From seeing to believing: labelling strategies for in vivo cell-tracking experiments.
Progatzky F., Dallman MJ., Lo Celso C.
Intravital microscopy has become increasingly popular over the past few decades because it provides high-resolution and real-time information about complex biological processes. Technological advances that allow deeper penetration in live tissues, such as the development of confocal and two-photon microscopy, together with the generation of ever-new fluorophores that facilitate bright labelling of cells and tissue components have made imaging of vertebrate model organisms efficient and highly informative. Genetic manipulation leading to expression of fluorescent proteins is undoubtedly the labelling method of choice and has been used to visualize several cell types in vivo. This approach, however, can be technically challenging and time consuming. Over the years, several dyes have been developed to allow rapid, effective and bright ex vivo labelling of cells for subsequent transplantation and imaging. Here, we review and discuss the advantages and limitations of a number of strategies commonly used to label and track cells at high resolution in vivo in mouse and zebrafish, using fluorescence microscopy. While the quest for the perfect label is far from achieved, current reagents are valuable tools enabling the progress of biological discovery, so long as they are selected and used appropriately.