Imaging of estrogen receptor-α in rat pial arterioles using a digital immunofluorescent microscope

Niloofar Rezvani, Andrei V. Blokhin, Emil Zeynalov, Marguerite T. Littleton-Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of estrogen's effects on vascular reactivity are mediated through interaction with estrogen receptors. Although two sub-types exist (estrogen receptor -α and β),estrogen receptor-α has been identified in both the smooth muscle and in endothelial cells of pial arterial segments using fluorescent staining combined with confocal laser scanning microscopy. Furthermore, ER-α is located in the nuclei and in the cytoplasm of rat basilar arteries. The receptors are abundant and fluoresce brightly, but clear visualization of discrete groups of receptors is difficult likely due to the numbers located in many cell layers of pial vessel segments. Additionally, many reports using immunohistochemical techniques paired with confocal microscopy poorly detail the requirements critical for reproduction of experiments. Our purpose for this article is to describe a simple technique to optimize the staining and visualization of ER-α using cross-sectional slices of pial arterioles obtain from female rat brains. We first perfuse rats with Evans blue dye to easily identify surface pial arteries which we isolate under a dissecting microscope. Use of a cryostat to slice 8 μm cross sections of the arteries allows us to obtain thin vessel sections so that different vessel planes are more clearly visualized. Cutting across the vessel rather than use of a small vessel segment has the advantage of easier viewing of the endothelial and smooth muscle layers. In addition, use of a digital immunofluorescent microscope with extended depth software produces clear images of ten to twelve different vessel planes and is less costly than use of a confocal laser scanning microscope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3203
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number57
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Cerebral microvasculature
  • Digital immunofluorescent microscopy
  • Estrogen receptor-α
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Issue 57
  • Molecular biology
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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