The structural organization of the brain is important for normal brain function and is critical to understand in order to evaluate changes that occur during disease processes. Three-dimensional (3D) imaging of the mouse brain is necessary to appreciate the spatial context of structures within the brain. In addition, the small scale of many brain structures necessitates resolution at the ∼10 μm scale. 3D optical imaging techniques, such as optical projection tomography (OPT), have the ability to image intact large specimens (1 cm(3)) with ∼5 μm resolution. In this work we assessed the potential of autofluorescence optical imaging methods, and specifically OPT, for phenotyping the mouse brain. We found that both specimen size and fixation methods affected the quality of the OPT image. Based on these findings we developed a specimen preparation method to improve the images. Using this method we assessed the potential of optical imaging for phenotyping. Phenotypic differences between wild-type male and female mice were quantified using computer-automated methods. We found that optical imaging of the endogenous autofluorescence in the mouse brain allows for 3D characterization of neuroanatomy and detailed analysis of brain phenotypes. This will be a powerful tool for understanding mouse models of disease and development and is a technology that fits easily within the workflow of biology and neuroscience labs.
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