Astrocytes are essential components of neural circuits. They tile the entire central nervous system (CNS) and are involved in a variety of functions, which include neurotransmitter clearance, ion regulation, synaptic modulation, metabolic support to neurons, and blood flow regulation. Astrocytes are complex cells that have a soma, several major branches, and numerous fine processes that contact diverse cellular elements within the neuropil. In order to assess the morphology of astrocytes, it is necessary to have a reliable and reproducible method to visualize their structure. We report a reliable protocol to perform intracellular iontophoresis of astrocytes using fluorescent Lucifer yellow (LY) dye in lightly fixed brain tissue from adult mice. This method has several features that are useful to characterize astrocyte morphology. It allows for three-dimensional reconstruction of individual astrocytes, which is useful to perform morphological analyses on different aspects of their structure. Immunohistochemistry together with LY iontophoresis can also be utilized to understand the interaction of astrocytes with different components of nervous system and to evaluate the expression of proteins within the labelled astrocytes. This protocol can be implemented in a variety of mouse models of CNS disorders to rigorously examine astrocyte morphology with light microscopy. LY iontophoresis provides an experimental approach to evaluate astrocyte structure, especially in the context of injury or disease where these cells are proposed to undergo significant morphological changes.
- Central Nervous System Diseases/pathology