High-resolution live imaging of cell behavior in the developing neuroepithelium

J Vis Exp. 2012 Apr 12;(62):3920. doi: 10.3791/3920.


The embryonic spinal cord consists of cycling neural progenitor cells that give rise to a large percentage of the neuronal and glial cells of the central nervous system (CNS). Although much is known about the molecular mechanisms that pattern the spinal cord and elicit neuronal differentiation, we lack a deep understanding of these early events at the level of cell behavior. It is thus critical to study the behavior of neural progenitors in real time as they undergo neurogenesis. In the past, real-time imaging of early embryonic tissue has been limited by cell/tissue viability in culture as well as the phototoxic effects of fluorescent imaging. Here we present a novel assay for imaging such tissue for long periods of time, utilizing a novel ex vivo slice culture protocol and wide-field fluorescence microscopy (Fig. 1). This approach achieves long-term time-lapse monitoring of chick embryonic spinal cord progenitor cells with high spatial and temporal resolution. This assay may be modified to image a range of embryonic tissues. In addition to the observation of cellular and sub-cellular behaviors, the development of novel and highly sensitive reporters for gene activity (for example, Notch signaling) makes this assay a powerful tool with which to understand how signaling regulates cell behavior during embryonic development.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neuroepithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord