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Dev Neurobiol. 2009 Sep 1;69(10):674-88. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20735.

Rapid, long-term labeling of cells in the developing and adult rodent visual cortex using double-stranded adeno-associated viral vectors.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, USA.


Chronic in vivo imaging studies of the brain require a labeling method that is fast, long-lasting, efficient, nontoxic, and cell-type specific. Over the last decade, adeno-associated virus (AAV) has been used to stably express fluorescent proteins in neurons in vivo. However, AAV's main limitation for many studies (such as those of neuronal development) is the necessity of second-strand DNA synthesis, which delays peak transgene expression. The development of double-stranded AAV (dsAAV) vectors has overcome this limitation, allowing rapid transgene expression. Here, we have injected different serotypes (1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9) of a dsAAV vector carrying the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene into the developing and adult mouse visual cortex and characterized its expression. We observed labeling of both neurons and astrocytes with serotype-specific tropism. dsAAV-GFP labeling showed high levels of neuronal GFP expression as early as 2 days postinjection and as long as a month, surpassing conventional AAV's onset of expression and matching its longevity. Neurons labeled with dsAAV-GFP appeared structurally and electrophysiologically identical to nonlabeled neurons, suggesting that dsAAV-GFP is neither cytotoxic nor alters normal neuronal function. We also demonstrated that dsAAV-labeled cells can be imaged with subcellular resolution in vivo over multiple days. We conclude that dsAAV is an excellent vector for rapid labeling and long-term in vivo imaging studies of astrocytes and neurons on the single cell level within the developing and adult visual cortex.

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