A simple method for imaging axonal transport in aging neurons using the adult Drosophila wing

Nat Protoc. 2016 Sep;11(9):1711-23. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2016.112. Epub 2016 Aug 18.


There is growing interest in the link between axonal cargo transport and age-associated neuronal dysfunction. The study of axonal transport in neurons of adult animals requires intravital or ex vivo imaging approaches, which are laborious and expensive in vertebrate models. We describe simple, noninvasive procedures for imaging cargo motility within axons using sensory neurons of the translucent Drosophila wing. A key aspect is a method for mounting the intact fly that allows detailed imaging of transport in wing neurons. Coupled with existing genetic tools in Drosophila, this is a tractable system for studying axonal transport over the life span of an animal and thus for characterization of the relationship between cargo dynamics, neuronal aging and disease. Preparation of a sample for imaging takes ∼5 min, with transport typically filmed for 2-3 min per wing. We also document procedures for the quantification of transport parameters from the acquired images and describe how the protocol can be adapted to study other cell biological processes in aging neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Wings, Animal / cytology*