Electrophoresis of polar fluorescent tracers through the nerve sheath labels neuronal populations for anatomical and functional imaging
The delivery of tracers into populations of neurons is essential to visualize their anatomy and analyze their function. In some model systems genetically-targeted expression of fluorescent proteins is the method of choice; however, these genetic tools are not available for most organisms and alternative labeling methods are very limited. Here we describe a new method for neuronal labelling by electrophoretic dye delivery from a suction electrode directly through the neuronal sheath of nerves and ganglia in insects. Polar tracer molecules were delivered into the locust auditory nerve without destroying its function, simultaneously staining peripheral sensory structures and central axonal projections. Local neuron populations could be labelled directly through the surface of the brain, and in-vivo optical imaging of sound-evoked activity was achieved through the electrophoretic delivery of calcium indicators. The method provides a new tool for studying how stimuli are processed in peripheral and central sensory pathways and is a significant advance for the study of nervous systems in non-model organisms.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/G018723/1)