Two-photon excitation STED microscopy in two colors in acute brain slices

Biophys J. 2013 Feb 19;104(4):778-85. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.12.054.


Many cellular structures and organelles are too small to be properly resolved by conventional light microscopy. This is particularly true for dendritic spines and glial processes, which are very small, dynamic, and embedded in dense tissue, making it difficult to image them under realistic experimental conditions. Two-photon microscopy is currently the method of choice for imaging in thick living tissue preparations, both in acute brain slices and in vivo. However, the spatial resolution of a two-photon microscope, which is limited to ~350 nm by the diffraction of light, is not sufficient for resolving many important details of neural morphology, such as the width of spine necks or thin glial processes. Recently developed superresolution approaches, such as stimulated emission depletion microscopy, have set new standards of optical resolution in imaging living tissue. However, the important goal of superresolution imaging with significant subdiffraction resolution has not yet been accomplished in acute brain slices. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a new microscope based on two-photon excitation and pulsed stimulated emission depletion microscopy, which provides unprecedented spatial resolution and excellent experimental access in acute brain slices using a long-working distance objective. The new microscope improves on the spatial resolution of a regular two-photon microscope by a factor of four to six, and it is compatible with time-lapse and simultaneous two-color superresolution imaging in living cells. We demonstrate the potential of this nanoscopy approach for brain slice physiology by imaging the morphology of dendritic spines and microglial cells well below the surface of acute brain slices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence, Multiphoton / methods*