In the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS), different neural precursor populations such as neural stem cells (NSCs), intermediate neurogenic progenitors (INPs) and immature neurons have to migrate from their places of birth to their location of function. Coordinated migration is mediated by direct cell-cell interactions and by extracellular matrix components, chemoattractants as well as repellents. The migration potential of such populations as well as the responsiveness to chemoattractive compounds can be addressed in isolated cells using in vitro migration assays. Here we describe two migration assays, a matrigel migration assay and a Boyden chamber migration assay, which allow the in vitro assessment of neural migration under defined conditions (Ladewig, Koch and Brüstle, 2014). A matrigel matrix is a soluble basement membrane extract. The major components of matrigel matrix are collagens, laminin and proteoglycans, which provide the substrate for migrating cells. In the matrigel assay migration can be analyzed using a phase contrast microscope. The Boyden chamber assay (Richards and McCullough, 1984) is based on microchemotaxis chambers, which consist of two compartments separated by a membrane with a defined pore size. Cells can be plated in the upper compartment and allowed to migrate through the pores towards the lower compartment, in which a potential chemotactic agent is loaded. Cell migration can be analyzed following fixing and immunohistochemical staining. In principle, the described protocols should be applicable to other cell populations such as endothelial cells or cancer cells using conditions adapted to the individual needs of the specific cell type.
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