Versatile genetic paintbrushes: Brainbow technologies

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Advances in labeling technologies are instrumental to study the developmental mechanisms that control organ formation and function at the cellular level. Until recently, genetic tools relied on the expression of single markers to visualize individual cells or lineages in developing and adult animals. Exploiting the expanding color palette of fluorescent proteins and the power of site-specific recombinases in rearranging DNA fragments, the development of Brainbow strategies in mice made it possible to stochastically label many cells in different colors within the same sample. Over the past years, these pioneering approaches have been adapted for other experimental model organisms, including Drosophila melanogaster, zebrafish, and chicken. Balancing the distinct requirements of single cell and clonal analyses, adjustments were made that both enhance and expand the functionality of these tools. Multicolor cell labeling techniques have been successfully applied in studies analyzing the cellular components of neural circuits and other tissues, and the compositions and interactions of lineages. While being continuously refined, Brainbow technologies have thus found a firm place in the genetic toolboxes of developmental and neurobiologists.




Richier, B., & Salecker, I. (2015). Versatile genetic paintbrushes: Brainbow technologies. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology, 4(2), 161–180.

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