Immunostaining of biocytin-filled and processed sections for neurochemical markers

Bogumila Swietek, Akshay Gupta, Archana Proddutur, Vijayalakshmi Santhakumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Electrophysiological recordings of cells using the patch clamp technique have allowed for the identification of different neuronal types based on firing patterns. The inclusion of biocytin/neurobiotin in the recording electrode permits post-hoc recovery of morphological details, which are necessary to determine the dendritic arborization and the regions targeted by the axons of the recorded neurons. However, given the presence of morphologically similar neurons with distinct neurochemical identities and functions, immunohistochemical staining for cell-type-specific proteins is essential to definitively identify neurons. To maintain network connectivity, brain sections for physiological recordings are prepared at a thickness of 300 µm or greater. However, this thickness often hinders immunohistological postprocessing due to issues with antibody penetration, necessitating the resectioning of the tissue. Resectioning of slices is a challenging art, often resulting in the loss of tissue and morphology of the cells from which electrophysiological data was obtained, rendering the data unusable. Since recovery of morphology would limit data loss and guide in the selection of neuronal markers, we have adopted a strategy of recovering cell morphology first, followed by secondary immunostaining. We introduce a practical approach to biocytin filling during physiological recordings and subsequent serial immunostaining for the recovery of morphology, followed by the restaining of sections to determine the neurochemical identity. We report that sections that were filled with biocytin, fixed with paraformaldehyde (PFA), stained, and coverslipped can be removed and restained with a second primary antibody days later. This restaining involves the removal of the coverslip, the washing of sections in a buffer solution, and the incubation of primary and secondary antibodies to reveal the neurochemical identity. The method is advantageous for eliminating data loss due to an inability to recover morphology and for narrowing down the neurochemical markers to be tested based on morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54880
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number118
StatePublished - Dec 31 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


  • Biocytin
  • Double labeling
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Issue 118
  • Morphology
  • Neurochemical marker
  • Neuroscience
  • Patch clamp


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