Evaluation of Synapse Density in Hippocampal Rodent Brain Slices

J Vis Exp. 2017 Oct 6;(128):56153. doi: 10.3791/56153.


In the brain, synapses are specialized junctions between neurons, determining the strength and spread of neuronal signaling. The number of synapses is tightly regulated during development and neuronal maturation. Importantly, deficits in synapse number can lead to cognitive dysfunction. Therefore, the evaluation of synapse number is an integral part of neurobiology. However, as synapses are small and highly compact in the intact brain, the assessment of absolute number is challenging. This protocol describes a method to easily identify and evaluate synapses in hippocampal rodent slices using immunofluorescence microscopy. It includes a three-step procedure to evaluate synapses in high-quality confocal microscopy images by analyzing the co-localization of pre- and postsynaptic proteins in hippocampal slices. It also explains how the analysis is performed and gives representative examples from both excitatory and inhibitory synapses. This protocol provides a solid foundation for the analysis of synapses and can be applied to any research investigating the structure and function of the brain.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Synapses / physiology