Single neuron morphology in vivo with confined primed conversion

Methods Cell Biol. 2016;133:125-38. doi: 10.1016/bs.mcb.2015.12.005. Epub 2016 Feb 28.


Unraveling the structural organization of neurons can provide fundamental insights into brain function. However, visualizing neurite morphology in vivo remains difficult due to the high density and complexity of neural packing in the nervous system. Detailed analysis of neural morphology requires distinction of closely neighboring, highly intricate cellular structures such as neurites with high contrast. Green-to-red photoconvertible fluorescent proteins have become powerful tools to optically highlight molecular and cellular structures for developmental and cell biological studies. Yet, selective labeling of single cells of interest in vivo has been precluded due to inefficient photoconversion when using high intensity, pulsed, near-infrared laser sources that are commonly applied for achieving axially confined two-photon (2P) fluorescence excitation. Here we describe a novel optical mechanism, "confined primed conversion," which employs continuous dual-wave illumination to achieve confined green-to-red photoconversion of single cells in live zebrafish embryos. Confined primed conversion exhibits wide applicability and this chapter specifically elaborates on employing this imaging modality to analyze neural morphology of optically targeted single neurons in the developing zebrafish brain.

Keywords: Confocal laser scanning microscopy; Live imaging; Neural morphology; Optical sectioning; Photoconvertible fluorescent proteins; Spatial confinement.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Larva / cytology
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Neurites / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish / growth & development