Tract-tracing in the nervous system of vertebrates using horseradish peroxidase and its conjugates: tracers, chromogens and stabilization for light and electron microscopy

JJL van der Want*, J Klooster, BN Cardozo, H de Weerd, RSB Liem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Surprisingly the first generation of tract-tracing techniques based on intra-axonal transport, that is the methods utilizing the uptake and transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP), still rank among the most widely used neuroanatomical tracing techniques. The success of these methods can be ascribed to several characteristics. They are fast and easy to implement, Complicated injection apparatus is unnecessary. The reaction products are visualized through simple histochemical reactions, and they are permanent or can be stabilized into permanency. Most usefully, the reaction products are visible in the light and electron microscopes.

HRP (mel. wt. 44 kDa) is extracted from the roots of the horseradish plant (Cochlearia armoracia L.), Uptake of HRP into cells occurs via a passive process of endocytosis [3]. Since lectins like wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) and bacterial toxin fragments (subunit B of cholera toxin (CTB)) [17,32,34] strongly induce active, receptor-mediated uptake mechanisms, conjugates of these substances with HRP have been successfully applied in sensitive tract-tracing [4,8,34,35]

HRP and its conjugates are transported both in anterograde and retrograde direction [19,20]. Retrograde transport occurs in small vesicles that are incorporated in lysosome-like vacuoles and in the Golgi apparatus. These vesicles differ in membrane propel-ties from the anterogradely transported HRP vesicles [3,4,17]. The retrogradely transported vesicles tend to fuse and thus accumulate HRP at high densities, facilitating the visibility of the final reaction product. The anterogradely transported HRP does not accumulate directly in lysosome-like bodies and is distributed diffusely and therefore often requires specific visualization methods [5,8,10,12,31]. HRP and WGA-HRP may therefore be used in anterograde and retrograde transneuronal (multineuron) transport studies [15,19]. Even in fixed material, labeling through diffusion of HRP can provide details on neural connections [18].

Visualization of transported HRP is achieved by means of using the oxidative enzymatic activity of HRP to precipitate a chromogen according to the following reaction:

HRP + H2O2 reversible arrow [HRP.H2O2]

[HRP.H2O2] + (chromogen)H-2 reversible arrow HRP + 2H(2)O(2)

+ chromogen precipitate

The final reaction product may be soluble in buffer or ethanol and may require stabilization to prevent fading. In this protocol we discuss the widely used chromogens 3,3'-diaminobenzidine tetrahydrochloride (DAB), 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB), benzidine dihydrochloride (BDHC) and p-phenylenediamine dihydrochloride with pyrocatechol (PPD-PC). Other possible chromogens, not discussed here, are 4-chloro-1-naphthol (4C1N), 3-amino-9-ethylcarbazole (AEC) and o-phenylenediamine (OPD). The visualization of the reaction product can be further improved by intensification with metal salts. At the light microscopic level (LM) this intensification enables color differentiation between distinct markers [1,14,23].

In the present protocol we provide an up-co-date guideline for the application of HRP and its conjugates in tracing with special emphasis on electron microscopic (EM) visualization. Some modifications for stabilization and of metal intensification to enhance visibility are incorporated in conjunction with specific methods for multiple labeling in combined tract-tracing experiments. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research protocols
Volume1
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug-1997

Keywords

  • neuroanatomical tracing
  • uptake and transport
  • retrograde tracing
  • histochemistry
  • neuroanatomy
  • axonal labeling
  • WHEAT-GERM-AGGLUTININ
  • TMB REACTION-PRODUCT
  • CHOLERA-TOXIN
  • TETRAMETHYL BENZIDINE
  • RETROGRADE TRANSPORT
  • SUPERIOR SENSITIVITY
  • DIAMINOBENZIDINE DAB
  • NEURONAL TRANSPORT
  • VISUAL-SYSTEM
  • WGA-HRP

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