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Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2013 Oct 1;2013(10):961-9. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot078154.

Structure-function analysis of genetically defined neuronal populations.


Morphological and functional classification of individual neurons is a crucial aspect of the characterization of neuronal networks. Systematic structural and functional analysis of individual neurons is now possible using transgenic mice with genetically defined neurons that can be visualized in vivo or in brain slice preparations. Genetically defined neurons are useful for studying a particular class of neurons and also for more comprehensive studies of the neuronal content of a network. Specific subsets of neurons can be identified by fluorescence imaging of enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) or another fluorophore expressed under the control of a cell-type-specific promoter. The advantages of such genetically defined neurons are not only their homogeneity and suitability for systematic descriptions of networks, but also their tremendous potential for cell-type-specific manipulation of neuronal networks in vivo. This article describes a selection of procedures for visualizing and studying the anatomy and physiology of genetically defined neurons in transgenic mice. We provide information about basic equipment, reagents, procedures, and analytical approaches for obtaining three-dimensional (3D) cell morphologies and determining the axonal input and output of genetically defined neurons. We exemplify with genetically labeled cortical neurons, but the procedures are applicable to other brain regions with little or no alterations.

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