We previously described X-ray histotomography, a high-resolution, non-destructive form of X-ray microtomography (micro-CT) imaging customized for three-dimensional (3D), digital histology, allowing quantitative, volumetric tissue and organismal phenotyping (Ding et al., 2019). Here, we have combined micro-CT with a novel application of ionic silver staining to characterize melanin distribution in whole zebrafish larvae. The resulting images enabled whole-body, computational analyses of regional melanin content and morphology. Normalized micro-CT reconstructions of silver-stained fish consistently reproduced pigment patterns seen by light microscopy, and further allowed direct quantitative comparisons of melanin content across wild-type and mutant samples, including subtle phenotypes not previously noticed. Silver staining of melanin for micro-CT provides proof-of-principle for whole-body, 3D computational phenomic analysis of a specific cell type at cellular resolution, with potential applications in other model organisms and melanocytic neoplasms. Advances such as this in whole-organism, high-resolution phenotyping provide superior context for studying the phenotypic effects of genetic, disease, and environmental variables.
Keywords: 3D imaging; cell biology; developmental biology; melanin; micro-CT; pigmentation; silver staining; whole-organism phenomics; zebrafish.
© 2021, Katz et al.