Cortical Column and Whole Brain Imaging of Neural Circuits with Molecular Contrast and Nanoscale Resolution

Ruixuan Gao, Shoh M Asano, Srigokul Upadhyayula, Igor Pisarev, Daniel E Milkie, Tsung-Li Liu, Ved Singh, Austin Graves, Grace H Huynh, Yongxin Zhao, John Bogovic, Jennifer Colonell, Carolyn M Ott, Christopher Zugates, Susan Tappan, Alfredo Rodriguez, Kishore R Mosaliganti, Sean G Megason, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Adam Hantman, Gerald M Rubin, Tom Kirchhausen, Stephan Saalfeld, Yoshinori Aso, Edward S Boyden, Eric Betzig

Combined expansion and lattice light sheet microscopy enables high
speed, nanoscale molecular imaging of neural circuits over large volumes.

Optical and electron microscopy have made tremendous inroads in understanding the complexity of the brain, but the former offers insufficient resolution to reveal subcellular details and the latter lacks the throughput and molecular contrast to visualize specific molecular constituents over mm-scale or larger dimensions. We combined expansion microscopy and lattice light sheet microscopy to image the nanoscale spatial relationships between proteins across the thickness of the mouse cortex or the entire Drosophila brain, including synaptic proteins at dendritic spines, myelination along axons, and presynaptic densities at dopaminergic neurons in every fly neuropil domain. The technology should enable statistically rich, large scale studies of neural development, sexual dimorphism, degree of stereotypy, and structural correlations to behavior or neural activity, all with molecular contrast.