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Isolation and RNA Extraction of Neurons, Macrophages and Microglia from Larval Zebrafish Brains

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere57431
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Apr 2018


To gain a detailed understanding of the role of different CNS cells during development or the establishment and progression of brain pathologies, it is important to isolate these cells without changing their gene expression profile. The zebrafish model provides a large number of transgenic fish lines in which specific cell types are labelled; for example neurons in the NBT:DsRed line or macrophages/microglia in the mpeg1:eGFP line. Furthermore, antibodies have been developed to stain specific cells, such as microglia with the 4C4 antibody. Here, we describe the isolation of neurons, macrophages and microglia from larval zebrafish brains. Central to this protocol is the avoidance of an enzymatic tissue digestion at 37 °C, which could modify cellular profiles. Instead a mechanical system of tissue homogenization at 4 °C is used. This protocol entails homogenization of brains into cell suspension, their immuno-staining and the isolation of neurons, macrophages and microglia by FACS. Afterwards, we extracted RNA from those cells and evaluated their quality/quantity. We managed to obtain RNA of high quality (RNA Integrity Number (RIN) > 7) to perform qPCR on macrophages/microglia and neurons, and transcriptomic analysis on microglia. This approach enables a better characterization of these cells, as well as a clearer understanding about their role in development and pathologies.

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