Application protocol

Isolation and cultivation of neurons from adult mouse brain

 In this application protocol, we present a protocol to generate highly purified and viable neurons from adult mouse brain tissue. Brain tissue from mice older than P7 is dissociated into a single-cell suspension using the Adult Brain Dissociation Kit. The extracellular matrix is enzymatically digested using the kit components, while the gentleMACS™ Dissociator with Heaters is used for the mechanical dissociation steps during the on-instrument enzyme incubation. After the dissociation, myelin and cell debris are removed using the Debris Removal Solution and is followed by an subsequent removal of erythrocytes using the Red Blood Cell Removal Solution. The Neuron Isolation Kit, mouse is used to isolate neurons from the single-cell suspension.

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Materials

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

General reagent and instrument requirements

  • Dulbecco’s phopshate-buffered saline (D-PBS) with calcium, magnesium, glucose, and pyruvate. Keep buffer cold (2−8 °C).
  • D-PBS/BSA buffer: Prepare a solution containing D-PBS and 0.5% bovine serum albumin (BSA) by diluting MACS® BSA Stock Solution (# 130‑091‑376) 1:20 with D-PBS. Keep buffer cold (2−8 °C). Degas buffer before use, as air bubbles could block the column.
    Note: Always use freshly prepared buffer. Do not use autoMACS® Running Buffer or MACSQuant® Running Buffer as they contain a small amount of sodium azide that could affect the results.
    Note: BSA can be replaced by other proteins such as mouse serum albumin, mouse serum, or fetal bovine serum (FBS).

For brain tissue dissociation

  • Adult Brain Dissociation Kit, mouse and rat (# 130-107-677)
  • gentleMACS™ Octo Dissociator with Heaters (# 130-096-427)
  • gentleMACS C Tubes (# 130-093-237, # 130-096-334)
  • 35 mm diameter sterile petri dish
  • Sterile scalpel
  • Sterile forceps
  • (Optional) ART® 1000 REACH™ pipet tips (Molecular BioProducts, Inc.) for removal of dissociated material from the closed C Tubes.
  • MACS SmartStrainers (70 μm) (# 130-098-462)
  • 15 mL and 50 mL tubes
  • Centrifuge with swinging bucket rotor

For cell isolation and flow cytometry analysis

  • Neuron Isolation Kit, mouse (# 130-115-389, # 130-115-390)
  • (Optional) Pre-Separation Filters (70 μm) (# 130-095-823)
  • MACS Columns and MACS Separators: neurons can be enriched by depletion using LS Columns. Depletion can also be performed by using the autoMACS Pro Separator.
ColumnMax. number of labeled cellsMax. number of total cellsSelector
LS1×10⁷ 2×10⁷MidiMACS™, QuadroMACS™,
VarioMACS, SuperMACS II
autoMACS5×10⁷1×108autoMACS 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.
  • Fluorochrome-conjugated antibodies for flow cytometry analysis, e.g., an astrocyte-specific antibody as Anti-ACSA-2-PE, an oligodendrocyte-specific antibody as Anti-O4-PE, or an microglia-specific antibody as CD11b-FITC. Learn more about our antibodies and dyes.
  • (Optional) Propidium Iodide Solution (# 130-093-233) or 7-AAD for flow cytometry exclusion of dead cells
  • (Optional) 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) and MACS NeuroBrew®-21 (# 130-093-566)
  • L-glutamine
  • Poly-L-lysine (0.01%)
  • Penicillin/streptomycin
  • Human BDNF
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Protocol


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This protocol includes detailed instructions for preparing necessary reagents and materials and then carrying out each step.

Preparation of brain tissue dissociation

Notes:

  • For subsequent cell separation and cultivation it is recommended to dissociate at least 800 mg of adult mouse brain tissue.
  • Volumes given below are for one adult mouse brain (max. 500 mg) in 1980 μL enzyme mix. When working with less than 500 mg, use the same volumes as indicated. When working with higher tissue quantitities scale up all reagent volumes and total volumes accordingly.
  • A swinging bucket rotor is recommended for centrifugation, e. g., Heraeus® Multifuge 4KR by Thermo Fisher® Scientific.

Preparation of Adult Brain Dissociation Kit, mouse and rat

  1. Enzyme P is ready to use. Prepare aliquots of appropriate volume to avoid repeated freeze-thaw-cycles. Store aliquots at –20 °C. This solution is stable for 6 months.
  2. Resuspend the lyophilized powder in the vial labeled Enzyme A with 1 mL Buffer A. Do not vortex. This solution should then be aliquoted and stored at –20 °C for later use.
    Note: Avoid repeated freeze-thaw-cycles.
  3. Prepare enzyme mix 1 and enzyme mix 2 according to the table below.
Enzyme mix 1Enzyme mix 2

Enzyme P

50 µL

Buffer Z

1900 µL

Buffer Y

20 µL

Enzyme A

10 µL

Preparation of 1x Red Blood Cell Removal Solution

  1. Dilute the Red Blood Cell Removal Solution (10×) 1:10 with double-distilled water (ddH₂O). For example, dilute 0.1 mL of cold Red Blood Cell Removal Solution (10×) with 0.9 mL cold ddH₂O.
    Note: Do not use deionized water for dilution!
  2. Store the prepared 1× Red Blood Cell Removal Solution at 2–8 °C. Discard unused solution at the end of the day.

Preparation of cell culture dish

  1. Prepare the following medium: MACS® Neuro Medium containing 2% MACS Neuro Brew®-21, 1% Penicillin/Streptomycin and 0.5 mM L-glutamine.
  2. Coat the culture dish (24-well plate) with 0.01% Poly-L-Lysin overnight at 37 °C and wash three times with ddH₂O afterwards.

Tissue dissociation

Notes:

  • For details on the use of the gentleMACS™ Octo Dissociator with Heaters, refer to the user manual.
  • A maximum of one mouse brain (max. 500 mg) in 2 mL enzyme mix can be processed in one C Tube.
  • For cell culture experiments subsequent to tissue dissociation, all steps should be performed under sterile conditions.
  1. Remove the mouse brain. Wash the brain in cold D-PBS.
  2. Prepare the appropriate volume of enzyme mix 1 (see "Things to prepare in advance") and transfer it into a gentleMACS C Tube.
  3. Place the brain on a petri dish and cut it into 8 sagittal slices using a scalpel.
  4. Transfer the tissue pieces into the C Tube containing 1950 μL of enzyme mix 1.
  5. Transfer 30 μL of enzyme mix 2 into the C Tube.
  6. Tightly close C Tube and attach it upside down onto the sleeve of the gentleMACS Octo Dissociator with Heaters.
  7. Run the gentleMACS Program 37C_ABDK_01.
  8. After termination of the program, detach C Tube from the gentleMACS Octo Dissociator with Heaters.
  9. (Optional) Centrifuge briefly to collect the sample at the bottom of the tube.
  10. Resuspend sample and apply it to a MACS SmartStrainer (70 μm) placed on a 50 mL tube.
    Note: Moisten MACS® SmartStrainer with buffer before use.
    Note: When upscaling the reagent volume and total volumes, increase also the number of MACS SmartStrainers (70 μm). One MACS SmartStrainer (70 μm) can be used for one adult mouse brain.
    Note: Dissociated tissue can be removed from the closed C Tube by pipetting through the septum-sealed opening in the center of the cap of the C Tube. Use ART® 1000 REACH™ 1000 μL pipette tips.
    Note: Cells with a diameter >70 μm may be lost. To obtain these cells within the flow-through, use a cell strainer with an appropriate mesh size.
  11. Apply 10 mL of cold (4 °C) D-PBS onto the MACS SmartStrainer (70 μm).
  12. Discard MACS SmartStrainer (70 μm) and centrifuge cell suspension at 300×g for 10 minutes at 4 °C. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  13. Proceed to "Debris and red blood cell removal".

Debris and red blood cell removal

Notes:

  • Volumes given below are for the cell suspension from up to two adult mouse brains. When working with higher tissue quantities, scale up all reagent volumes accordingly.
  • A maximum of cell suspension from two adult mouse brains can be processed in one 15 mL reagent tube.
  • Always use pre-cooled buffers and solutions (4 °C).
Debris Removal SolutionD-PBSOverlay (D-PBS)

1 brain

(400–500 mg)

900 µL3100 µL4 mL

2 brains

(800–1000 mg)

1800 µL6200 µL4 mL

Note: In case of very small amount of tissue (< 100 mg), cell debris removal can be performed in a 5 mL reagent tube using 450 µL of Debris Removal Solution, 1550 µL of D-PBS for resuspension of the cell pellet, and 2000 µL D-PBS for overlay. 

  1. Resuspend cell pellet carefully with the appropriate volume of cold D-PBS according to the table above and transfer cell suspension to a 15 mL tube. Do not vortex.
  2. Add appropriate volume of cold Debris Removal Solution.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Overlay very gently with 4 mL of cold D-PBS.
    Note: Pipette very slowly to ensure that the D-PBS phase overlays the cell suspension and phases are not mixed.
  5. Centrifuge at 4 °C and 3000×g for 10 minutes with full acceleration and full brake.
  6. Three phases are formed. Aspirate the two top phases completely and discard them.
  7. Fill up with cold D-PBS to a final volume of 15 mL.
  8. Gently invert the tube three times. Do not vortex!
  9. Centrifuge at 4 °C and 1000×g for 10 minutes with full acceleration and full brake. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  10. Resuspend cell pellet from up to two adult mouse brains carefully in 1 mL of cold 1× Red Blood Cell Removal Solution. Do not vortex.
  11. Incubate for 10 minutes in the refrigerator (2−8 °C).
  12. Add 10 mL of cold D-PBS/BSA buffer.
  13. Centrifuge at 4 °C and 300×g for 10 minutes. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  14. Proceed to "Isolation of neurons".

Magnetic labeling 

Notes:

  • Work fast, keep cells cold, and use pre-cooled solutions. This will prevent capping of antibodies on the cell surface and non-specific cell labeling.
  • Volumes for magnetic labeling given below are for up to 1×10⁷ total cells. When working with fewer than 1×10⁷ cells, use the same volumes as indicated. When working with higher cell numbers, scale up all reagent volumes and total volumes accordingly (e.g., for 2×10⁷ total cells, use twice the volume of all indicated reagent volumes and total volumes).
  • For optimal performance it is important to obtain a single-cell suspension before magnetic labeling. Pass cells through 70 µm nylon mesh (MACS® SmartStrainer (70 µm), # 130-098-462) to remove cell clumps which may clog the column. Moisten filter with buffer before use.
  • The recommended incubation temperature is 2–8 °C. Higher temperatures and/or longer incubation times may lead to non-specific cell labeling. Working on ice may require increased incubation times. 
  1. Resuspend cell pellet in 80 μL of D-PBS/BSA buffer per 1×10⁷ total cells.
  2. Add 20 μL of Non-Neuronal Cells Biotin-Antibody Cocktail.
  3. Mix well and incubate for 5 minutes in the dark in the refrigerator (2−8 °C).
  4. Wash cells by adding 1 mL of D-PBS/BSA buffer per 1×10⁷ cells and centrifuge at 300×g for 5 minutes. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  5. Resuspend cell pellet in 80 μL of D-PBS/BSA buffer per 1×10⁷ cells.
  6. Add 20 μL of Anti-Biotin MicroBeads.
  7. Mix well and incubate for 10 minutes in the dark in the refrigerator (2−8 °C).
  8. Adjust volume to 500 μL per 1×10⁷ cells with D-PBS/BSA buffer.
    Note: For higher cell numbers, scale up buffer volume accordingly.
  9. (Optional) Take 20 μL for later flow cytometry analysis (original fraction).
  10. Proceed to "Magnetic separation".

Magnetic separation

Magnetic separation with LS Columns

Notes:

  • Choose an LS Column and an appropriate MACS Separator. For details refer to "Materials".
  • Always wait until the column reservoir is empty before proceeding to the next step.
  1. Place LS Column in the magnetic field of a suitable MACS Separator. For details refer to the respective MACS Column data sheet.
  2. (Optional) Place Pre-Separation Filter (70 μm) on top of the column to remove clumps which may clog the column.
    Note: Moisten Pre-Separation Filter with buffer before use.
  3. Prepare column by rinsing with 3 mL of D-PBS/BSA buffer.
  4. Apply cell suspension onto the column. Collect flow-through containing unlabeled cells.
  5. Wash column with 2×1 mL of D-PBS/BSA buffer. Collect unlabeled cells that pass through and combine with the flow-through from step 4. This is the target cell fraction (negative fraction).
    Note: Perform washing steps by adding buffer aliquots only when the column reservoir is empty.
  6. (Optional, if non-neuronal cells are needed) Remove column from the separator and place it on a suitable collection tube.
  7. Pipette 3 mL of D-PBS/BSA buffer onto the column. Immediately flush out the magnetically labeled cells by firmly pushing the plunger into the column. This fraction represents the non-target cells (positive fraction).
  8. Proceed to "Flow cytometry analysis".

Magnetic separation with the autoMACS® Pro Separator

Notes:

  • Refer to the respective user manual for instructions on how to use the autoMACS Pro Separator.
  • Use D-PBS/BSA buffer. Buffers used for operating the autoMAC Pro Separator should have a temperature of ≥10 °C.
  1. Prepare and prime the instrument.
  2. Apply tube containing the sample and provide tubes for collecting the labeled and unlabeled cell fractions. Place sample tube in row A of the tube rack and the fraction collection tubes in rows B and C.
  3. For a standard separation choose the following program:
    Depletion: Depl05
    Collect negative fraction in row B of the tube rack. This fraction represents the target cells.
  4. (Optional if non-neuronal cells are needed) Collect positive fraction in row C of the tube rack. This fraction represents the non-target cells.
  5. Proceed to "Flow cytometry analysis".

Notes:

  • The recommended antibody dilution for labeling of cells is 1:10 for up to 1×10⁶ cells/50 μL of D-PBS/BSA buffer.
  • Volumes given below are for up to 1×10⁶ nucleated cells. When working with fewer than 1×10⁶ cells, use the same volumes as indicated. When working with higher cell numbers, scale up all reagent volumes and total volumes accordingly (e.g., for 2×10⁶ nucleated cells, use twice the volume of all indicated reagent volumes and total volumes).
  1. (Optional) For analysis take 100 μL of positive and negative fraction, each. Analyze 20 μL of the original fraction as well.
  2. Centrifuge at 300×g for 5 minutes. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  3. Resuspend up to 1×10⁶ nucleated cells per 45 μL of D-PBS/BSA buffer.
    ▲Note: If more staining antibodies than Anti-Biotin-PE shall be added to the sample, adjust buffer volume accordingly.
  4. Add 5 μL of Anti-Biotin-PE.
  5. (Optional) Add antibodies specific for non-neuronal cells, for example, 5 μL of Anti-ACSA-2 and/or 5 μL of Anti-O4 and/or 5 μL of CD11b antibody.
  6. Mix well and incubate for 10 minutes in the dark in the refrigerator (2−8 °C).
    Note: Higher temperatures and/or longer incubation times may lead to non-specific cell labeling. Working on ice requires increased incubation times.
  7. Wash cells by adding 1 mL of D-PBS/BSA buffer and centrifuge at 300×g for 10 minutes. Aspirate supernatant completely.
  8. Resuspend cell pellet in a suitable amount of D-PBS/BSA buffer for analysis by flow cytometry, e.g., using the MACSQuant® Analyzer 10.
  1. Plate 1×10⁵ cells in 50 μL of prepared medium as a drop in the middle of each well of a 24-well plate which has been coated overnight (see "Things to prepare in advance").
  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. (Optional) Treat neurons with 50 ng/mL Human BDNF in 500 μL of prepared medium for 3 to 6 hours in the incubator. Remove BDNF-containing medium afterwards.
  6. Add 500 μL of prepared medium.
  7. Maintain the culture by replacement of 50% of medium every other day.

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