High-resolution confocal imaging and three-dimensional rendering

Methods. 2003 May;30(1):86-93. doi: 10.1016/s1046-2023(03)00010-0.


Intrinsic opacity and inhomeogeniety of most biological tissues have prevented the efficient light penetration and signal detection for high-resolution confocal imaging of thick tissues. Here, we summarize recent technical advances in high-resolution confocal imaging for visualization of cellular structures and gene expression within intact whole-mount thick tissues. First, we introduce features of the FocusClear technology that render biological tissue transparent and thus improve the light penetration and signal detection. Next, a universal fluorescence staining method that labels all nuclei and membranes is described. We then demonstrate the postrecording image processing techniques for 3D visualization. From these images, regions of interest in the whole-mount brain can be segmented and volume rendered. Together, these technical advances in confocal microscopy allow visualization of structures within whole-mount tissues up to 1mm thick at a resolution similar to that of the observation of single cells in culture. Practical uses and limitations of these techniques are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cockroaches
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods