Tissue clearing and subsequent imaging of transparent organs is a powerful method to analyze fluorescently labeled cells and molecules in 3D, in intact organs. Unlike traditional histological methods, where the tissue of interest is sectioned for fluorescent imaging, 3D imaging of cleared tissue allows examination of labeled cells and molecules in the entire specimen. To this end, optically opaque tissues should be rendered transparent by matching the refractory indices throughout the tissue. Subsequently, the tissue can be imaged at once using laser-scanning microscopes to obtain a complete high-resolution 3D image of the specimen. A growing list of tissue clearing protocols including 3DISCO, CLARITY, Sca/e, ClearT2, and SeeDB provide new ways for researchers to image their tissue of interest as a whole. Among them, 3DISCO is a highly reproducible and straightforward method, which can clear different types of tissues and can be utilized with various microscopy techniques. This protocol describes this straightforward procedure and presents its various applications. It also discusses the limitations and possible difficulties and how to overcome them.
18 Related JoVE Articles!
Intact Histological Characterization of Brain-implanted Microdevices and Surrounding Tissue
Institutions: Purdue University, Purdue University.
Research into the design and utilization of brain-implanted microdevices, such as microelectrode arrays, aims to produce clinically relevant devices that interface chronically with surrounding brain tissue. Tissue surrounding these implants is thought to react to the presence of the devices over time, which includes the formation of an insulating "glial scar" around the devices. However, histological analysis of these tissue changes is typically performed after explanting the device, in a process that can disrupt the morphology of the tissue of interest.
Here we demonstrate a protocol in which cortical-implanted devices are collected intact in surrounding rodent brain tissue. We describe how, once perfused with fixative, brains are removed and sliced in such a way as to avoid explanting devices. We outline fluorescent antibody labeling and optical clearing methods useful for producing an informative, yet thick tissue section. Finally, we demonstrate the mounting and imaging of these tissue sections in order to investigate the biological interface around brain-implanted devices.
Neurobiology, Issue 72, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Central Nervous System, Brain, Neuroglia, Neurons, Immunohistochemistry (IHC), Histocytological Preparation Techniques, Microscopy, Confocal, nondestructive testing, bioengineering (man-machine systems), bionics, histology, brain implants, microelectrode arrays, immunohistochemistry, neuroprosthetics, brain machine interface, microscopy, thick tissue, optical clearing, animal model
Flat Mount Imaging of Mouse Skin and Its Application to the Analysis of Hair Follicle Patterning and Sensory Axon Morphology
Institutions: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Skin is a highly heterogeneous tissue. Intra-dermal structures include hair follicles, arrector pili muscles, epidermal specializations (such as Merkel cell clusters), sebaceous glands, nerves and nerve endings, and capillaries. The spatial arrangement of these structures is tightly controlled on a microscopic scale - as seen, for example, in the orderly arrangement of cell types within a single hair follicle - and on a macroscopic scale - as seen by the nearly identical orientations of thousands of hair follicles within a local region of skin. Visualizing these structures without physically sectioning the skin is possible because of the 2-dimensional geometry of this organ. In this protocol, we show that mouse skin can be dissected, fixed, permeabilized, stained, and clarified as an intact two dimensional object, a flat mount. The protocol allows for easy visualization of skin structures in their entirety through the full thickness of large areas of skin by optical sectioning and reconstruction. Images of these structures can also be integrated with information about position and orientation relative to the body axes.
Physiology, Issue 88, arrector pili, sebaceous gland, Merkel cell, cutaneous nerve, planar cell polarity, Frizzled
Multiphoton Microscopy of Cleared Mouse Brain Expressing YFP
Institutions: Yale University, Louisiana Tech University.
Multiphoton microscopy of intrinsic fluorescence and second harmonic generation (SHG) of whole mouse organs is made possible by optically clearing the organ before imaging.1,2
However, for organs that contain fluorescent proteins such as GFP and YFP, optical clearing protocols that use methanol dehydration and clear using benzyl alcohol:benzyl benzoate (BABB) while unprotected from light3
do not preserve the fluorescent signal. The protocol presented here is a novel way in which to perform whole organ optical clearing on mouse brain while preserving the fluorescence signal of YFP expressed in neurons. Altering the optical clearing protocol such that the organ is dehydrated using an ethanol graded series has been found to reduce the damage to the fluorescent proteins and preserve their fluorescent signal for multiphoton imaging.4
Using an optimized method of optical clearing with ethanol-based dehydration and clearing by BABB while shielded from light, we show high-resolution multiphoton images of yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) expression in the neurons of a mouse brain more than 2 mm beneath the tissue surface.
Neuroscience, Issue 67, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, multiphoton microscopy, mouse, brain, clearing, YFP, fluroescence
Born Normalization for Fluorescence Optical Projection Tomography for Whole Heart Imaging
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, MGH - Massachusetts General Hospital, Technical University of Munich and Helmholtz Center Munich.
Optical projection tomography is a three-dimensional imaging technique that has been recently introduced as an imaging tool primarily in developmental biology and gene expression studies. The technique renders biological sample optically transparent by first dehydrating them and then placing in a mixture of benzyl alcohol and benzyl benzoate in a 2:1 ratio (BABB or Murray s Clear solution). The technique renders biological samples optically transparent by first dehydrating them in graded ethanol solutions then placing them in a mixture of benzyl alcohol and benzyl benzoate in a 2:1 ratio (BABB or Murray s Clear solution) to clear. After the clearing process the scattering contribution in the sample can be greatly reduced and made almost negligible while the absorption contribution cannot be eliminated completely. When trying to reconstruct the fluorescence distribution within the sample under investigation, this contribution affects the reconstructions and leads, inevitably, to image artifacts and quantification errors.. While absorption could be reduced further with a permanence of weeks or months in the clearing media, this will lead to progressive loss of fluorescence and to an unrealistically long sample processing time. This is true when reconstructing both exogenous contrast agents (molecular contrast agents) as well as endogenous contrast (e.g. reconstructions of genetically expressed fluorescent proteins).
Bioengineering, Issue 28, optical imaging, fluorescence imaging, optical projection tomography, born normalization, molecular imaging, heart imaging
A Method to Fabricate Disconnected Silver Nanostructures in 3D
Institutions: Harvard University , Harvard University .
The standard nanofabrication toolkit includes techniques primarily aimed at creating 2D patterns in dielectric media. Creating metal patterns on a submicron scale requires a combination of nanofabrication tools and several material processing steps. For example, steps to create planar metal structures using ultraviolet photolithography and electron-beam lithography can include sample exposure, sample development, metal deposition, and metal liftoff. To create 3D metal structures, the sequence is repeated multiple times. The complexity and difficulty of stacking and aligning multiple layers limits practical implementations of 3D metal structuring using standard nanofabrication tools. Femtosecond-laser direct-writing has emerged as a pre-eminent technique for 3D nanofabrication.1,2
Femtosecond lasers are frequently used to create 3D patterns in polymers and glasses.3-7
However, 3D metal direct-writing remains a challenge. Here, we describe a method to fabricate silver nanostructures embedded inside a polymer matrix using a femtosecond laser centered at 800 nm. The method enables the fabrication of patterns not feasible using other techniques, such as 3D arrays of disconnected silver voxels.8
Disconnected 3D metal patterns are useful for metamaterials where unit cells are not in contact with each other,9
such as coupled metal dot10,11
or coupled metal rod12,13
resonators. Potential applications include negative index metamaterials, invisibility cloaks, and perfect lenses.
In femtosecond-laser direct-writing, the laser wavelength is chosen such that photons are not linearly absorbed in the target medium. When the laser pulse duration is compressed to the femtosecond time scale and the radiation is tightly focused inside the target, the extremely high intensity induces nonlinear absorption. Multiple photons are absorbed simultaneously to cause electronic transitions that lead to material modification within the focused region. Using this approach, one can form structures in the bulk of a material rather than on its surface.
Most work on 3D direct metal writing has focused on creating self-supported metal structures.14-16
The method described here yields sub-micrometer silver structures that do not need to be self-supported because they are embedded inside a matrix. A doped polymer matrix is prepared using a mixture of silver nitrate (AgNO3
), polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) and water (H2
O). Samples are then patterned by irradiation with an 11-MHz femtosecond laser producing 50-fs pulses. During irradiation, photoreduction of silver ions is induced through nonlinear absorption, creating an aggregate of silver nanoparticles in the focal region. Using this approach we create silver patterns embedded in a doped PVP matrix. Adding 3D translation of the sample extends the patterning to three dimensions.
Physics, Issue 69, Materials Science, Engineering, Nanotechnology, nanofabrication, microfabrication, 3D fabrication, polymer, silver, femtosecond laser processing, direct laser writing, multiphoton lithography, nonlinear absorption
A Simple Method for Imaging Arabidopsis Leaves Using Perfluorodecalin as an Infiltrative Imaging Medium
Institutions: The University of Exeter.
The problem of acquiring high-resolution images deep into biological samples is widely acknowledged1
. In air-filled tissue such as the spongy mesophyll of plant leaves or vertebrate lungs further difficulties arise from multiple transitions in refractive index between cellular components, between cells and airspaces and between the biological tissue and the rest of the optical system. Moreover, refractive index mismatches lead to attenuation of fluorophore excitation and signal emission in fluorescence microscopy. We describe here the application of the perfluorocarbon, perfluorodecalin (PFD), as an infiltrative imaging medium which optically improves laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) sample imaging at depth, without resorting to damaging increases in laser power and has minimal physiological impact2
. We describe the protocol for use of PFD with Arabidopsis thaliana
leaf tissue, which is optically complex as a result of its structure (Figure 1
). PFD has a number of attributes that make it suitable for this use3
. The refractive index of PFD (1.313) is comparable with that of water (1.333) and is closer to that of cytosol (approx. 1.4) than air (1.000). In addition, PFD is readily available, non-fluorescent and is non-toxic. The low surface tension of PFD (19 dynes cm-1
) is lower than that of water (72 dynes cm-1
) and also below the limit (25 - 30 dyne cm-1
) for stomatal penetration4
, which allows it to flood the spongy mesophyll airspaces without the application of a potentially destructive vacuum or surfactant. Finally and crucially, PFD has a great capacity for dissolving CO2
, which allows gas exchange to be maintained in the flooded tissue, thus minimizing the physiological impact on the sample. These properties have been used in various applications which include partial liquid breathing and lung inflation5,6
, artificial blood8
, oxygenation of growth media9
, and studies of ice crystal formation in plants10
. Currently, it is common to mount tissue in water or aqueous buffer for live confocal imaging. We consider that the use of PFD as a mounting medium represents an improvement on existing practice and allows the simple preparation of live whole leaf samples for imaging.
Plant Biology, Issue 59, Arabidopsis, leaf, confocal, microscopy, perfluorocarbon, perfluorodecalin, PFD, mesophyll, imaging depth
Detection of Axonally Localized mRNAs in Brain Sections Using High-Resolution In Situ Hybridization
Institutions: Columbia University.
mRNAs are frequently localized to vertebrate axons and their local translation is required for axon pathfinding or branching during development and for maintenance, repair or neurodegeneration in postdevelopmental periods. High throughput analyses have recently revealed that axons have a more dynamic and complex transcriptome than previously expected. These analysis, however have been mostly done in cultured neurons where axons can be isolated from the somato-dendritic compartments. It is virtually impossible to achieve such isolation in whole tissues in vivo
. Thus, in order to verify the recruitment of mRNAs and their functional relevance in a whole animal, transcriptome analyses should ideally be combined with techniques that allow the visualization of mRNAs in situ
. Recently, novel ISH technologies that detect RNAs at a single-molecule level have been developed. This is especially important when analyzing the subcellular localization of mRNA, since localized RNAs are typically found at low levels. Here we describe two protocols for the detection of axonally-localized mRNAs using a novel ultrasensitive RNA ISH technology. We have combined RNAscope ISH with axonal counterstain using fluorescence immunohistochemistry or histological dyes to verify the recruitment of Atf4
mRNA to axons in vivo
in the mature mouse and human brains.
Neuroscience, Issue 100, mRNA localization, axons, in situ hybridization, RNAscope, in vivo, adult brain
An Optogenetic Approach for Assessing Formation of Neuronal Connections in a Co-culture System
Institutions: Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Nanyang Technological University.
Here we describe a protocol to generate a co-culture consisting of 2 different neuronal populations. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are reprogrammed from human fibroblasts using episomal vectors. Colonies of iPSCs can be observed 30 days after initiation of fibroblast reprogramming. Pluripotent colonies are manually picked and grown in neural induction medium to permit differentiation into neural progenitor cells (NPCs). iPSCs rapidly convert into neuroepithelial cells within 1 week and retain the capability to self-renew when maintained at a high culture density. Primary mouse NPCs are differentiated into astrocytes by exposure to a serum-containing medium for 7 days and form a monolayer upon which embryonic day 18 (E18) rat cortical neurons (transfected with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2)) are added. Human NPCs tagged with the fluorescent protein, tandem dimer Tomato (tdTomato), are then seeded onto the astrocyte/cortical neuron culture the following day and allowed to differentiate for 28 to 35 days. We demonstrate that this system forms synaptic connections between iPSC-derived neurons and cortical neurons, evident from an increase in the frequency of synaptic currents upon photostimulation of the cortical neurons. This co-culture system provides a novel platform for evaluating the ability of iPSC-derived neurons to create synaptic connections with other neuronal populations.
Developmental Biology, Issue 96, Neuroscience, Channelrhodopsin-2, Co-culture, Neurons, Astrocytes, induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Neural progenitors, Differentiation, Cell culture, Cortex
Methods for Culturing Human Femur Tissue Explants to Study Breast Cancer Cell Colonization of the Metastatic Niche
Institutions: Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine.
Bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis. Although it is widely accepted that the microenvironment influences cancer cell behavior, little is known about breast cancer cell properties and behaviors within the native microenvironment of human bone tissue.
We have developed approaches to track, quantify and modulate human breast cancer cells within the microenvironment of cultured human bone tissue fragments isolated from discarded femoral heads following total hip replacement surgeries. Using breast cancer cells engineered for luciferase and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) expression, we are able to reproducibly quantitate migration and proliferation patterns using bioluminescence imaging (BLI), track cell interactions within the bone fragments using fluorescence microscopy, and evaluate breast cells after colonization with flow cytometry. The key advantages of this model include: 1) a native, architecturally intact tissue microenvironment that includes relevant human cell types, and 2) direct access to the microenvironment, which facilitates rapid quantitative and qualitative monitoring and perturbation of breast and bone cell properties, behaviors and interactions. A primary limitation, at present, is the finite viability of the tissue fragments, which confines the window of study to short-term culture. Applications of the model system include studying the basic biology of breast cancer and other bone-seeking malignancies within the metastatic niche, and developing therapeutic strategies to effectively target breast cancer cells in bone tissues.
Medicine, Issue 97, Metastatic niche, bone microenvironment, breast cancer metastasis, human bone, osteotropism, ex vivo model, explant culture system, bioluminescence imaging
Generation and 3-Dimensional Quantitation of Arterial Lesions in Mice Using Optical Projection Tomography
Institutions: The Queen's Medical Research Institute.
The generation and analysis of vascular lesions in appropriate animal models is a cornerstone of research into cardiovascular disease, generating important information on the pathogenesis of lesion formation and the action of novel therapies. Use of atherosclerosis-prone mice, surgical methods of lesion induction, and dietary modification has dramatically improved understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to disease development and the potential of new treatments.
Classically, analysis of lesions is performed ex vivo
using 2-dimensional histological techniques. This article describes application of optical projection tomography (OPT) to 3-dimensional quantitation of arterial lesions. As this technique is non-destructive, it can be used as an adjunct to standard histological and immunohistochemical analyses.
Neointimal lesions were induced by wire-insertion or ligation of the mouse femoral artery whilst atherosclerotic lesions were generated by administration of an atherogenic diet to apoE-deficient mice.
Lesions were examined using OPT imaging of autofluorescent emission followed by complementary histological and immunohistochemical analysis. OPT clearly distinguished lesions from the underlying vascular wall. Lesion size was calculated in 2-dimensional sections using planimetry, enabling calculation of lesion volume and maximal cross-sectional area. Data generated using OPT were consistent with measurements obtained using histology, confirming the accuracy of the technique and its potential as a complement (rather than alternative) to traditional methods of analysis.
This work demonstrates the potential of OPT for imaging atherosclerotic and neointimal lesions. It provides a rapid, much needed ex vivo
technique for the routine 3-dimensional quantification of vascular remodelling.
Medicine, Issue 99, neointima, mouse femoral artery, atherosclerosis, brachiocephalic trunk, optical projection tomography
Automated Quantification of Hematopoietic Cell – Stromal Cell Interactions in Histological Images of Undecalcified Bone
Institutions: German Rheumatism Research Center, a Leibniz Institute, German Rheumatism Research Center, a Leibniz Institute, Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Wimasis GmbH, Charité - University of Medicine.
Confocal microscopy is the method of choice for the analysis of localization of multiple cell types within complex tissues such as the bone marrow. However, the analysis and quantification of cellular localization is difficult, as in many cases it relies on manual counting, thus bearing the risk of introducing a rater-dependent bias and reducing interrater reliability. Moreover, it is often difficult to judge whether the co-localization between two cells results from random positioning, especially when cell types differ strongly in the frequency of their occurrence. Here, a method for unbiased quantification of cellular co-localization in the bone marrow is introduced. The protocol describes the sample preparation used to obtain histological sections of whole murine long bones including the bone marrow, as well as the staining protocol and the acquisition of high-resolution images. An analysis workflow spanning from the recognition of hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cell types in 2-dimensional (2D) bone marrow images to the quantification of the direct contacts between those cells is presented. This also includes a neighborhood analysis, to obtain information about the cellular microenvironment surrounding a certain cell type. In order to evaluate whether co-localization of two cell types is the mere result of random cell positioning or reflects preferential associations between the cells, a simulation tool which is suitable for testing this hypothesis in the case of hematopoietic as well as stromal cells, is used. This approach is not limited to the bone marrow, and can be extended to other tissues to permit reproducible, quantitative analysis of histological data.
Developmental Biology, Issue 98, Image analysis, neighborhood analysis, bone marrow, stromal cells, bone marrow niches, simulation, bone cryosectioning, bone histology
In situ Compressive Loading and Correlative Noninvasive Imaging of the Bone-periodontal Ligament-tooth Fibrous Joint
Institutions: University of California San Francisco, University of California San Francisco, Xradia Inc..
This study demonstrates a novel biomechanics testing protocol. The advantage of this protocol includes the use of an in situ
loading device coupled to a high resolution X-ray microscope, thus enabling visualization of internal structural elements under simulated physiological loads and wet conditions. Experimental specimens will include intact bone-periodontal ligament (PDL)-tooth fibrous joints. Results will illustrate three important features of the protocol as they can be applied to organ level biomechanics: 1) reactionary force vs. displacement: tooth displacement within the alveolar socket and its reactionary response to loading, 2) three-dimensional (3D) spatial configuration and morphometrics: geometric relationship of the tooth with the alveolar socket, and 3) changes in readouts 1 and 2 due to a change in loading axis, i.e.
from concentric to eccentric loads. Efficacy of the proposed protocol will be evaluated by coupling mechanical testing readouts to 3D morphometrics and overall biomechanics of the joint. In addition, this technique will emphasize on the need to equilibrate experimental conditions, specifically reactionary loads prior to acquiring tomograms of fibrous joints. It should be noted that the proposed protocol is limited to testing specimens under ex vivo
conditions, and that use of contrast agents to visualize soft tissue mechanical response could lead to erroneous conclusions about tissue and organ-level biomechanics.
Bioengineering, Issue 85, biomechanics, bone-periodontal ligament-tooth complex, concentric loads, eccentric loads, contrast agent
Optical Frequency Domain Imaging of Ex vivo Pulmonary Resection Specimens: Obtaining One to One Image to Histopathology Correlation
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths1
. Squamous cell and small cell cancers typically arise in association with the conducting airways, whereas adenocarcinomas are typically more peripheral in location. Lung malignancy detection early in the disease process may be difficult due to several limitations: radiological resolution, bronchoscopic limitations in evaluating tissue underlying the airway mucosa and identifying early pathologic changes, and small sample size and/or incomplete sampling in histology biopsies. High resolution imaging modalities, such as optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), provide non-destructive, large area 3-dimensional views of tissue microstructure to depths approaching 2 mm in real time (Figure 1
. OFDI has been utilized in a variety of applications, including evaluation of coronary artery atherosclerosis6,7
and esophageal intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia6,8-10
Bronchoscopic OCT/OFDI has been demonstrated as a safe in vivo
imaging tool for evaluating the pulmonary airways11-23
). OCT has been assessed in pulmonary airways16,23
of animal models and in vivo
. OCT imaging of normal airway has demonstrated visualization of airway layering and alveolar attachments, and evaluation of dysplastic lesions has been found useful in distinguishing grades of dysplasia in the bronchial mucosa11,12,20,21
. OFDI imaging of bronchial mucosa has been demonstrated in a short bronchial segment (0.8 cm)18
. Additionally, volumetric OFDI spanning multiple airway generations in swine and human pulmonary airways in vivo
has been described19
. Endobronchial OCT/OFDI is typically performed using thin, flexible catheters, which are compatible with standard bronchoscopic access ports. Additionally, OCT and OFDI needle-based probes have recently been developed, which may be used to image regions of the lung beyond the airway wall or pleural surface17
While OCT/OFDI has been utilized and demonstrated as feasible for in vivo
pulmonary imaging, no studies with precisely matched one-to-one OFDI:histology have been performed. Therefore, specific imaging criteria for various pulmonary pathologies have yet to be developed. Histopathological counterparts obtained in vivo
consist of only small biopsy fragments, which are difficult to correlate with large OFDI datasets. Additionally, they do not provide the comprehensive histology needed for registration with large volume OFDI. As a result, specific imaging features of pulmonary pathology cannot be developed in the in vivo
setting. Precisely matched, one-to-one OFDI and histology correlation is vital to accurately evaluate features seen in OFDI against histology as a gold standard in order to derive specific image interpretation criteria for pulmonary neoplasms and other pulmonary pathologies. Once specific imaging criteria have been developed and validated ex vivo
with matched one-to-one histology, the criteria may then be applied to in vivo
imaging studies. Here, we present a method for precise, one to one correlation between high resolution optical imaging and histology in ex vivo
lung resection specimens. Throughout this manuscript, we describe the techniques used to match OFDI images to histology. However, this method is not specific to OFDI and can be used to obtain histology-registered images for any optical imaging technique. We performed airway centered OFDI with a specialized custom built bronchoscopic 2.4 French (0.8 mm diameter) catheter. Tissue samples were marked with tissue dye, visible in both OFDI and histology. Careful orientation procedures were used to precisely correlate imaging and histological sampling locations. The techniques outlined in this manuscript were used to conduct the first demonstration of volumetric OFDI with precise correlation to tissue-based diagnosis for evaluating pulmonary pathology24
. This straightforward, effective technique may be extended to other tissue types to provide precise imaging to histology correlation needed to determine fine imaging features of both normal and diseased tissues.
Bioengineering, Issue 71, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Cancer Biology, Pathology, Surgery, Bronchoscopic imaging, In vivo optical microscopy, Optical imaging, Optical coherence tomography, Optical frequency domain imaging, Histology correlation, animal model, histopathology, airway, lung, biopsy, imaging
A Rapid Approach to High-Resolution Fluorescence Imaging in Semi-Thick Brain Slices
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Precisionary Instruments Inc., Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Texas Children's Hospital.
A fundamental goal to both basic and clinical neuroscience is to better understand the identities, molecular makeup, and patterns of connectivity that are characteristic to neurons in both normal and diseased brain. Towards this, a great deal of effort has been placed on building high-resolution neuroanatomical maps1-3
. With the expansion of molecular genetics and advances in light microscopy has come the ability to query not only neuronal morphologies, but also the molecular and cellular makeup of individual neurons and their associated networks4
. Major advances in the ability to mark and manipulate neurons through transgenic and gene targeting technologies in the rodent now allow investigators to 'program' neuronal subsets at will5-6
. Arguably, one of the most influential contributions to contemporary neuroscience has been the discovery and cloning of genes encoding fluorescent proteins (FPs) in marine invertebrates7-8
, alongside their subsequent engineering to yield an ever-expanding toolbox of vital reporters9
. Exploiting cell type-specific promoter activity to drive targeted FP expression in discrete neuronal populations now affords neuroanatomical investigation with genetic precision.
Engineering FP expression in neurons has vastly improved our understanding of brain structure and function. However, imaging individual neurons and their associated networks in deep brain tissues, or in three dimensions, has remained a challenge. Due to high lipid content, nervous tissue is rather opaque and exhibits auto fluorescence. These inherent biophysical properties make it difficult to visualize and image fluorescently labelled neurons at high resolution using standard epifluorescent or confocal microscopy beyond depths of tens of microns. To circumvent this challenge investigators often employ serial thin-section imaging and reconstruction methods10
, or 2-photon laser scanning microscopy11
. Current drawbacks to these approaches are the associated labor-intensive tissue preparation, or cost-prohibitive instrumentation respectively.
Here, we present a relatively rapid and simple method to visualize fluorescently labelled cells in fixed semi-thick mouse brain slices by optical clearing and imaging. In the attached protocol we describe the methods of: 1) fixing brain tissue in situ
via intracardial perfusion, 2) dissection and removal of whole brain, 3) stationary brain embedding in agarose, 4) precision semi-thick slice preparation using new vibratome instrumentation, 5) clearing brain tissue through a glycerol gradient, and 6) mounting on glass slides for light microscopy and z-stack reconstruction (Figure 1
For preparing brain slices we implemented a relatively new piece of instrumentation called the 'Compresstome' VF-200 (https://www.precisionary.com/products_vf200.html). This instrument is a semi-automated microtome equipped with a motorized advance and blade vibration system with features similar in function to other vibratomes. Unlike other vibratomes, the tissue to be sliced is mounted in an agarose plug within a stainless steel cylinder. The tissue is extruded at desired thicknesses from the cylinder, and cut by the forward advancing vibrating blade. The agarose plug/cylinder system allows for reproducible tissue mounting, alignment, and precision cutting. In our hands, the 'Compresstome' yields high quality tissue slices for electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, and direct fixed-tissue mounting and imaging. Combined with optical clearing, here we demonstrate the preparation of semi-thick fixed brain slices for high-resolution fluorescent imaging.
Neuroscience, Issue 53, nervous tissue, neurons, confocal, epifluorescent, imaging, clearing, fluorescent proteins
Electrophysiological and Morphological Characterization of Neuronal Microcircuits in Acute Brain Slices Using Paired Patch-Clamp Recordings
Institutions: Research Centre Jülich, RWTH Aachen University.
The combination of patch clamp recordings from two (or more) synaptically coupled neurons (paired recordings) in acute brain slice preparations with simultaneous intracellular biocytin filling allows a correlated analysis of their structural and functional properties. With this method it is possible to identify and characterize both pre- and postsynaptic neurons by their morphology and electrophysiological response pattern. Paired recordings allow studying the connectivity patterns between these neurons as well as the properties of both chemical and electrical synaptic transmission. Here, we give a step-by-step description of the procedures required to obtain reliable paired recordings together with an optimal recovery of the neuron morphology. We will describe how pairs of neurons connected via chemical synapses or gap junctions are identified in brain slice preparations. We will outline how neurons are reconstructed to obtain their 3D morphology of the dendritic and axonal domain and how synaptic contacts are identified and localized. We will also discuss the caveats and limitations of the paired recording technique, in particular those associated with dendritic and axonal truncations during the preparation of brain slices because these strongly affect connectivity estimates. However, because of the versatility of the paired recording approach it will remain a valuable tool in characterizing different aspects of synaptic transmission at identified neuronal microcircuits in the brain.
Neuroscience, Issue 95, Patch-clamp, paired recordings, neurons, synaptic connections, gap junctions, biocytin labeling, structure-function correlations
Understanding Early Organogenesis Using a Simplified In Situ Hybridization Protocol in Xenopus
Institutions: Hospital for Sick Children, University of Western Ontario, University of Western Ontario, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Western Ontario.
Organogenesis is the study of how organs are specified and then acquire their specific shape and functions during development. The Xenopuslaevis
embryo is very useful for studying organogenesis because their large size makes them very suitable for identifying organs at the earliest steps in organogenesis. At this time, the primary method used for identifying a specific organ or primordium is whole mount in situ
hybridization with labeled antisense RNA probes specific to a gene that is expressed in the organ of interest. In addition, it is relatively easy to manipulate genes or signaling pathways in Xenopus
and in situ
hybridization allows one to then assay for changes in the presence or morphology of a target organ. Whole mount in situ
hybridization is a multi-day protocol with many steps involved. Here we provide a simplified protocol with reduced numbers of steps and reagents used that works well for routine assays. In situ
hybridization robots have greatly facilitated the process and we detail how and when we utilize that technology in the process. Once an in situ
hybridization is complete, capturing the best image of the result can be frustrating. We provide advice on how to optimize imaging of in situ
hybridization results. Although the protocol describes assessing organogenesis in Xenopus laevis
, the same basic protocol can almost certainly be adapted to Xenopus tropicalis
and other model systems.
Developmental Biology, Issue 95, Xenopus, organogenesis, in situ hybridization, RNA methods, embryology, imaging, whole mount
Micron-scale Resolution Optical Tomography of Entire Mouse Brains with Confocal Light Sheet Microscopy
Institutions: European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy (LENS), University Campus Bio-medico of Rome, University of Cassino, National Institute of Optics (CNR-INO), Allen Institute for Brain Science, University of Florence, ICON Foundation, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy.
Understanding the architecture of mammalian brain at single-cell resolution is one of the key issues of neuroscience. However, mapping neuronal soma and projections throughout the whole brain is still challenging for imaging and data management technologies. Indeed, macroscopic volumes need to be reconstructed with high resolution and contrast in a reasonable time, producing datasets in the TeraByte range. We recently demonstrated an optical method (confocal light sheet microscopy, CLSM) capable of obtaining micron-scale reconstruction of entire mouse brains labeled with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Combining light sheet illumination and confocal detection, CLSM allows deep imaging inside macroscopic cleared specimens with high contrast and speed. Here we describe the complete experimental pipeline to obtain comprehensive and human-readable images of entire mouse brains labeled with fluorescent proteins. The clearing and the mounting procedures are described, together with the steps to perform an optical tomography on its whole volume by acquiring many parallel adjacent stacks. We showed the usage of open-source custom-made software tools enabling stitching of the multiple stacks and multi-resolution data navigation. Finally, we illustrated some example of brain maps: the cerebellum from an L7-GFP transgenic mouse, in which all Purkinje cells are selectively labeled, and the whole brain from a thy1-GFP-M mouse, characterized by a random sparse neuronal labeling.
Neuroscience, Issue 80, Microscopy, Neuroanatomy, Connectomics, Light sheet microscopy, Whole-brain imaging
Mouse Fetal Whole Intestine Culture System for Ex Vivo Manipulation of Signaling Pathways and Three-dimensional Live Imaging of Villus Development
Institutions: University of Michigan, Karolinska Instituet Novum.
Most morphogenetic processes in the fetal intestine have been inferred from thin sections of fixed tissues, providing snapshots of changes over developmental stages. Three-dimensional information from thin serial sections can be challenging to interpret because of the difficulty of reconstructing serial sections perfectly and maintaining proper orientation of the tissue over serial sections. Recent findings by Grosse et al
., 2011 highlight the importance of three- dimensional information in understanding morphogenesis of the developing villi of the intestine1
. Three-dimensional reconstruction of singly labeled intestinal cells demonstrated that the majority of the intestinal epithelial cells contact both the apical and basal surfaces. Furthermore, three-dimensional reconstruction of the actin cytoskeleton at the apical surface of the epithelium demonstrated that the intestinal lumen is continuous and that secondary lumens are an artifact of sectioning. Those two points, along with the demonstration of interkinetic nuclear migration in the intestinal epithelium, defined the developing intestinal epithelium as a pseudostratified epithelium and not stratified as previously thought1
. The ability to observe the epithelium three-dimensionally was seminal to demonstrating this point and redefining epithelial morphogenesis in the fetal intestine. With the evolution of multi-photon imaging technology and three-dimensional reconstruction software, the ability to visualize intact, developing organs is rapidly improving. Two-photon excitation allows less damaging penetration deeper into tissues with high resolution. Two-photon imaging and 3D reconstruction of the whole fetal mouse intestines in Walton et al
., 2012 helped to define the pattern of villus outgrowth2
. Here we describe a whole organ culture system that allows ex vivo
development of villi and extensions of that culture system to allow the intestines to be three-dimensionally imaged during their development.
Molecular Biology, Issue 91,
Developmental Biology, morphogenesis, mouse fetal intestine, whole organ culture, live imaging, cell signaling, three-dimensional reconstruction, two-photon imaging