Visualizing the Node and Notochordal Plate In Gastrulating Mouse Embryos Using Scanning Electron Microscopy and Whole Mount Immunofluorescence

J Vis Exp. 2018 Nov 6;(141). doi: 10.3791/58321.


The post-implantation mouse embryo undergoes major shape changes after the initiation of gastrulation and morphogenesis. A hallmark of morphogenesis is the formation of the transient organizers, the node and notochordal plate, from cells that have passed through the primitive streak. The proper formation of these signaling centers is essential for the development of the body plan and techniques to visualize them are of high interest to mouse developmental biologists. The node and notochordal plate lie on the ventral surface of gastrulating mouse embryos around embryonic day (E) 7.5 of development. The node is a cup-shaped structure whose cells possess a single slender cilium each. The proper subcellular localization and rotation of the cilia in the node pit determines left-right asymmetry. The notochordal plate cells also possess single cilia albeit shorter than those of the node cells. The notochordal plate forms the notochord which acts as an important signaling organizer for somitogenesis and neural patterning. Because the cells of the node and notochordal plate are transiently present on the surface and possess cilia, they can be visualized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Among other techniques used to visualize these structures at the cellular level is whole mount immunofluorescence (WMIF) using the antibodies against the proteins that are highly expressed in the node and notochordal plate. In this report, we describe our optimized protocols to perform SEM and WMIF of the node and notochordal plate in developing mouse embryos to help in the assessment of tissue shape and cellular organization in wild-type and gastrulation mutant embryos.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods*
  • Gastrulation / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods*
  • Notochord / growth & development*