A simple fluorescent double staining method for distinguishing neuronal from non-neuronal cells in the insect central nervous system

J Neurosci Methods. 2006 Sep 15;155(2):202-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2006.01.006. Epub 2006 Feb 14.


Being able to discriminate between neurons and non-neuronal cells such as glia and tracheal cells has been a major problem in insect neuroscience, because glia-specific antisera are available for only a small number of species such as Drosophila melanogaster and Manduca sexta. Especially developmental or comparative studies often require an estimate of neuron numbers. Since neuronal and glial cell bodies are in many cases indiscernible in situ, a method to distinguish neurons from non-neuronal cells that works in any given species is wanting. Another application is cell culturing. Cultured cells usually change their outward shape dramatically after being isolated so that it is frequently impossible to tell neurons and glia apart. Here, we present a simple method that uses a commercially available antiserum directed against horseradish peroxidase, which specifically stains neurons but no other cell type in every insect species investigated. Counterstaining with DAPI, a fluorescent chromophore that binds to double-stranded DNA in the nuclei of all cells, yields the total number of cells in a given sample. Thus, double labeled cells can be identified as neurons, cells that carry only DAPI staining are non-neuronal.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Central Nervous System / cytology*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Fluoresceins / metabolism*
  • Horseradish Peroxidase / immunology
  • Horseradish Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Immune Sera / metabolism
  • Indoles
  • Insecta
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Fluoresceins
  • Immune Sera
  • Indoles
  • DAPI
  • DNA
  • Horseradish Peroxidase