Biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) has been used frequently for both anterograde and retrograde pathway tracing in the central nervous system. Typically, BDA labels axons and cell somas in sufficient detail to identify their topographical location accurately. However, BDA labeling often has proved to be inadequate to resolve the fine structural details of axon arbors or the dendrites of neurons at a distance from the site of BDA injection. To overcome this limitation, we varied several experimental parameters associated with the BDA labeling of neurons in the adult rat brain in order to improve the sensitivity of the method. Specifically, we compared the effect on labeling sensitivity of: (a) using 3,000 or 10,000 MW BDA; (b) injecting different volumes of BDA; (c) co-injecting BDA with NMDA; and (d) employing various post-injection survival times. Following the extracellular injection of BDA into the visual cortex, labeled cells and axons were observed in both cortical and thalamic areas of all animals studied. However, the detailed morphology of axon arbors and distal dendrites was evident only under optimal conditions for BDA labeling that take into account the: molecular weight of the BDA used, concentration and volume of BDA injected, post-injection survival time, and toning of the resolved BDA with gold and silver. In these instances, anterogradely labeled axons and retrogradely labeled dendrites were resolved in fine detail, approximating that which can be achieved with intracellularly injected compounds such as biocytin or fluorescent dyes. © 2012 Ling et al.
Ling, C., Hendrickson, M. L., & Kalil, R. E. (2012). Resolving the Detailed Structure of Cortical and Thalamic Neurons in the Adult Rat Brain with Refined Biotinylated Dextran Amine Labeling. PLoS ONE, 7(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045886