Neuroscience Bulletin

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 378–388 | Cite as

Rapid and Sparse Labeling of Neurons Based on the Mutant Virus-Like Particle of Semliki Forest Virus

  • Fan JiaEmail author
  • Xutao Zhu
  • Pei Lv
  • Liang Hu
  • Qing Liu
  • Sen Jin
  • Fuqiang XuEmail author


Sparse labeling of neurons contributes to uncovering their morphology, and rapid expression of a fluorescent protein reduces the experiment range. To achieve the goal of rapid and sparse labeling of neurons in vivo, we established a rapid method for depicting the fine structure of neurons at 24 h post-infection based on a mutant virus-like particle of Semliki Forest virus. Approximately 0.014 fluorescent focus-forming units of the mutant virus-like particle transferred enhanced green fluorescent protein into neurons in vivo, and its affinity for neurons in vivo was stronger than for neurons in vitro and BHK21 (baby hamster kidney) cells. Collectively, the mutant virus-like particle provides a robust and convenient way to reveal the fine structure of neurons and is expected to be a helper virus for combining with other tools to determine their connectivity. Our work adds a new tool to the approaches for rapid and sparse labeling of neurons in vivo.


Semliki Forest virus Mutant virus-like particle Rapid labeling Sparse labeling Neuronal morphology 



We are grateful to Dr. Markus U. Ehrengruber (Department of Biology, Kantonsschule Hohe Promenade, Zurich, Switzerland) for providing the SFV replicon and helper cDNA clones. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31771197,31830035 and 91732304), the National Basic Research Development Program (973 Program) of China (2015CB755600), the Strategic Priority Research Program (B), Chinese Academy of Sciences, China (XDBS01030200), and the Major Research Plan of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91632303).

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MP4 29141 kb)


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Copyright information

© Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance and Atomic and Molecular Physics, Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance in Biological SystemsWuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics, Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.Brain Research Center, Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics, Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence TechnologyChinese Academy of SciencesShanghaiChina

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