Ultramicroscopy: three-dimensional visualization of neuronal networks in the whole mouse brain
Visualizing entire neuronal networks for analysis in the intact brain has been impossible up to now. Techniques like computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) do not yield cellular resolution, and mechanical slicing procedures are insufficient to achieve high-resolution reconstructions in three dimensions. Here we present an approach that allows imaging of whole fixed mouse brains. We modified 'ultramicroscopy' by combining it with a special procedure to clear tissue. We show that this new technique allows optical sectioning of fixed mouse brains with cellular resolution and can be used to detect single GFP-labeled neurons in excised mouse hippocampi. We obtained three-dimensional (3D) images of dendritic trees and spines of populations of CA1 neurons in isolated hippocampi. Also in fruit flies and in mouse embryos, we were able to visualize details of the anatomy by imaging autofluorescence. Our method is ideally suited for high-throughput phenotype screening of transgenic mice and thus will benefit the investigation of disease models.