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J Histochem Cytochem. 1996 Jun;44(6):559-69.

Semi-automated positional analysis using laser scanning microscopy of cells transfected in a regenerating newt limb.

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, London, United Kingdom.


Limb regeneration in urodele amphibians such as the newt is a key system for investigating the positional identity of cells. The regenerate arises locally from blastemal cells, mesenchymal progenitors that normally give rise to structures distal to the amputation plane but which can be respecified (proximalized) by treatment with retinoic acid (RA) such that proximal structures are formed. To establish an assay for positional identity, cells of distal and RA-treated distal blastemas are labeled by transfection with an alkaline phosphatase marker gene using particle bombardment (biolistics). After grafting the distal blastema to a proximal stump, a context known as intercalary regeneration, the proximodistal distribution of labeled cells in the resulting regenerate is an index of positional identity. We use enzyme-labeled fluorescence (ELF) in conjunction with laser scanning microscopy to detect transfected cells within a section of the entire regenerate. A semi-automated analysis of the positional distribution of marked cells along the proximal-distal axis demonstrates that cells from both distal and RA-treated blastemas contribute to the regenerate. This procedure provides an efficient and accurate tool for positional analysis of transfected cells, and should be applicable for studying genes that play a role in specifying cell position during morphogenesis.

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