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Nat Protoc. 2012 Jan 12;7(2):221-34. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2011.438.

Intravital multiphoton imaging of immune responses in the mouse ear skin.

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Singapore Immunology Network, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Biopolis, Singapore.


Multiphoton (MP) microscopy enables the direct in vivo visualization, with high spatial and temporal resolution, of fluorescently tagged immune cells, extracellular matrix and vasculature in tissues. This approach, therefore, represents a powerful alternative to traditional methods of assessing immune cell function in the skin, which are mainly based on flow cytometry and histology. Here we provide a step-by-step protocol describing experimental procedures for intravital MP imaging of the mouse ear skin, which can be easily adapted to address many specific skin-related biological questions. We demonstrate the use of this procedure by characterizing the response of neutrophils during cutaneous inflammation, which can be used to perform in-depth analysis of neutrophil behavior in the context of the skin microanatomy, including the epidermis, dermis and blood vessels. Such experiments are typically completed within 1 d, but as the procedures are minimally invasive, it is possible to perform longitudinal studies through repeated imaging.

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