Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The lack of an effective, simple, and highly sensitive protocol for fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ) has hampered the study of mRNA biology. Here, we describe our modified single molecule FISH (smFISH) methods that work well in whole mount Drosophila NMJ preparations to quantify primary transcription and count individual cytoplasmic mRNA molecules in specimens while maintaining ultrastructural preservation. The smFISH method is suitable for high-throughput sample processing and 3D image acquisition using any conventional microscopy imaging modality and is compatible with the use of antibody colabeling and transgenic fluorescent protein tags in axons, glia, synapses, and muscle cells. These attributes make the method particularly amenable to super-resolution imaging. With 3D Structured Illumination Microscopy (3D-SIM), which increases spatial resolution by a factor of 2 in X, Y, and Z, we acquire super-resolution information about the distribution of single molecules of mRNA in relation to covisualized synaptic and cellular structures. Finally, we demonstrate the use of commercial and open source software for the quality control of single transcript expression analysis, 3D-SIM data acquisition and reconstruction as well as image archiving management and presentation. Our methods now allow the detailed mechanistic and functional analysis of sparse as well as abundant mRNAs at the NMJ in their appropriate cellular context.

Original publication





Publication Date





163 - 175


3D-SIM, Drosophila melanogaster, Larval neuromuscular junction, Single molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization, Structured Illumination, Super-resolution imaging, Synapse, mRNA localization, smFISH, Animals, Drosophila melanogaster, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence, Larva, Microscopy, Confocal, Neuromuscular Junction, RNA, Messenger, Staining and Labeling, Tissue Fixation