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In vivo Measurement of the Mouse Pulmonary Endothelial Surface Layer

Published: February 22nd, 2013



1Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine

The endothelial glycocalyx/endothelial surface layer is ideally studied using intravital microscopy. Intravital microscopy is technically challenging in a moving organ such as the lung. We demonstrate how simultaneous brightfield and fluorescent microscopy may be used to estimate endothelial surface layer thickness in a freely-moving in vivo mouse lung.

The endothelial glycocalyx is a layer of proteoglycans and associated glycosaminoglycans lining the vascular lumen. In vivo, the glycocalyx is highly hydrated, forming a substantial endothelial surface layer (ESL) that contributes to the maintenance of endothelial function. As the endothelial glycocalyx is often aberrant in vitro and is lost during standard tissue fixation techniques, study of the ESL requires use of intravital microscopy. To best approximate the complex physiology of the alveolar microvasculature, pulmonary intravital imaging is ideally performed on a freely-moving lung. These preparations, however, typically suffer from extensive motion artifact. We demonstrate how closed-chest intravital microscopy of a freely-moving mouse lung can be used to measure glycocalyx integrity via ESL exclusion of fluorescently-labeled high molecular weight dextrans from the endothelial surface. This non-recovery surgical technique, which requires simultaneous brightfield and fluorescent imaging of the mouse lung, allows for longitudinal observation of the subpleural microvasculature without evidence of inducing confounding lung injury.

The endothelial glycocalyx is an extracellular layer of proteoglycans and associated glycosaminoglycans lining the vascular intima. In vivo, the glycocalyx is highly hydrated, forming a substantial endothelial surface layer (ESL) that regulates a variety of endothelial functions including fluid permeability1, neutrophil-endothelial adhesion2, and the mechanotransduction of fluid shear stress3.

Historically, the glycocalyx has been underappreciated due to its aberrance in cultured cell preparations4, 5 and its degradation during standard tissue fixation and processing6.....

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1. Preparation of Surgical Tubing, Vascular Catheters, Chest Wall Window

  1. Intravital microscopy stage. We custom-made a plexiglass stage upon which the anesthetized mouse lies during microscopy. This stage accommodates both a 15 cm by 10 cm flexible plastic cutting board (upon which the mouse lies during induction of anesthesia, tracheostomy placement, and venous catheterization) as well as a similarly-sized heating element (located underneath the cutting board).
  2. Mouse thorac.......

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The experimental approach described in steps 1-6 will allow capture of multiple frames of simultaneous DIC (brightfield) and fluorescent images. To determine ESL thickness, recorded images are reviewed by a blinded observer after completion of the experimental protocol. Using an in-focus frame, subpleural microvessels (< 20 μm diameter) are identified; at least 3 microvessels are typically found on a single frame (Figure 10). Using image analysis software (NIS Elements, Nikon), vascular wi.......

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Coincident with the expanding use of in vivo microscopy, there is increasing appreciation for both the substantial size of the ESL as well as its numerous contributions to vascular function. These emerging data, however, are primarily derived from studies of the systemic vasculature. Indeed, use of in vivo microscopy in the lung is technically challenging, given significant pulmonary and cardiac motion artifact.

Several recent technical advances have allowed for stabi.......

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We thank Drs. Arata Tabuchi and Wolfgang Kuebler (University of Toronto) for instruction regarding intravital microscopy. We thank Andrew Cahill (Nikon Instruments) for assistance in microscopy design and implementation. This work was funded by NIH/NHLBI grants P30 HL101295 and K08 HL105538 (to E.P.S.).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Name of Reagent
FITC-dextran (150 kDa) Sigma FD150S
TRITC-dextran (150 kDa) Sigma T1287
Streptavidin-coated fluorescent microspheres Bangs Laboratories CP01F/10428 Dragon Green fluorescence (similar to FITC)
Ketamine Moore Medical
Xylazine Moore Medical
Anti-ICAM-1 biotinylated antibody eBioscience Clone YN1/1.7.4 1:50 dilution
Isotype biotinylated antibody eBioscience IgG2b eB149/10H5 1:50 dilution
Mechanical ventilator Harvard Apparatus Inspira
Tracheostomy catheter Harvard Apparatus 730028
Electrocautery apparatus DRE Medical Valleylab SSE-2L
Bipolar cautery forceps Olsen Medical 10-1200I 9.9cm McPherson
Temperature control system World Precision Instruments ATC1000
Syringe pump Harvard Apparatus Pump 11 Elite
Microscope (widefield) Nikon LV-150
Microscope (confocal) Nikon A1R
Image splitter Photometrics DV2
CCD camera Photometrics CoolSNAP HQ2
Image processing software Nikon NIS Elements
Polyvinylidene membrane Kure Wrap
Circular cover slip Bellco 5CIR-1-BEL 5 mm, #1 thickness
Glue (cover slip to membrane) Pattex Flussig (liquid) For affixing cover slip to membrane
Glue (cover slip to mouse) Pattex Gel For attaching membrane to mouse
Surgical tubing Intramedic PE50, PE10
Suture Fisher 4:0 silk
Electric razor Oster 78997
Curved surgical forceps Roboz
Straight surgical forceps Roboz
Surgical scissors Roboz
Surgical microscissors Roboz
Surgical needle driver Roboz
Surgical tape Fisher
Kitchen sponges (cut into wedges) various

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