A light insensitive method for contrast enhancement of insect neurons filled with a Cobalt-lysine complex

Karen A Mesce, Therese M. Amos, Sheila M. Clough

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22 Scopus citations


Modified protocols for cobalt-filling and silver intensification of neurons in the larval and adult stages of the moth, Manduca sexta, have led to improved neuronal visualization and minimal background staining. In particular, long distance projecting multisegmental in-terneurons. originating in the pterothoracic or terminal abdominal ganglion, were best visualized when a cobalt:lysine complex was used to fill hemi-connectives for several days at 4 C. Ganglia closest to the placement of tracer, which became flooded with cobalt:lysine during the filling period. were removed from the insect. This step eliminated the artifactual filling of neurons that may have taken up the tracer from such pooled regions. This led to a more accurate assessment of whether a multisegmental interneuron projected through the full length of nerve cord to the original site of tracer placement. The protocol for light insensitive silver intensification of cobalt-filled neurons was modified to include an important pH adjustment. NaOH was used to alter the pH of the protective colloid, sodium tungstate, to 10.4 or greater in solution. Especially in larvae. our techniques produced intensely stained cobalt-filled neurons within ganglia that remained transparent and relatively free of nonspecific silver deposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-228
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnic and Histochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from NIH (HD-261 75)and by funds provided by a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship to K.A.M. Special thanks to Dr. Rick Levine who first suggested that we try the co-ba1t:lysine complex, Kathleen Klukas who provided valuable comments on the manuscript, and Jerry Sedgewick for photographic assistance.


  • Interneurons
  • Lep-idoptera
  • Manduca Sexta
  • Metamorphosis
  • Retrograde tracing
  • Silver intensification


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