Col-F, a fluorescent probe for ex vivo confocal imaging of collagen and elastin in animal tissues



A new low-molecular-weight fluorescent probe, Col-F, that exhibits affinity to collagen and elastin, was used successfully in imaging of extracellular matrix in freshly excised animal tissues. Col-F readily penetrates between live cells into tissues and binds to fibers of collagen and elastin by a noncovalent mechanism. Fibers of collagen and elastin have been stained in a variety of tissues, including tendon, skeletal muscle, connective tissue, and arteries. Cells migrating in a Col-F-stained collagenous biomaterial were also imaged. No phototoxic effects were detected when live keratocytes were imaged in the in vitro culture in the presence of Col-F. In conclusion, Col-F provides a simple and convenient tool for fluorescence three-dimensional imaging of intricate collagenous and elastic structures in live and fixed animal tissues, as well as in collagen-containing biomaterials. © 2013 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry