Application protocol

Isolation and cultivation of CD171 (L1CAM)-positive neurons from neonatal mouse brain

The CD171 (L1CAM) (L1 cell adhesion molecule) antigen is expressed by tetanus-toxin positive neurons, endothelial cells, certain epithelial cells, reticular fibroblasts, and several malignant tumors, including colon and breast carcinomas, colon melanoma, and tumor cells of neuronal and mesothelial origin. CD171 plays a vital role in cell adhesion and signal transduction, and has been demonstrated to play a role in augmenting tumor growth. It is involved in the development of the nervous system and regulates processes such as neuron–neuron adhesion, myelination, axonal guidance, and neuronal migration. CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBeads are designed for the separation of neurons based on the expression of CD171 (L1CAM), and especially optimized for use with dissociated postnatal CD-1® mouse brain tissue derived from animals younger than postnatal day eight (P8). Up to 99.5% purity can be achieved with P7 cerebellum tissue because the expression of CD171 is found almost exclusively on neurons. Purity decreases with age: P9 up to 80%; P12 up to 64%. For other brain regions, glial cells may need to be depleted if high purities are required. The CD171 (L1CAM) epitope shows papain sensitivity. Therefore, the Neural Tissue Dissociation Kit (T) is recommended to generate a single-cell suspension.


The following is a listing of reagents, instruments, and consumables needed for each step of this protocol. These products are for research use only.

For brain tissue dissociation

  • Neural Tissue Dissociation Kit (T) (# 130-093-231)
  • Hanks´ Balanced Salt Solution (HBSS) without Ca2+ and Mg2+ (Sigma-Aldrich # 55021C)
  • HBSS with Ca2+ and Mg2+ (Sigma-Aldrich # 55037C)
  •  (Optional) Beta-mercaptoethanol, 50 mM
  •  50 mL tubes
  • MACS® SmartStrainer (70 μm) (# 130-098-462) for 50 mL tube
  • MACSmix™ Tube Rotator (# 130-090-753) in combination with an incubation oven at 37 °C
  • (Optional) gentleMACS™ Dissociator (# 130-093-235), gentleMACS Octo Dissociator (# 130-095-937), or gentleMACS Octo Dissociator with Heaters (# 130-096-427)
  • C Tubes (# 130-093-237, # 130-096-334)
  • (Optional) ART® 1000 REACH™ pipet tips (Molecular BioProducts, Inc.) for removal of dissociated material from the closed C Tubes.
  •  (Optional) Myelin Removal Beads II, human, mouse, rat (# 130-096-433, # 130-096-733).

For cell isolation and flow cytometry analysis

  • CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBead Kit, mouse (# 130-101-548) or CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBead Kit, mouse - small (# 130-101-549)
  • Pre-Separation Filters (70 μm) (# 130-095-823)
  • DPBS/BSA buffer: Prepare a solution containing Dulbecco’s phosphate-buffered saline (DPBS) with Ca2+ and Mg2+ and 0.5 % bovine serum albumin (BSA) by diluting MACS BSA Stock Solution (# 130-091-376) 1:20 with DPBS. Keep buffer cold (2–8 °C). Degas buffer before use, as air bubbles could block the column.
    Note: BSA can be replaced by other proteins such as mouse serum albumin, mouse serum, or fetal bovine serum (FBS).
  • MACS Columns and MACS Separators: CD171 (L1CAM)+ cells can be enriched using MS or LS Columns or depleted with the use of LD Columns. Positive selection or depletion can also be performed by using the autoMACS® Pro Separator. 
ColumnMax. number of labeled cellsMax. number of total cellsSeparator
Positive selection
MS1×10⁷2×10⁷MiniMACS™, OctoMACS™,
LS2×10⁷4×10⁷MidiMACS™, QuadroMACS,
LD1.5×10⁷3×10⁷MidiMACS, QuadroMACS,
Positive selection or depletion
autoMACS5×10⁷ 1×108autoMACS Pro
Note: Column adapters are required to insert certain columns into the VarioMACS™ or SuperMACS™ II Separators. For details refer to the respective MACS Separator data sheet.
  • Labeling Check Reagent-APC (# 130-098-892) to stain labeled cells for flow cytometry analysis.
    Note: The use of CD171 antibodies, clone 555, is not recommended for analysis of cells that are labeled with CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBeads. Learn more about our antibodies and dyes.
  • Propidium Iodide Solution (# 130-093-233) or 7-AAD for flow cytometry exclusion of dead cell
  • MACSQuant® Analyzer 10 (# 130-096-343)

For cell culture

  • Double-distilled water (ddH₂O)
  • Imaging Plate CG 1.5 (24 well) (# 130-098-263)
  • MACS Neuro Medium (# 130-093-570) 
  • MACS NeuroBrew®-21 (# 130-093-566)
  • L-glutamine
  • Poly-L-lysine (0.01%)
  • Penicillin/streptomycin

For immunocytochemical staining of cultured cells

  • Primary antibody of choice, e.g., Anti-ACSA-2 pure, mouse (# 130-099-138), Anti-GLAST (ACSA-1) pure, human, mouse, rat (# 130-095-822), Anti-O4 pure, human, mouse, rat (# 130-115-810), Anti‑PSA‑NCAM pure, human, mouse, rat (# 130-115-809), CD11b pure, human and mouse (# 130-115-811), CD68 pure, mouse (# 130-115-808), or CD171 (L1CAM) pure, mouse (# 130-115-812)
  • A corresponding secondary antibody, e.g., Anti-rat IgG2b, Anti-mouse IgG2a, Anti-mouse IgM, Anti-rat IgG2bκ, Anti-rat IgG2a
    Note: Store antibodies in aliquots at –20 °C. To avoid repeated freeze-thaw cycles prepare working aliquots.
  • Staining buffer: Prepare a solution containing autoMACS Running Buffer (# 130-091-221) with FcR Blocking Reagent, mouse (# 130-092-575) (1:10).
  • Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS)
  • autoMACS Running Buffer (# 130-091-221)
  • (Optional) 0.2% TRITON™ X-100 in PBS
  • Distilled water
  • 2% paraformaldehyde (PFA) for fixation
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This protocol includes detailed instructions for preparing necessary reagents and materials and then carrying out each step.

Preparation of buffer for cell isolation and flow cytometry

DPBS/BSA buffer: Prepare a solution containing Dulbecco’s phosphate-buffered saline (DPBS) with Ca2+ and Mg2+ and 0.5% bovine serum albumin (BSA) by diluting MACS® BSA Stock Solution 1:20 with DPBS. Keep buffer cold (2–8 °C). Degas buffer before use, as air bubbles could block the column.
▲ Note: BSA can be replaced by other proteins such as mouse serum albumin, mouse serum, or fetal bovine serum (FBS).

Preparation of cell culture plates

Coat a 24-well culture dish with 0.01% Poly-L-lysine overnight at 37 °C. Wash three times with ddH₂O the following day.

Preparation of medium for cell culture

Prepare the following cell culture medium: MACS Neuro Medium containing 2% MACS NeuroBrew®-21, 1% penicillin/streptomycin and 0.5 mM L-glutamine.

Use the Neural Tissue Dissociation Kit (T) to dissociate brain tissue and prepare a single-cell suspension. Follow the protocol of the kit data sheet.

Download data sheet

Neural Tissue Dissociation Kits

Good to know

The data sheet for the Neural Tissue Dissociation Kits includes a set of tips & hints to improve the quality and yield of the dissociation procedure. Refer to the data sheet appendix if, for example, the yield of viable cells is too low or a cell pellet will not form.

Isolate CD171 (L1CAM)-positive neurons from the single-cell suspension using the CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBead Kit. Follow the protocol of the kit data sheet.

Download data sheet

CD171 (L1CAM) MicroBead Kit, mouse

To stain and analyze the isolated neurons by flow cytometry, follow the protocol of the data sheet for the Labeling Check Reagent-APC.
▲ Note: Use DPBS/BSA buffer instead of the buffer described in the data sheet.

Download data sheet

Labeling Check Reagent-APC

  1. Plate 5×104 cells in 50 μL of pre-warmed prepared medium as a drop in the middle of each well of a coated 24-well plate (see "Things to prepare in advance of cell isolation and cell culture").
  2. Let the cells settle down for 30 minutes at 37 °C in the incubator.
  3. Carefully add 450 μL of prepared medium to each well.
  4. Take off the medium to remove non-attached and dead cells.
  5. Add 500 µl of prepared medium.
  6. Maintain the culture by replacing 50% of medium every other day.

Things to prepare in advance

Staining buffer: Prepare a solution containing autoMACS® Running Buffer with FcR Blocking Reagent, mouse (1:10).

Immunocytochemical staining of cultured neurons

  1. Wash cells 3× with PBS.
  2. Fix cells with 2% PFA for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Wash cells 3× with PBS.
    Note: When working with CD68 antibodies, add 0.2% TRITON X-100 in PBS, incubate for 10 minutes at room temperature, and wash cells 3× with autoMACS® Running Buffer. Do not treat cells with TRITON X-100 before staining with Anti-ACSA-2, Anti-O4, or Anti-PSA-NCAM antibodies.
    Note: Fixed cells can be stored in azide-containing buffer at 2–8 °C for up to 1 week.
  4. Add staining buffer (see "Things to prepare in advance") and incubate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  5. Discard staining buffer.
  6. Add pure antibody of choice in staining buffer to the cells and incubate in the dark. For incubation temperature and time as well as recommended antibody concentration, refer to the table below.
  7. Wash cells 3× with autoMACS Running Buffer.
  8. Add a corresponding secondary antibody in staining buffer to the cells and incubate in the dark. For incubation temperature and time as well as recommended antibody concentration, refer to the table below.
  9. Wash cells 3× with autoMACS Running Buffer.
    Note: For co-staining with additional antibodies repeat step 6–9.
  10. Store cells in autoMACS Running Buffer.
  11. Cells are now ready for immunofluorescence microscopy.
    Note: Samples can be stored at 2–8 °C in the dark for up to one week.
    Note: When working with cells cultured on coverslips, the coverslips need to be mounted onto slides before imaging.
Primary AntibodySecondary Antibody
AntibodyIncubation temperatureIncubation timeRecommended antibody concentration Secondary antibodyIncubation temperatureIncubation time
Anti-ACSA-2Room temperature10 minutes1–5 µg/mLAnti-rat IgG2bRoom temperature10 minutes
Anti-GLAST (ACSA-1)Room temperature10 minutes 1–5 µg/mLAnti-mouse IgG2aRoom temperature10 minutes
Anti-O4Room temperature10 minutes 5–10 µg/mLAnti-mouse IgMRoom temperature10 minutes
Anti-PSA-NCAMRoom temperature10 minutes  5–10 µg/mLAnti-mouse IgMRoom temperature10 minutes
CD11bRoom temperature10 minutes  5–10 µg/mLAnti-rat IgG2bκRoom temperature10 minutes
CD682–8 °COvernight  5–10 µg/mLAnti-rat IgG2aRoom temperature1 hour
CD171 (L1CAM)2–8 °COvernight  5–10 µg/mLAnti-rat IgG2aRoom temperature1 hour
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Successful culture of CD171 (L1CAM)-positive neurons isolated from neonatal mouse brain tissue. P7 mouse cerebelli were dissociated using the Neural Tissue Dissociation Kit, and CD171-positive cells were isolated from the single-cell suspension using the CD171 MicroBead Kit. After 5 days culture in MACS® Neuro Medium, MACS NeuroBrew®-21, 1% P/S, and 0.5 mM L-glutamine, cells were fixed and stained with the neuron-specific antibodies Anti-MAP2 (red) and Anti-TuJ1 (green).

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