Throughout the body, the maintenance of homeostasis requires the constant supply of oxygen and nutrients concomitant with removal of metabolic by-products. This balance is achieved by the movement of blood through the microcirculation, which encompasses the smallest branches of the vascular supply throughout all tissues and organs. Arterioles branch from arteries to form networks that control the distribution and magnitude of oxygenated blood flowing into the multitude of capillaries intimately associated with parenchymal cells. Capillaries provide a large surface area for diffusional exchange between tissue cells and the blood supply. Venules collect capillary effluent and converge as they return deoxygenated blood towards the heart. To observe these processes in real time requires an experimental approach for visualizing and manipulating the living microcirculation. The cremaster muscle of rats was first used as a model for studying inflammation using histology and electron microscopy post mortem1,2. The first in vivo report of the exposed intact rat cremaster muscle investigated microvascular responses to vasoactive drugs using reflected light3. However curvature of the muscle and lack of focused illumination limited the usefulness of this preparation. The major breakthrough entailed opening the muscle, detaching it from the testicle and spreading it radially as a flat sheet for transillumination under a compound microscope4. While shown to be a valuable preparation to study the physiology of the microcirculation in rats5 and hamsters6, the cremaster muscle in mice7 has proven particularly useful in dissecting cellular pathways involved in regulating microvascular function8-11 and real-time imaging of intercellular signaling12. The cremaster muscle is derived from the internal oblique and transverse abdominus muscles as the testes descend through the inguinal canal13. It serves to support (Greek: cremaster = suspender) and maintain temperature of the testes. As described here, the cremaster muscle is prepared as a thin flat sheet for outstanding optical resolution. With the mouse maintained at a stable body temperature and plane of anesthesia, surgical preparation involves freeing the muscle from surrounding tissue and the testes, spreading it onto transparent pedestal of silastic rubber and securing the edges with insect pins while irrigating it continuously with physiological salt solution. The present protocol utilizes transgenic mice expressing GCaMP2 in arteriolar endothelial cells. GCaMP2 is a genetically encoded fluorescent calcium indicator molecule12. Widefield imaging and an intensified charge-coupled device camera enable in vivo study of calcium signaling in the arteriolar endothelium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)