Efficient gene delivery into multiple CNS territories using in utero electroporation

J Vis Exp. 2011 Jun 23;(52):2957. doi: 10.3791/2957.

Abstract

The ability to manipulate gene expression is the cornerstone of modern day experimental embryology, leading to the elucidation of multiple developmental pathways. Several powerful and well established transgenic technologies are available to manipulate gene expression levels in mouse, allowing for the generation of both loss- and gain-of-function models. However, the generation of mouse transgenics is both costly and time consuming. Alternative methods of gene manipulation have therefore been widely sought. In utero electroporation is a method of gene delivery into live mouse embryos(1,2) that we have successfully adapted(3,4). It is largely based on the success of in ovo electroporation technologies that are commonly used in chick(5). Briefly, DNA is injected into the open ventricles of the developing brain and the application of an electrical current causes the formation of transient pores in cell membranes, allowing for the uptake of DNA into the cell. In our hands, embryos can be efficiently electroporated as early as embryonic day (E) 11.5, while the targeting of younger embryos would require an ultrasound-guided microinjection protocol, as previously described(6). Conversely, E15.5 is the latest stage we can easily electroporate, due to the onset of parietal and frontal bone differentiation, which hampers microinjection into the brain. In contrast, the retina is accessible through the end of embryogenesis. Embryos can be collected at any time point throughout the embryonic or early postnatal period. Injection of a reporter construct facilitates the identification of transfected cells. To date, in utero electroporation has been most widely used for the analysis of neocortical development(1,2,3,4). More recent studies have targeted the embryonic retina(7,8,9) and thalamus(10,11,12). Here, we present a modified in utero electroporation protocol that can be easily adapted to target different domains of the embryonic CNS. We provide evidence that by using this technique, we can target the embryonic telencephalon, diencephalon and retina. Representative results are presented, first showing the use of this technique to introduce DNA expression constructs into the lateral ventricles, allowing us to monitor progenitor maturation, differentiation and migration in the embryonic telencephalon. We also show that this technique can be used to target DNA to the diencephalic territories surrounding the 3(rd) ventricle, allowing the migratory routes of differentiating neurons into diencephalic nuclei to be monitored. Finally, we show that the use of micromanipulators allows us to accurately introduce DNA constructs into small target areas, including the subretinal space, allowing us to analyse the effects of manipulating gene expression on retinal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / administration & dosage*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Diencephalon / physiology*
  • Electroporation / methods*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Female
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Telencephalon / physiology*

Substances

  • DNA