A Tissue Clearing Method for Neuronal Imaging from Mesoscopic to Microscopic Scales

J Vis Exp. 2022 May 10;(183). doi: 10.3791/63941.


A detailed protocol is provided here to visualize neuronal structures from mesoscopic to microscopic levels in brain tissues. Neuronal structures ranging from neural circuits to subcellular neuronal structures are visualized in mouse brain slices optically cleared with ScaleSF. This clearing method is a modified version of ScaleS and is a hydrophilic tissue clearing method for tissue slices that achieves potent clearing capability as well as a high-level of preservation of fluorescence signals and structural integrity. A customizable three dimensional (3D)-printed imaging chamber is designed for reliable mounting of cleared brain tissues. Mouse brains injected with an adeno-associated virus vector carrying enhanced green fluorescent protein gene were fixed with 4% paraformaldehyde and cut into slices of 1-mm thickness with a vibrating tissue slicer. The brain slices were cleared by following the clearing protocol, which include sequential incubations in three solutions, namely, ScaleS0 solution, phosphate buffer saline (-), and ScaleS4 solution, for a total of 10.5-14.5 h. The cleared brain slices were mounted on the imaging chamber and embedded in 1.5% agarose gel dissolved in ScaleS4D25(0) solution. The 3D image acquisition of the slices was carried out using a confocal laser scanning microscope equipped with a multi-immersion objective lens of a long working distance. Beginning with mesoscopic neuronal imaging, we succeeded in visualizing fine subcellular neuronal structures, such as dendritic spines and axonal boutons, in the optically cleared brain slices. This protocol would facilitate understanding of neuronal structures from circuit to subcellular component scales.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain* / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Neurons*