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posted on 2018-03-29, 04:06 authored by Ranhua Xiong, Peter Verstraelen, Jo Demeester, Andre G. Skirtach, Jean-Pierre Timmermans, Stefaan C. De Smedt, Winnok H. De Vos, Kevin Braeckmans

Neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by subtle alterations in synaptic connections and perturbed neuronal network functionality. A hallmark of neuronal connectivity is the presence of dendritic spines, micron-sized protrusions of the dendritic shaft that compartmentalize single synapses to fine-tune synaptic strength. However, accurate quantification of spine density and morphology in mature neuronal networks is hampered by the lack of targeted labeling strategies. To resolve this, we have optimized a method to deliver cell-impermeable compounds into selected cells based on Spatially resolved NAnoparticle-enhanced Photoporation (SNAP). We show that SNAP enables efficient labeling of selected individual neurons and their spines in dense cultured networks without affecting short-term viability. We compare SNAP with widely used spine labeling techniques such as the application of lipophilic dyes and genetically encoded fluorescent markers. Using SNAP, we demonstrate a time-dependent increase in spine density in healthy cultures as well as a reduction in spine density after chemical mimicry of hypoxia. Since the sparse labeling procedure can be automated using an intelligent acquisition scheme, SNAP holds promise for high-content screening campaigns of neuronal connectivity in the context of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.