Detailed three-dimensional visualization of resilin in the exoskeleton of arthropods using confocal laser scanning microscopy


Jan Michels, Department of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Institute of Zoology, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Am Botanischen Garten 1-9, D-24118 Kiel, Germany. Tel: +49-431-880-4511; fax: +49-431-880-1389; e-mail:


Resilin is a rubber-like protein found in the exoskeleton of arthropods. It often contributes large proportions to the material of certain structures in movement systems. Accordingly, the knowledge of the presence and distribution of resilin is essential for the understanding of the functional morphology of these systems. Because of its specific autofluorescence, resilin can be effectively visualized using fluorescence microscopy. However, the respective excitation maximum is in the UV range, which is not covered by the lasers available in most of the modern commercial confocal laser scanning microscopes. The goal of this study was to test the potential of confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) in combination with a 405 nm laser to visualize and analyse the presence and distribution of resilin in arthropod exoskeletons. The results clearly show that all resilin-dominated structures, which were visualized successfully using wide-field fluorescence microscopy (WFM) and a ‘classical’ UV excitation, could also be visualized efficiently with the proposed CLSM method. Furthermore, with the application of additional laser lines CLSM turned out to be very appropriate for studying differences in the material composition within arthropod exoskeletons in great detail. As CLSM has several advantages over WFM with respect to detailed morphological imaging, the application of the proposed CLSM method may reveal new information about the micromorphology and material composition of resilin-dominated exoskeleton structures leading to new insights into the functional morphology and biomechanics of arthropods.