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Methods Cell Biol. 1999;59:179-204.

Confocal microscopic analysis of morphogenetic movements.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-1800, USA.

Abstract

Confocal microscopy is an excellent means of imaging cellular dynamics within living zebrafish embryos because it provides a means of optically sectioning tissues that have been labeled with specific fluorescent probe molecules. In order to study genetically encoded patterns of cell behavior that are involved in the formation of germ layers and various organ primordia, it is possible to vitally stain an entire zebrafish embryo with one or more fluorescent probe molecules and then examine morphogenetic behaviors within specific cell populations of interest using time-lapse confocal microscopy. There are two major advantages to this "bulk-labeling" approach: (1) the applied fluorescent probe (a contrast-enhancing agent) allows all of the cells within an intact zebrafish embryo to be rapidly stained; (2) the morphogenetic movements and shape changes of hundreds of cells can then be examined simultaneously in vivo using time-lapse confocal microscopy. The neutral fluorophore Bodipy 505/515 and its sphingolipid-derivative Bodipy-C5-ceramide are particularly useful, nonteratogenic vital stains for imaging cellular dynamics in living zebrafish embryos. These photostable fluorescent probes (when applied with 2% DMSO) percolate through the enveloping layer epithelium of the embryo, and localize in yolk-containing cytoplasm and interstitial space, respectively, owing to their different physiochemical characteristics. Bodipy-ceramide, for instance, remains highly localized to interstitial fluid once it accumulates within a zebrafish embryo, allowing the boundaries of deep cells to be clearly discerned throughout the entire embryo. Through the use of either of these fluorescent vital stains, it is possible to rapidly convert a developing zebrafish embryo into a strongly fluorescent specimen that is ideally suited for time-lapse confocal imaging. For zebrafish embryos whose deep cells have been intentionally "scatter-labeled" with fluorescent lineage tracers (e.g., fluorescent dextrans), sequential confocal z-series (i.e., focus-throughs) of the embryo can be rendered into uniquely informative 3D time-lapse movies using readily available image-processing programs. Similar time-lapse imaging, combined with rapidly advancing computer-assisted visualization techniques, may soon be applied to study the dynamics of GFP-fusion proteins in vivo, as well as other types of synthetic probe molecules designed to reveal the cytological processes associated with the patterning and morphological transformations of the zebrafish's embryonic tissues.

PMID:
9891361
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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