A versatile means of intracellular labeling: injection of biocytin and its detection with avidin conjugates

J Neurosci Methods. 1988 Aug;25(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/0165-0270(88)90114-8.


Biocytin is a biotin-lysine complex of low molecular weight containing about 65% biotin, which retains a high affinity for avidin. Since the latter molecule has been conjugated to several histochemical markers, the use of biocytin as an intracellular marker was investigated. Electrodes were filled with a solution of 4-6% biocytin dissolved in 0.5 M KCl and 0.05 M Tris buffer, pH 7-7.6. Neurons were recorded intracellularly in the supraoptic nucleus of an explant preparation of the rat supraoptico-neurohypophysial system and injected for 1-20 min with either hyperpolarizing or depolarizing current. Following variable recovery times, the explants were fixed in either 10% formalin or 4% paraformaldehyde overnight, sectioned on a vibratome, and incubated with the avidin-biotin complex (ABC) or avidin which had been conjugated to fluorescein, rhodamine, Texas Red or horseradish peroxidase and containing 1% Triton-X 100. A high percentage of injected neurons were recovered using each of the labels with about equal success. Both negative or positive current injection could be used with little electrode clogging. Labeling with fluorescent conjugates was qualitatively similar to that of Lucifer Yellow, whereas labeling with avidin coupled to horseradish peroxidase or with ABC was qualitatively similar to filling neurons directly with horseradish peroxidase. The advantages of this technique are the ease of injection of biocytin and the versatility in allowing the investigator to choose among light-emitting and light-absorbing images.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avidin / analysis*
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Lysine / analysis
  • Male
  • Neurons / analysis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / analysis*


  • Avidin
  • biocytin
  • Lysine