Intracellular long-wavelength voltage-sensitive dyes for studying the dynamics of action potentials in axons and thin dendrites

J Neurosci Methods. 2007 Aug 30;164(2):225-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2007.05.002. Epub 2007 May 6.


In CNS neurons most of synaptic integration takes place in thin dendritic branches that are difficult to study with conventional physiological recording techniques (electrodes). When cellular compartments are too small, or too many, for electrode recordings, optical methods bring considerable advantages. Here we focused our experimental effort on the development and utilization of new kinds of voltage-sensitive dyes (VSD). The new VSDs have bluish appearance in organic solvents, and hence are dubbed "blue dyes". They have preferred excitation windows for voltage recording that are shifted to longer wavelengths (approximately 660nm). Excitation in deep red light and emission in the near-infrared render "blue VSDs" potentially useful in measurements from fluorescent structures below the tissue surface because light scattering is minimized at longer wavelengths. Seven new molecules were systematically tested using intracellular injection. In comparison to the previously used red dye (JPW-3028) the blue dyes have better sensitivity (DeltaF/F) by approximately 40%. Blue dyes take little time to fill the dendritic tree, and in this aspect they are comparable with the fastest red dye JPW-3028. Based on our results, blue VSDs are well suited for experimental exploration of thin neuronal processes in semi intact preparations (brain slice). In some cases only six sweeps of temporal averaging were needed to acquire excellent records of individual action potentials in basal and oblique dendritic branches, or in axons and axon collaterals up to 200microm away from the cell body. Signal-to-noise ratio of these recordings was approximately 10. The combination of blue dyes and laser illumination approach imposed little photodynamic damage and allowed the total number of recording sweeps per cell to exceed 100. Using these dyes and a spot laser illumination technique, we demonstrate the first recording of action potentials in the oblique dendrite and distal axonal segment of the same pyramidal cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Styrenes / chemistry*
  • Time Factors


  • Styrenes