In vivo imaging of transplanted hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in mouse calvarium bone marrow

Nat Protoc. 2011 Jan;6(1):1-14. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2010.168. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


In vivo imaging of transplanted hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) was developed to investigate the relationship between HSPCs and components of their microenvironment in the bone marrow. In particular, it allows a direct observation of the behavior of hematopoietic cells during the first few days after transplantation, when the critical events in homing and early engraftment are occurring. By directly imaging these events in living animals, this method permits a detailed assessment of functions previously evaluated by crude assessments of cell counts (homing) or after prolonged periods (engraftment). This protocol offers a new means of investigating the role of cell-intrinsic and cell-extrinsic molecular regulators of hematopoiesis during the early stages of transplantation, and it is the first to allow the study of cell-cell interactions within the bone marrow in three dimensions and in real time. In this paper, we describe how to isolate, label and inject HSPCs, as well as how to perform calvarium intravital microscopy and analyze the resulting images. A typical experiment can be performed and analyzed in ∼1 week.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Skull / cytology