High-resolution 3D analysis of mouse small-intestinal stroma
Here we detail a protocol for whole-mount immunostaining of mouse small-intestinal villi that can be used to generate high-resolution 3D images of all gut cell types, including blood and lymphatic vessel cells, neurons, smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts and immune cells. The procedure describes perfusion, fixation, dissection, immunostaining, mounting, clearing, confocal imaging and quantification, using intestinal vasculature as an example. As intestinal epithelial cells prevent visualization with some antibodies, we also provide an optional protocol to remove these cells before fixation. In contrast to alternative current techniques, our protocol enables the entire villus to be visualized with increased spatial resolution of cell location, morphology and cell-cell interactions, thus allowing for easy quantification of phenotypes. The technique, which takes 7 d from mouse dissection to microscopic examination, will be useful for researchers who are interested in most aspects of intestinal biology, including mucosal immunology, infection, nutrition, cancer biology and intestinal microbiota.