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Neutral red as a probe for confocal laser scanning microscopy studies of plant roots

Dubrovsky, J.G., Guttenberger, M., Saralegui, A., Napsucialy-Mendivil, S., Voigt, B., Baluska, F., Menzel, D.
Annals of botany 2006 v.97 no.6 pp. 1127-1138
Phaseolus vulgaris, Allium cepa, onions, Allium porrum, leeks, Arabidopsis thaliana, root growth, plant development, developmental stages, xylem, vacuoles, plant anatomy, phenazines, dyes, differential staining, confocal scanning laser microscopy
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Neutral red (NR), a lipophilic phenazine dye, has been widely used in various biological systems as a vital stain for bright-field microscopy. In its unprotonated form it penetrates the plasma membrane and tonoplast of viable plant cells, then due to protonation it becomes trapped in acidic compartments. The possible applications of NR for confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) studies were examined in various aspects of plant root biology. METHODS: NR was used as a fluorochrome for living roots of Phaseolus vulgaris, Allium cepa, A. porrum and Arabidopsis thaliana (wild-type and transgenic GFP-carrying lines). The tissues were visualized using CLSM. The effect of NR on the integrity of the cytoskeleton and the growth rate of arabidopsis primary roots was analysed to judge potential toxic effects of the dye. KEY RESULTS: The main advantages of the use of NR are related to the fact that NR rapidly penetrates root tissues, has affinity to suberin and lignin, and accumulates in the vacuoles. It is shown that NR is a suitable probe for visualization of proto- and metaxylem elements, Casparian bands in the endodermis, and vacuoles in cells of living roots. The actin cytoskeleton and the microtubule system of the cells, as well as the dynamics of root growth, remain unchanged after short-term application of NR, indicating a relatively low toxicity of this chemical. It was also found that NR is a useful probe for the observation of the internal structures of root nodules and of fungal hyphae in vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas. CONCLUSIONS: Ease, low cost and absence of tissue processing make NR a useful probe for structural, developmental and vacuole-biogenetic studies of plant roots with CLSM.