Three and four-dimensional visualization and analysis approaches to study vertebrate axial elongation and segmentation

André Dias, Gabriel G. Martins, Alexandre Lopes, Moisés Mallo

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Somitogenesis is a hallmark of vertebrate embryonic development. For years, researchers have been studying this process in a variety of organisms using a wide range of techniques encompassing ex vivo and in vitro approaches. However, most studies still rely on the analysis of two-dimensional (2D) imaging data, which limits proper evaluation of a developmental process like axial extension and somitogenesis involving highly dynamic interactions in a complex 3D space. Here we describe techniques that allow mouse live imaging acquisition, dataset processing, visualization and analysis in 3D and 4D to study the cells (e.g., neuromesodermal progenitors) involved in these developmental processes. We also provide a step-by-step protocol for optical projection tomography and whole-mount immunofluorescence microscopy in mouse embryos (from sample preparation to image acquisition) and show a pipeline that we developed to process and visualize 3D image data. We extend the use of some of these techniques and highlight specific features of different available software (e.g., Fiji/ImageJ, Drishti, Amira and Imaris) that can be used to improve our current understanding of axial extension and somite formation (e.g., 3D reconstructions). Altogether, the techniques here described emphasize the importance of 3D data visualization and analysis in developmental biology, and might help other researchers to better address 3D and 4D image data in the context of vertebrate axial extension and segmentation. Finally, the work also employs novel tools to facilitate teaching vertebrate embryonic development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere62086
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number168
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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