRI indicates reduced but not delayed Mn2+
transport as compared to wild type mice, thus revealing signs of structural and/or functional impairments by NF-κB mutations.
In summary, MEMRI conveniently bridges in vivo
assays and post mortem
histology for the characterization of nerve fiber integrity and activity. It is highly useful for longitudinal studies on axonal degeneration and regeneration, and investigations of mutant mice for genuine or inducible phenotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, manganese-enhanced MRI, mouse retino-tectal projection, visual system, neurodegeneration, optic nerve injury, NF-κB
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
Patch-clamp Capacitance Measurements and Ca2+ Imaging at Single Nerve Terminals in Retinal Slices
Institutions: Oregon Health and Science University.
Visual stimuli are detected and conveyed over a wide dynamic range of light intensities and frequency changes by specialized neurons in the vertebrate retina. Two classes of retinal neurons, photoreceptors and bipolar cells, accomplish this by using ribbon-type active zones, which enable sustained and high-throughput neurotransmitter release over long time periods. ON-type mixed bipolar cell (Mb) terminals in the goldfish retina, which depolarize to light stimuli and receive mixed rod and cone photoreceptor input, are suitable for the study of ribbon-type synapses both due to their large size (~10-12 μm diameter) and to their numerous lateral and reciprocal synaptic connections with amacrine cell dendrites. Direct access to Mb bipolar cell terminals in goldfish retinal slices with the patch-clamp technique allows the measurement of presynaptic Ca2+
currents, membrane capacitance changes, and reciprocal synaptic feedback inhibition mediated by GABAA
receptors expressed on the terminals. Presynaptic membrane capacitance measurements of exocytosis allow one to study the short-term plasticity of excitatory neurotransmitter release 14,15
. In addition, short-term and long-term plasticity of inhibitory neurotransmitter release from amacrine cells can also be investigated by recordings of reciprocal feedback inhibition arriving at the Mb terminal 21
. Over short periods of time (e.g. ~10 s), GABAergic reciprocal feedback inhibition from amacrine cells undergoes paired-pulse depression via GABA vesicle pool depletion 11
. The synaptic dynamics of retinal microcircuits in the inner plexiform layer of the retina can thus be directly studied.
The brain-slice technique was introduced more than 40 years ago but is still very useful for the investigation of the electrical properties of neurons, both at the single cell soma, single dendrite or axon, and microcircuit synaptic level 19
. Tissues that are too small to be glued directly onto the slicing chamber are often first embedded in agar (or placed onto a filter paper) and then sliced 20, 23, 18, 9
. In this video, we employ the pre-embedding agar technique using goldfish retina. Some of the giant bipolar cell terminals in our slices of goldfish retina are axotomized (axon-cut) during the slicing procedure. This allows us to isolate single presynaptic nerve terminal inputs, because recording from axotomized terminals excludes the signals from the soma-dendritic compartment. Alternatively, one can also record from intact Mb bipolar cells, by recording from terminals attached to axons that have not been cut during the slicing procedure. Overall, use of this experimental protocol will aid in studies of retinal synaptic physiology, microcircuit functional analysis, and synaptic transmission at ribbon synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 59, synaptic physiology, axon terminal, synaptic ribbon, retina microcircuits, goldfish, zebrafish, brain slices, patch-clamp, membrane capacitance measurements, calcium-imaging, exocytosis, transmitter release
Single-cell Profiling of Developing and Mature Retinal Neurons
Institutions: Iowa State University.
Highly specialized, but exceedingly small populations of cells play important roles in many tissues. The identification of cell-type specific markers and gene expression programs for extremely rare cell subsets has been a challenge using standard whole-tissue approaches. Gene expression profiling of individual cells allows for unprecedented access to cell types that comprise only a small percentage of the total tissue1-7
. In addition, this technique can be used to examine the gene expression programs that are transiently expressed in small numbers of cells during dynamic developmental transitions8
This issue of cellular diversity arises repeatedly in the central nervous system (CNS) where neuronal connections can occur between quite diverse cells9
. The exact number of distinct cell types is not precisely known, but it has been estimated that there may be as many as 1000 different types in the cortex itself10
. The function(s) of complex neural circuits may rely on some of the rare neuronal types and the genes they express. By identifying new markers and helping to molecularly classify different neurons, the single-cell approach is particularly useful in the analysis of cell types in the nervous system. It may also help to elucidate mechanisms of neural development by identifying differentially expressed genes and gene pathways during early stages of neuronal progenitor development.
As a simple, easily accessed tissue with considerable neuronal diversity, the vertebrate retina is an excellent model system for studying the processes of cellular development, neuronal differentiation and neuronal diversification. However, as in other parts of the CNS, this cellular diversity can present a problem for determining the genetic pathways that drive retinal progenitors to adopt a specific cell fate, especially given that rod photoreceptors make up the majority of the total retinal cell population11
. Here we report a method for the identification of the transcripts expressed in single retinal cells (Figure 1
). The single-cell profiling technique allows for the assessment of the amount of heterogeneity present within different cellular populations of the retina2,4,5,12
. In addition, this method has revealed a host of new candidate genes that may play role(s) in the cell fate decision-making processes that occur in subsets of retinal progenitor cells8
. With some simple adjustments to the protocol, this technique can be utilized for many different tissues and cell types.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Single-cells, transcriptomics, gene expression, cell-type markers, retina, neurons, genetics
Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+
release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
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
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
Subretinal Transplantation of MACS Purified Photoreceptor Precursor Cells into the Adult Mouse Retina
Institutions: Technische Universität Dresden.
Vision impairment and blindness due to the loss of the light-sensing cells of the retina, i.e.
photoreceptors, represents the main reason for disability in industrialized countries. Replacement of degenerated photoreceptors by cell transplantation represents a possible treatment option in future clinical applications. Indeed, recent preclinical studies demonstrated that immature photoreceptors, isolated from the neonatal mouse retina at postnatal day 4, have the potential to integrate into the adult mouse retina following subretinal transplantation. Donor cells generated a mature photoreceptor morphology including inner and outer segments, a round cell body located at the outer nuclear layer, and synaptic terminals in close proximity to endogenous bipolar cells. Indeed, recent reports demonstrated that donor photoreceptors functionally integrate into the neural circuitry of host mice. For a future clinical application of such cell replacement approach, purified suspensions of the cells of choice have to be generated and placed at the correct position for proper integration into the eye. For the enrichment of photoreceptor precursors, sorting should be based on specific cell surface antigens to avoid genetic reporter modification of donor cells. Here we show magnetic-associated cell sorting (MACS) - enrichment of transplantable rod photoreceptor precursors isolated from the neonatal retina of photoreceptor-specific reporter mice based on the cell surface marker CD73. Incubation with anti-CD73 antibodies followed by micro-bead conjugated secondary antibodies allowed the enrichment of rod photoreceptor precursors by MACS to approximately 90%. In comparison to flow cytometry, MACS has the advantage that it can be easier applied to GMP standards and that high amounts of cells can be sorted in relative short time periods. Injection of enriched cell suspensions into the subretinal space of adult wild-type mice resulted in a 3-fold higher integration rate compared to unsorted cell suspensions.
Medicine, Issue 84, Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate, Retinal Degeneration, Regeneration, retina, magnetic associated cell sorting (MACS), transplantation, regenerative therapy
Single-cell Suction Recordings from Mouse Cone Photoreceptors
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine.
Rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina are responsible for light detection. In darkness, cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels in the outer segment are open and allow cations to flow steadily inwards across the membrane, depolarizing the cell. Light exposure triggers the closure of the CNG channels, blocks the inward cation current flow, and thus results in cell hyperpolarization. Based on the polarity of photoreceptors, a suction recording method was developed in 1970s that, unlike the classic patch-clamp technique, does not require penetrating the plasma membrane 1
. Drawing the outer segment into a tightly-fitting glass pipette filled with extracellular solution allows recording the current changes in individual cells upon test-flash exposure. However, this well-established "outer-segment-in (OS-in)" suction recording is not suitable for mouse cone recordings, because of the low percentage of cones in the mouse retina (3%) and the difficulties in identifying the cone outer segments. Recently, an inner-segment-in (IS-in) recording configuration was developed to draw the inner segment/nuclear region of the photoreceptor into the recording pipette 2,3
. In this video, we will show how to record from individual mouse cone photoresponses using single-cell suction electrode.
Cellular Biology, Issue 35, mouse, cone photoreceptor, electrophysiology, suction-recording, CNG channels, retina, murine, IS-in
Patch Clamp Recordings from Mouse Retinal Neurons in a Dark-adapted Slice Preparation
Institutions: University of Southern California, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
Our visual experience is initiated when the visual pigment in our retinal photoreceptors absorbs photons of light energy and initiates a cascade of intracellular events that lead to closure of cyclic-nucleotide-gated channels in the cell membrane. The resulting change in membrane potential leads in turn to reductions in the amount of neurotransmitter release from both rod and cone synaptic terminals. To measure how the light-evoked change in photoreceptor membrane potential leads to downstream activity in the retina, scientists have made electrophysiological recordings from retinal slice preparations for decades1,2
. In the past these slices have been cut manually with a razor blade on retinal tissue that is attached to filter paper; in recent years another method of slicing has been developed whereby retinal tissue is embedded in low gelling temperature agar and sliced in cool solution with a vibrating microtome3,4
. This preparation produces retinal slices with less surface damage and very robust light-evoked responses. Here we document how this procedure can be done under infrared light to avoid bleaching the visual pigment.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, vision, mice, retina, photoreceptor, bipolar cell, slice preparation, patch clamp
Whole-cell Recordings of Light Evoked Excitatory Synaptic Currents in the Retinal Slice
Institutions: Boston University, Boston University, Boston University.
We use the whole-cell patch clamp technique to study the synaptic circuitry that underlies visual information processing in the retina. In this video, we will guide you through the process of performing whole-cell recordings of light evoked currents of individual cells in the retinal slice preparation. We use the aquatic tiger salamander as an animal model. We begin by describing the dissection of the eye and show how slices are mounted for electrophysiological recordings. Once the slice is placed in the recording chamber, we demonstrate how to perform whole-cell voltage clamp recordings. We then project visual stimuli onto the photoreceptors in the slice to elicit light-evoked current responses. During the recording we perfuse the slice with pharmacological agents, whereby an 8-channel perfusion system allows us to quickly switch between different agents. The retinal slice preparation is widely used for patch clamp recordings in the retina, in particular to study amacrine or bipolar cells, which are not accessible in a whole-mount preparation.
Neuroscience, Issue 17, Retina, Whole-cell recording, Tiger salamander, Light-evoked currents
Horizontal Slice Preparation of the Retina
Institutions: Dalhousie University, Harvard Medical School.
Traditionally the vertical slice and the whole-mount preparation of the retina have been used to study the function of retinal circuits. However, many of retinal neurons, such as amacrine cells, expand their dendrites horizontally, so that the morphology of the cells is supposed to be severely damaged in the vertical slices. In the whole-mount preparation, especially for patch-clamp recordings, retinal neurons in the middle layer are not easily accessible due to the extensive coverage of glial cell (Mueller cell) s endfeets. Here, we describe the novel slicing method to preserve the dendritic morphology of retinal neurons intact. The slice was made horizontally at the inner layer of the retina using a vibratome slicer after the retina was embedded in the low-temperature melting agarose gel. In this horizontal slice preparation of the retina, we studied the function of retinal neurons compared with their morphology, by using patch-clamp recording, calcium imaging technique, immunocytochemistry, and single-cell RT-PCR.
Neuroscience, Issue 1, retina, dissection