Fluorescence mapping of afferent topography in three dimensions

Brain Struct Funct. 2011 Sep;216(3):159-69. doi: 10.1007/s00429-011-0304-2. Epub 2011 Mar 9.


Neural circuits are organized into complex topographic maps. Although several neuroanatomical and genetic tools are available for studying circuit architecture, a limited number of methods exist for reliably revealing the global patterning of multiple topographic projections. Here we used wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) conjugated to Alexa 555 and 488 for dual color fluorescent mapping of parasagittal spinocerebellar topography in three dimensions. Using tissue section and wholemount imaging we show that WGA-Alexa tracers have three main characteristics that make them ideal tools for analyses of neural projection topography. First, the intense brightness of Alexa fluorophores allows multi-color imaging of patterned afferent projections in wholemount preparations. Second, WGA-Alexa tracers robustly label the entire trajectory of developing and adult projections. Third, long tracts such as the adult spinocerebellar tract can be traced in less than 6 h. Moreover, using WGA-Alexa tracers we resolved a level of complexity in the compartmentalized topography of the spinocerebellar projection map that has never before been appreciated. In summary, we introduce versatile tracers for rapidly labeling multiple topographic projections in three dimensions and uncover wiring complexities in the spinocerebellar map.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Spinocerebellar Tracts / anatomy & histology*
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins