Using genetic methods, multicolour labeling of individual cells belonging to the same lineage in the fly brain is possible, reports two papers published this week in Nature Methodsa. The ability to visualize individual neurons in their entirety and in relation to each other in the same preparation makes it possible to address questions about the brain’s anatomy and about how cellular lineages contribute to neural circuits.
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an ideal organism for studying neuronal connections. Over the past decades, an expanding repertoire of genetic tools has facilitated the visualization and manipulation of cell populations in this model organism.
Julie Simpson and colleagues and Iris Salecker and colleagues now report Drosophila Brainbow and Flybow, respectively — two independent adaptations of the mouse multicolour labeling technique known as Brainbow. These methods use genetic tools to allow the random expression of fluorescent proteins in specific cells in the fly brain. As a result, neurons that belong to the same lineage can be individually labeled with different colours.