Specific in vivo staining of astrocytes in the whole brain after intravenous injection of sulforhodamine dyes

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35169. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035169. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Fluorescent staining of astrocytes without damaging or interfering with normal brain functions is essential for intravital microscopy studies. Current methods involved either transgenic mice or local intracerebral injection of sulforhodamine 101. Transgenic rat models rarely exist, and in mice, a backcross with GFAP transgenic mice may be difficult. Local injections of fluorescent dyes are invasive. Here, we propose a non-invasive, specific and ubiquitous method to stain astrocytes in vivo. This method is based on iv injection of sulforhodamine dyes and is applicable on rats and mice from postnatal age to adulthood. The astrocytes staining obtained after iv injection was maintained for nearly half a day and showed no adverse reaction on astrocytic calcium signals or electroencephalographic recordings in vivo. The high contrast of the staining facilitates the image processing and allows to quantify 3D morphological parameters of the astrocytes and to characterize their network. Our method may become a reference for in vivo staining of the whole astrocytes population in animal models of neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure*
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Electroencephalography
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rhodamines* / adverse effects
  • Rhodamines* / pharmacology
  • Staining and Labeling*


  • Rhodamines
  • sulforhodamine 101