A method for labeling vasculature in embryonic mice.
Bryson JL., Coles MC., Manley NR.
The establishment of a functional blood vessel network is an essential part of organogenesis, and is required for optimal organ function. For example, in the thymus proper vasculature formation and patterning is essential for thymocyte entry into the organ and mature T-cell exit to the periphery. The spatial arrangement of blood vessels in the thymus is dependent upon signals from the local microenvironment, namely thymic epithelial cells (TEC). Several recent reports suggest that disruption of these signals results in thymus blood vessel defects. Previous studies have described techniques used to label the neonatal and adult thymus vasculature. We demonstrate here a technique for labeling blood vessels in the embryonic thymus. This method combines the use of FITC-dextran or Griffonia (Bandeiraea) Simplicifolia Lectin I (GSL 1-isolectin B₄) facial vein injections and CD31 antibody staining to identify thymus vascular structures and PDGFR-β to label thymic perivascular mesenchyme. The option of using cryosections or vibratome sections is also provided. This protocol can be used to identify thymus vascular defects, which is critical for defining the roles of TEC-derived molecules in thymus blood vessel formation. As the method labels the entire vasculature, it can also be used to analyze the vascular networks in multiple organs and tissues throughout the embryo including skin and heart.