Imaging and reconstruction of developing neurons require cells that are labeled in a way that distinguishes them from their neighbors. This can be achieved with ballistic labeling, which refers to the delivery of a cell label by means of carrier particles (tungsten or gold) propelled from a pressurized gun. Ballistic delivery can reach many dispersed cells in one shot and can deploy a wide variety of cell markers to neurons in diverse preparations. The three most commonly used types of ballistic labels are carbocyanine dyes, dextran-conjugated fluorescent markers, and DNA plasmids. The primary advantage of ballistic labeling is that multiple dispersed cells can be labeled quickly in live or fixed tissue. This article describes a protocol for coating tungsten particles with dextran-conjugated fluorescent dyes or ion indicators. Such hydrophilic compounds conjugated to dextran are water soluble, and therefore they are excellent indicators for functional studies within living cells. This protocol was developed for labeling ganglion cells in retinal flat mounts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-113
Number of pages4
JournalCold Spring Harbor Protocols
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


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