Developmental Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 523 Views Feb 5, 2024

Vertebrate embryogenesis is a highly dynamic process involving coordinated cell and tissue movements that generate the final embryonic body plan. Many of these movements are difficult to image at high resolution because they occur deep within the embryo along the midline, causing light scattering and requiring longer working distances. Here, we present an explant-based method to image transverse cross sections of living zebrafish embryos. This method allows for the capture of all cell movements at high-resolution throughout the embryonic trunk, including hard-to-image deep tissues. This technique offers an alternative to expensive or computationally difficult microscopy methods.

Key features

• Generates intact zebrafish explants with minimal tissue disturbance.

• Allows for live imaging of deep tissues normally obscured by common confocal microscopy techniques.

• Immobilizes tissues for extended periods required for time-lapse imaging.

• Utilizes readily available reagents and tools, which can minimize the time and cost of the procedure.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 769 Views Jul 20, 2023

Immotile cilia of crown cells at the node of mouse embryos are required for sensing leftward fluid flow that gives rise to the breaking of left-right (L-R) symmetry. The flow-sensing mechanism has long remained elusive, mainly because of difficulties inherent in manipulating and precisely analyzing the cilium. Recent progress in optical microscopy and biophysical analysis has allowed us to study the mechanical signals involving primary cilia. In this study, we used high-resolution imaging with mechanical modeling to assess the membrane tension in a single cilium. Optical tweezers, a technique used to trap sub-micron-sized particles with a highly focused laser beam, allowed us to manipulate individual cilia. Super-resolution microscopy allowed us to discern the precise localization of ciliary proteins. Using this protocol, we provide a method for applying these techniques to cilia in mouse embryonic nodes. This method is widely applicable to the determination of mechanical signals in other cilia.

0 Q&A 1113 Views Jul 20, 2023

Embryonic development is a complex process integrating cell fate decisions and morphogenesis in a spatiotemporally controlled manner. Previous studies with model organisms laid the foundation of our knowledge on post-implantation development; however, studying mammalian embryos at this stage is a difficult and laborious process. Early attempts to recapitulate mammalian development in vitro begun with embryoid bodies (EBs), in which aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) were shown to differentiate into spatially arranged germ layers. A more revised version of EBs, gastruloids, improved the germ layer differentiation efficiency and demonstrated cell fate patterning on multiple axes. However, gastruloids lack anterior neural progenitors that give rise to brain tissues in the embryo. Here, we report a novel culture protocol to coax mESCs into post-implantation epiblast-like (EPI) aggregates in high throughput on bioengineered microwell arrays. We show that upon inhibition of the Wnt signaling pathway, EPI aggregates establish an extended axial patterning, leading to co-derivation of anterior neural progenitors and posterior tissues. Our approach is amenable to large-scale studies aimed at identifying novel regulators of gastrulation and anterior neural development that is currently out of reach with existing embryoid models. This work should contribute to the advancement of the nascent field of synthetic embryology, opening up exciting perspectives for various applications of pluripotent stem cells in disease modeling and tissue engineering.

Key features

• A new gastruloid culture system to model post-implantation mouse embryonic development in vitro

• High-throughput formation of epiblast-like aggregates on hydrogel microwells

• Builds upon conventional gastruloid cultures and provides insight into the role of Wnt signaling for the formation of anterior neural tissues

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 295 Views Jul 5, 2023

The trachea tube is the exclusive route to allow gas exchange between the external environment and the lungs. Recent studies have shown the critical role of mesenchymal cells in tracheal tubulogenesis. Improved methods for studying the dynamics of the tracheal mesenchyme development are needed to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms during tracheal tubulogenesis. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for a systematic analysis of tracheal tube development to enable observing tracheal smooth muscle (SM) and cartilage ring formation. We describe immunostaining, confocal and stereomicroscopy imaging, and quantitative methods to study the process of tracheal SM and cartilage ring development, including SM cell alignment, polarization, and changes in cell shape as well as mesenchymal condensation. The technologies and approaches described here not only improve analysis of the patterning of the developing trachea but also help uncover the mechanisms underlying airway disease. This protocol also provides a useful technique to analyze cell organization, polarity, and nuclear shape in other organ systems.

0 Q&A 408 Views Jul 5, 2023

Cellular protrusions are fundamental structures for a wide variety of cellular behaviors, such as cell migration, cell–cell interaction, and signal reception. Visualization of cellular protrusions in living cells can be achieved by labeling of cytoskeletal actin with genetically encoded fluorescent probes. Here, we describe a detailed experimental procedure to visualize cellular protrusions in medaka embryos, which consists of the following steps: preparation of Actin-Chromobody-GFP and α-bungarotoxin mRNAs for actin labeling and immobilization of the embryo, respectively; microinjection of the mRNAs into embryos in a mosaic fashion to sparsely label individual cells; removal of the hard chorion, which hampers observation; and visualization of cellular protrusions in the embryo with a confocal microscope. Overall, our protocol provides a simple method to reveal cellular protrusions in vivo by confocal microscopy.

0 Q&A 836 Views Jun 5, 2023

Chronic manipulation in neonatal mice is a technical challenge, but it can achieve greater insights into how mice develop immediately after birth. However, these manipulations can often result in maternal rejection and consequently serious malnourishment and occasional death. Here, we describe a method to effectively hand rear mice to develop normally during the first post-natal week. In our experiments, we were able to negate the feeding deficiencies of anosmic mutant mice when compared to littermate controls. As a result, the delayed neuronal remodeling seen in maternally reared mutant mice was not seen in the hand-reared mutant mice. This methodology is user intensive but can be useful for a broad range of studies either requiring many interventions or one intervention that can result in maternal rejection or being outcompeted by healthy littermates.

0 Q&A 392 Views May 5, 2023

X-ray computed microtomography (µCT) is a powerful tool to reveal the 3D structure of tissues and organs. Compared with the traditional sectioning, staining, and microscopy image acquisition, it allows a better understanding of the morphology and a precise morphometric analysis. Here, we describe a method for 3D visualization and morphometric analysis by µCT scanning of the embryonic heart of iodine-stained E15.5 mouse embryos.

0 Q&A 776 Views May 5, 2023

Visualization of cell structure with fluorescent dye for characterizing cell size, shape, and arrangement is a common method to study tissue morphology and morphogenesis. In order to observe shoot apical meristem (SAM) in Arabidopsis thaliana by laser scanning confocal microscopy, we modified the pseudo-Schiff propidium iodide staining method by adding a series solution treatment to stain the deep cells. The advantage of this method is mainly reflected by the direct observation of the clearly bounded cell arrangement and the typical three-layer cells in SAM without the traditional tissue slicing.

0 Q&A 590 Views Apr 5, 2023

The developing cerebral cortex of mammals is generated from nascent pyramidal neurons, which radially migrate from their birthplace in the ventral part of the neural tube to the cortical surface. Subtle aberrations in this process may cause significant changes in cortical structure and lead to developmental neurological disorders. During pyramidal neuron migration, we recently showed that the migrating neuron, which bypasses its last preceding neuron, is critical for its proper positioning and contributes to cerebral cortex thickness. Studying this process requires an imaging system with single-cell resolution and a prolonged observation window. Therefore, we built a system to maintain an organotypic brain slice on the stage of a Leica SP5 confocal microscope, which facilitated high-resolution imaging over a 12-hour time-lapse observation period of cellular events during neuron migration. Here, we share our protocol along with guidelines for overcoming difficulties during the setup. This protocol facilitates the observation of, but is not limited to, neurodevelopmental and pathological processes occurring during neuron migration.

0 Q&A 306 Views Mar 20, 2023

Adult stem cells not only maintain tissue homeostasis but are also critical for tissue regeneration during injury. Skeletal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that can even generate bones and cartilage upon transplantation to an ectopic site. This tissue generation process requires essential stem cell characteristics including self-renewal, engraftment, proliferation, and differentiation in the microenvironment. Our research team has successfully characterized and isolated skeletal stem cells (SSCs) from the cranial suture called suture stem cells (SuSCs), which are responsible for craniofacial bone development, homeostasis, and injury-induced repair. To assess their stemness features, we have demonstrated the use of kidney capsule transplantation for an in vivo clonal expansion study. The results show bone formation at a single-cell level, thus permitting a faithful assessment of stem cell numbers at the ectopic site. The sensitivity in assessing stem cell presence permits using kidney capsule transplantation to determine stem cell frequency by limiting dilution assay. Here, we described detailed protocols for kidney capsule transplantation and limiting dilution assay. These methods are extremely valuable both for the evaluation of skeletogenic ability and the determination of stem cell frequency.

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