We recently developed an ex vivo lung slice model that allows for confocal live cell imaging (LCI) of neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) in postnatal mouse lungs (postnatal days 1–21 and adult). NEBs are morphologically well-characterized, extensively innervated groups of neuroendocrine cells in the airway epithelium, which are shielded from the airway lumen by ‘Clara-like’ cells. The prominent presence of differentiated NEBs from early embryonic development onwards, strongly suggests that NEBs may exert important functions during late fetal and neonatal life. The main goal of the present study was to adapt the current postnatal LCI lung slice model to enable functional studies of fetal mouse lungs (gestational days 17–20).
In vibratome lung slices of prenatal mice, NEBs could be unequivocally identified with the fluorescent stryryl pyridinium dye 4-Di-2-ASP. Changes in the intracellular free calcium concentration and in mitochondrial membrane potential could be monitored using appropriate functional fluorescent indicators (e.g. Fluo-4).
It is clear that the described fetal mouse lung slice model is suited for LCI studies of Clara cells, ciliated cells, and the NEB microenvironment, and offers excellent possibilities to further unravel the significance of NEBs during the prenatal and perinatal period.
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