Two-color STED Microscopy of Living Synapses using a Single Laser-beam Pair

November 20, 2011

The advent of superresolution microscopy has opened up new research opportunities into dynamic processes at the nanoscale inside living biological specimens. This is particularly true for synapses, which are very small, highly dynamic, and embedded in brain tissue. Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, a recently developed laser-scanning technique, has been shown to be well suited for imaging living synapses in brain slices using yellow fluorescent protein as a single label. However, it would be highly desirable to be able to image presynaptic boutons and postsynaptic spines, which together form synapses, using two different fluorophores. As STED microscopy uses separate laser beams for fluorescence excitation and quenching, incorporation of multicolor imaging for STED is more difficult than for conventional light microscopy. Although two-color schemes exist for STED microscopy, these approaches have several drawbacks due to their complexity, cost, and incompatibility with common labeling strategies and fluorophores. Therefore, we set out to develop a straightforward method for two-color STED microscopy that permits the use of popular green-yellow fluorescent labels such as green fluorescent protein, yellow fluorescent protein, Alexa Fluor 488, and calcein green. Our new (to our knowledge) method is based on a single-excitation/STED laser-beam pair to simultaneously excite and quench pairs of these fluorophores, whose signals can be separated by spectral detection and linear unmixing. We illustrate the potential of this approach by two-color superresolution time-lapse imaging of axonal boutons and dendritic spines in living organotypic brain slices.

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Tønnesen J, Nadrigny F, Willig KI, Wedlich-Söldner R, Nägerl UV:
Two-color STED microscopy of living synapses using a single laser-beam pair

Biophys J. 16;101(10): 2545–52 (2011); doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.10.011. Epub 2011 Nov 15

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