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Genetic Manipulation of the Mouse Developing Hypothalamus through In utero Electroporation

Published: July 24th, 2013



1Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Heidelberg , 2Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal
* These authors contributed equally

Despite the functional and medical importance of the hypothalamus, in utero genetic manipulation of its development has rarely been attempted. We show a detailed procedure for in utero electroporation into the mouse hypothalamus and show representative results of total and partial (regional) hypothalamic transfection.

Genetic modification of specific regions of the developing mammalian brain is a very powerful experimental approach. However, generating novel mouse mutants is often frustratingly slow. It has been shown that access to the mouse brain developing in utero with reasonable post-operatory survival is possible. Still, results with this procedure have been reported almost exclusively for the most superficial and easily accessible part of the developing brain, i.e. the cortex. The thalamus, a narrower and more medial region, has proven more difficult to target. Transfection into deeper nuclei, especially those of the hypothalamus, is perhaps the most challenging and therefore very few results have been reported. Here we demonstrate a procedure to target the entire hypothalamic neuroepithelium or part of it (hypothalamic regions) for transfection through electroporation. The keys to our approach are longer narcosis times, injection in the third ventricle, and appropriate kind and positioning of the electrodes. Additionally, we show results of targeting and subsequent histological analysis of the most recessed hypothalamic nucleus, the mammillary body.

Genetic manipulation of the embryonic mouse brain is a preferred approach to learn about developmental regulation. The generation of mutant mouse lines however is slow and expensive. One powerful method to introduce specific genetic changes in developing neurons of the mammalian brain is in utero electroporation. Essentially, the technique consists of transfecting DNA into the embryonic brain neuroepithelium by means of electric pulses, then allowing the embryo to survive for a certain period of time, collect the brain and examine them for possible novel, informative phenotypes. In this way, the experimenter can test hypotheses almost immediately with....

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1. Preparation of DNA and Glass Micropipettes for Injection

  1. Good quality glass micropipettes are essential to reduce initial high abortion rate due to loss of amniotic fluid. The procedure to pull glass micropipettes has been well documented13,18,25. Use 1.2 mm diameter capillaries pulled in a conventional Sutter P-97 device with the settings P=500; Heat=300; Pull=40; Velocity=50; Time=50. Fit the puller with 3 mm "trough" filaments (Sutter Instrument FT330B). The 2 mm size filaments have yielded f.......

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Most hypothalamus neurons are born between E11.5 to E15.2, according to birth-dating analysis in the rat26 translated into the somewhat shorter mouse development27,28. The peak of hypothalamic neurogenesis is reached at E12.529-31. Accordingly, at the transfection age chosen for the present study (E12.5), a large proportion of hypothalamic neurons can be labeled at any given rostro-caudal level.

Analysis at E18.5 on thick vibratome-type sections (Figur.......

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About the anesthesia: Since in utero electroporation into the hypothalamus can be technically arduous and require longer narcosis times, we prefer to induce and maintain anesthesia through administration of a mixture of oxygen and isoflurane. In our experience, animals can remain suitably anaesthetized in this way for periods of up to one hour at least, the recovery of the mother is very fast, and embryo survival improved. Other approaches to anesthesia are also available. The most simple procedure consis.......

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This work was funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Acepromazine Sanofi GmbH   anesthetic
Isoflurane Baxter HDG9623 anesthetic
Ketamin Pharma GmbH   anesthetic
Fast Green Fluka 44715  
Rimadyl Pfizer   non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
Braunoderm Braun 3887138 povidone-iodine
Phosphate Buffer Saline PBS Gibco 14190  
Temgesic (buprenorphine) Essex Pharma   opioid analgesic
Eye Ointment Pan-Ophtal 7136926  
Xylazine Bayer    
Anaesthetic Device Komesaroff Mark-5 Medical Developments Australia ACN 004 903 682  
Capillary puller P-97 Sutter Instrument Co. P-97  
Compresstome Precisionary Instr. VF-300 Vibratome-type device
Confocal Microscope Zeiss LSM700  
Cryostat Leica CM3050S  
Electroporator Nepa Gene Co. Ltd. CUY21EDIT  
Electrode 1 Nepa Gene Co. Ltd. CUY550-10 Stainless Steel Needle Electrode, 10 mm-Tip, 0. 5 mm diam.
Electrode 2 Nepa Gene Co. Ltd. CUY700P4L Cover Round Platinum Plate 4 mm diameter
Fiberoptic cold light source Leica KL2500 LCD  
Glass capillaries Harvard Apparatus GC120T-15 1. 2 mm O.D. x 0. 94 mm I.D.
Glass bead sterilizer Fine Science Tools FST250  
Heating pad Harvard Apparatus py872-5272  
Injection device World Precision Instruments Pneumatic Pico Pump PV820  
Suture Thread Coated Vicryl Ethicon V4914 Peritoneal Suture
Suture Thr. Supramid Serag Wiessner TO07171L Skin Suture

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