Cold Spring Harbor Protocols (April 2011)Cell proliferation, migration, differentiation, and death are remarkably synchronized during embryonic development.  But mouse embryos are confined to the uterus, thus limiting our ability to observe these astonishing events in vivo.

In this month’s issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, Mary Dickinson and colleagues (Baylor College of Medicine) describe methods for culturing live mouse embryos directly on a microscope stage, and for performing time-lapse imaging of embryos expressing genetically encoded fluorescent proteins.  These methods permit the visualization of mouse embryos from gastrulation until early organogenesis.  An introductory article, available here, is freely accessible to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.  It provides a brief background on imaging methods used to study mouse development, examples of live imaging of mouse embryos, and an overview of the imaging setup used to control the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, and gas exchange) during imaging.

Step-by-step protocols for preparing serum for mouse embryo culture, preparing postimplantation mouse embryos for imaging, and time-lapse imaging of mouse embryos in static culture were also published in the issue.

Methods for live imaging of embryogenesis in other model organisms are available in Imaging in Developmental Biology: A Laboratory Manual (edited by James Sharpe and Rachel O. Wong; series editor Rafael Yuste).  It is the most recently published manual from our imaging series.