A pre-embedding immunogold approach for detection of synaptic endocytic proteins in situ

Emma Evergren, Nikolay Tomilin, Elena Vasylieva, Victoria Sergeeva, Ona Bloom, Helge Gad, Francisco Capani, Oleg Shupliakov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


During the past decade, many molecular components of clathrin-mediated endocytosis have been identified and proposed to play various hypothetical roles in the process [Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 1 (2000) 161; Nature 422 (2003) 37]. One limitation to the evaluation of these hypotheses is the efficiency and resolution of immunolocalization protocols currently in use. In order to facilitate the evaluation of these hypotheses and to understand more fully the molecular mechanisms of clathrin-mediated endocytosis, we have developed a protocol allowing enhanced and reliable subcellular immunolocalization of proteins in synaptic endocytic zones in situ. Synapses established by giant reticulospinal axons in lamprey are used as a model system for these experiments. These axons are unbranched and reach up to 80-100 microm in diameter. Synaptic active zones and surrounding endocytic zones are established on the surface of the axonal cylinder. To provide access for antibodies to the sites of synaptic vesicle recycling, axons are lightly fixed and cut along their longitudinal axis. To preserve the ultrastructure of the synaptic endocytic zone, antibodies are applied without the addition of detergents. Opened axons are incubated with primary antibodies, which are detected with secondary antibodies conjugated to gold particles. Specimens are then post-fixed and processed for electron microscopy. This approach allows preservation of the ultrastructure of the endocytic sites during immunolabeling procedures, while simultaneously achieving reliable immunogold detection of proteins on endocytic intermediates. To explore the utility of this approach, we have investigated the localization of a GTPase, dynamin, on clathrin-coated intermediates in the endocytic zone of the lamprey giant synapse. Using the present immunogold protocol, we confirm the presence of dynamin on late stage coated pits [Nature 422 (2003) 37] and also demonstrate that dynamin is recruited to the coat of endocytic intermediates from the very early stages of the clathrin coat formation. Thus, our experiments show that the current pre-embedding immunogold method is a useful experimental tool to study the molecular mechanisms of synaptic vesicle recycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-74
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2004


  • Animals
  • Clathrin
  • Clathrin-Coated Vesicles
  • Dynamin I
  • Endocytosis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lampreys
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Synapses
  • Synapsins
  • Synaptic Vesicles


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