Five-colour in vivo imaging of neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans



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    1. Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Jahnstr. 29, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
      Harald Hutter. Fax: +49 6221 486273; e-mail:
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Harald Hutter. Fax: +49 6221 486273; e-mail:


In the last few years variants of the ‘green fluorescent protein’ (GFP) with different spectral properties have been generated. This has greatly increased the number of possible applications for these fluorochromes in cell biology. The significant overlap of the excitation and emission spectra of the different GFP variants imposes constraints on the number of variants that can be used simultaneously in a single sample. In particular, the two brightest variants, GFP and YFP, are difficult to separate spectrally. This study shows that GFP and YFP can be readily separated with little spectral overlap (cross-talk) with the use of a confocal microscope equipped with an acusto-optical beam splitter and freely adjustable emission windows. Under optimal recording conditions cross-talk is less than 10%. Together with two other fluorescent proteins and the lipophilic dye DiD a total of five different colours can now be used simultaneously to label in vivo distinct anatomical structures such as neurons and their processes. Spatial resolution of the confocal microscope is sufficient to resolve the relative position of labelled axons within a single axon bundle. The use of five distinct marker dyes allows the in vivo analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system at unprecedented resolution and richness in detail at the light microscopic level.