It is extremely useful in investigations of the central nervous system (CNS) to measure mRNA expression in cells by in situ hybridization. However, this approach is limited by the difficulties of a reliable quantitative evaluation. In the present paper we describe a method for quantifying radioactive hybrids on individual cells by a silver grain count in digital images. Quantification is based on the real size and grey level of a single grain obtained by computerized microscope image analysis (IBAS 2, Kontron-Zeiss, PC 286). The program provides for automatic identification of cell area, the portion occupied by grains and their grey level. The number of grains per cell results from a mathematical function integrating these parameters with a 'density factor'. This factor is introduced to better estimate the number of grains when there is overlapping. The method was tested by measuring the expression of preproNPY (pp-NPY) mRNA in rat dentate gyrus and preproSomatostatin (pp-SOM) mRNA in frontal cerebral cortex of control and colchicine-treated rats. Colchicine did not modify the number of pp-SOM mRNA-positive cells but reduced the expression per cell. These results confirm the advantages of our method to quantify a wide range of silver grains (10-5000) and improves the sensitivity of in situ hybridization. With this support the in situ hybridization technique could be considered a real quantitative method for measuring small alterations in neuronal function.
- Central nervous system
- Computerized microscope image analysis
- mRNA expression
- PreproNPY mRNA
ASJC Scopus subject areas