Localized RNAi and ectopic gene expression in the medicinal leech

Orit Shefi, Claire Simonnet, Alex Groisman, Eduardo R. Macagno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this video, we show the use of a pneumatic capillary gun for the accurate biolistic delivery of reagents into live tissue. We use the procedure to perturb gene expression patterns in selected segments of leech embryos, leaving the untreated segments as internal controls. The pneumatic capillary gun can be used to reach internal layers of cells at early stages of development without opening the specimen. As a method for localized introduction of substances into living tissues, the biolistic delivery with the gun has several advantages: it is fast, contact-free and non-destructive. In addition, a single capillary gun can be used for independent delivery of different substances. The delivery region can have lateral dimensions of ~50-150 μm and extends over ~15 μm around the mean penetration depth, which is adjustable between 0 and 50 μm. This delivery has the advantage of being able to target a limited number of cells in a selected location intermediate between single cell knock down by microinjection and systemic knockdown through extracellular injections or by means of genetic approaches. For knocking down or knocking in the expression of the axon guidance molecule Netrin, which is naturally expressed by some central neurons and in the ventral body wall, but not the dorsal domain, we deliver molecules of dsRNA or plasmid-DNA into the body wall and central ganglia. This procedure includes the following steps: (i) preparation of the experimental setup for a specific assay (adjusting the accelerating pressure), (ii) coating the particles with molecules of dsRNA or DNA, (iii) loading the coated particles into the gun, up to two reagents in one assay, (iv) preparing the animals for the particle delivery, (v) delivery of coated particles into the target tissue (body wall or ganglia), and (vi) processing the embryos (immunostaining, immunohistochemistry and neuronal labeling) to visualize the results, usually 2 to 3 days after the delivery. When the particles were coated with netrin dsRNA, they caused clearly visible knock-down of netrin expression that only occurred in cells containing particles (usually, 1-2 particles per cell). Particles coated with a plasmid encoding EGFP induced fluorescence in neuronal cells when they stopped in their nuclei.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere697
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon guidance
  • Development
  • Gene gun
  • Issue 14
  • Leech
  • Mechanosensory neurons
  • Netrin
  • Neuroscience
  • RNAi


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