High-resolution whole-brain staining for electron microscopic circuit reconstruction

Nat Methods. 2015 Jun;12(6):541-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3361. Epub 2015 Apr 13.


Currently only electron microscopy provides the resolution necessary to reconstruct neuronal circuits completely and with single-synapse resolution. Because almost all behaviors rely on neural computations widely distributed throughout the brain, a reconstruction of brain-wide circuits-and, ultimately, the entire brain-is highly desirable. However, these reconstructions require the undivided brain to be prepared for electron microscopic observation. Here we describe a preparation, BROPA (brain-wide reduced-osmium staining with pyrogallol-mediated amplification), that results in the preservation and staining of ultrastructural details throughout the brain at a resolution necessary for tracing neuronal processes and identifying synaptic contacts between them. Using serial block-face electron microscopy (SBEM), we tested human annotator ability to follow neural 'wires' reliably and over long distances as well as the ability to detect synaptic contacts. Our results suggest that the BROPA method can produce a preparation suitable for the reconstruction of neural circuits spanning an entire mouse brain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / ultrastructure*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron*
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Synapses / ultrastructure