A submerged filter paper sandwich for long-term Ex ovo time-lapse imaging of early chick embryos

Manuel Schmitz, Ben K A Nelemans, Theodoor H. Smit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Due to its availability, low cost, flat geometry, and transparency, the ex ovo chick embryo has become a major vertebrate animal model for the study of morphogenetic events, such as gastrulation2, neurulation3-5, somitogenesis6, heart bending7,8, and brain formation9-13, during early embryogenesis. Key to understanding morphogenetic processes is to follow them dynamically by time-lapse imaging. The acquisition of time-lapse movies of chick embryogenesis ex ovo has been limited either to short time windows or to the need for an incubator to control temperature and humidity around the embryo14. Here, we present a new technique to culture chick embryos ex ovo for high-resolution time-lapse imaging using transmitted light microscopy. The submerged filter paper sandwich is a variant of the well-established filter paper carrier technique (EC-culture)1 and allows for the culturing of chick embryos without the need for a climate chamber. The embryo is sandwiched between two identical filter paper carriers and is kept fully submerged in a simple, temperature-controlled medium covered by a layer of light mineral oil. Starting from the primitive streak stage (Hamburger-Hamilton stage 5, HH5)15 up to at least the 28-somite stage (HH16)15, embryos can be cultured with either their ventral or dorsal side up. This allows the acquisition of time-lapse movies covering about 30 hr of embryonic development. Representative time-lapse frames and movies are shown. Embryos are compared morphologically to an embryo cultured in the standard EC-culture. The submerged filter paper sandwich provides a stable environment to study early dorsal and ventral morphogenetic processes. It also allows for live fluorescence imaging and micromanipulations, such as microsurgery, bead implantation, microinjection, gene silencing, and electroporation, and has a strong potential to be combined with immersion objectives for laser-based imaging (including light-sheet microscopy).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54636
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number118
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2016

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