Ultrastructural characterization of neurons recorded intracellularly in vivo and injected with lucifer yellow: advantages of immunogold-silver vs. immunoperoxidase labeling

Microsc Res Tech. 1995 Apr 1;30(5):427-36. doi: 10.1002/jemt.1070300509.


Immunoperoxidase labeling of lucifer yellow provides a sensitive method for morphological characterization of neurons recorded intracellularly in vitro or in vivo. However, the reaction product is often so dense that it obscures ultrastructural details necessary for the analysis of synaptic contacts onto individually filled neurons. In the present study, we describe a silver intensification procedure using 1 nm gold labeling of lucifer yellow as an optimal means for immunocytochemically identifying single physiologically characterized neurons at the ultrastructural level. Single neurons in the frontal cortex of anesthetized rats were impaled in vivo and filled with lucifer yellow. The brains were then perfused with an acrolein fixative. Single vibratome sections through the recording site were reacted with a rabbit antibody directed against lucifer yellow followed by goat anti-rabbit 1 nm gold-labeled IgG and silver intensified. For comparison, additional sections were processed for immunoperoxidase detection of lucifer yellow. Labeled sections were processed for light microscopy or embedded in plastic for electron microscopy. The immunogold-silver label as well as peroxidase reaction product of lucifer yellow was readily detected in cell bodies, proximal and distal dendrites, and spines. However, in contrast to immunoperoxidase, the immunogold-silver reaction did not obscure subcellular organelles. Most importantly, the synaptic junctions formed by afferents to the filled neuron were more easily identifiable following the immunogold-silver procedure. This clear visualization of postsynaptic densities is essential for examining synaptic circuitry between afferents and physiologically characterized neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / ultrastructure*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques*
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Injections
  • Isoquinolines*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Isoquinolines
  • lucifer yellow