Optical clearing and imaging of immunolabeled kidney tissue

Turgay Saritas, Victor G. Puelles, Xiao Tong Su, David H. Ellison, Rafael Kramann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Optical clearing techniques render tissue transparent by equilibrating the refractive index throughout a sample for subsequent three-dimensional (3-D) imaging. They have received great attention in all research areas for the potential to analyze microscopic multicellular structures that extend over macroscopic distances. Given that kidney tubules, vasculature, nerves, and glomeruli extend in many directions, which have been only partially captured by traditional two-dimensional techniques so far, tissue clearing also opened up many new areas of kidney research. The list of optical clearing methods is rapidly growing, but it remains difficult for beginners in this field to choose the best method for a given research question. Provided here is a simple method that combines antibody labeling of thick mouse kidney slices; optical clearing with cheap, non-toxic and ready-to-use chemical ethyl cinnamate; and confocal imaging. This protocol describes how to perfuse kidneys and use an antigen-retrieval step to increase antibody-binding without requiring specialized equipment. Its application is presented in imaging different multicellular structures within the kidney, and how to troubleshoot poor antibody penetration into tissue is addressed. We also discuss the potential difficulties of imaging endogenous fluorophores and acquiring very large samples and how to overcome them. This simple protocol provides an easy-to-setup and comprehensive tool to study tissue in three dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere60002
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number149
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Issue 149
  • Kidney
  • Medicine
  • Optical clearing
  • Three-dimensional analysis
  • Tissue clearing
  • Tubule
  • Whole-mount immunolabeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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