Background: The cell bodies of sensory neurons, which transmit information from the external environment to the spinal cord, can be found at all levels of the spinal column in paired structures called dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Rodent DRG neurons have long been studied in the laboratory to improve understanding of sensory nerve development and function, and have been instrumental in determining mechanisms underlying pain and neurodegeneration in disorders of the peripheral nervous system. Here, we describe a simple, step-by-step protocol for the swift isolation of mouse DRG, which can be enzymatically dissociated to produce fully differentiated primary neuronal cultures, or processed for downstream analyses, such as immunohistochemistry or RNA profiling.
Findings: After dissecting out the spinal column, from the base of the skull to the level of the femurs, it can be cut down the mid-line and the spinal cord and meninges removed, before extracting the DRG and detaching unwanted axons. This protocol allows the easy and rapid isolation of DRG with minimal practice and dissection experience. The process is both faster and less technically challenging than extracting the ganglia from the in situ column after performing a dorsal laminectomy.
Conclusions: This approach reduces the time required to collect DRG, thereby improving efficiency, permitting less opportunity for tissue deterioration, and, ultimately, increasing the chances of generating healthy primary DRG cultures or high quality, reproducible experiments using DRG tissue.