Neuronal nuclei (NeuN) antibodies serve as core tools for studying the development and differentiation of neurons and for staining mature neurons.
In 1992, Mullen and co-workers immunized mice with brain cell nuclei to create monoclonal antibodies1. Among these, one antibody successfully detected a nuclear protein that is specific to neurons. This nuclear protein is expressed by many neurons present in the peripheral and central nervous system. The team named this Neuronal Nuclei (NeuN)1.
Then later in 2009, the identity of the NeuN antibody was revealed as the mRNA splicing regulator called Fox-32. To date, NeuN antibodies continue to be a fundamental tool for Neuroscientists, serving as a dependable marker in the identification of mature neurons.
When and Where is NeuN Expressed
The nucleus of post-mitotic neurons contains most of the NeuN, which initially appears at embryonic day 9.5 in the neural tube of the mouse and associates with the neuronal cells that exit the cell cycle1. Usually, the expression of NeuN antibodies becomes obvious when the expression of doublecortin – the immature neuron marker – is downregulated.
The following cells do not express the NeuN antibodies 1,3,4:
- Olfactory bulb mitral cells
- Cerebellar Purkinje cells
- Most cells of the retina’s inner nuclear layer
- Retina photoreceptor cells
- Sympathetic chain ganglion neurons
- Neurons in the dorsal cochlear nucleus
- Neurons of the inferior olive and dentate nuclei
- Cortical Cajal-Retzius neurons
Uses of NeuN Antibodies
In many applications including flow cytometry and immunofluorescence, NeuN antibodies are used for identifying mature neurons in tissue sections and cell cultures. Together with other cell type markers, these antibodies can also be used for studying neural networks and the development and differentiation of neurons.
Moreover, NeuN antibodies can be used along with proliferation markers such as BrdU and Ki67 to detect neurons that have just departed the cell cycle, thus enabling the analysis of adult neurogenesis5.
Selecting a NeuN Antibody
Abcam’s NeuN RabMAb antibody® (ab177487) provides several benefits for neuronal staining. The company’s patented RabMAb technology guarantees reproducibility and specificity, while the rabbit host removes the background and cross-reactivity due to use of mouse monoclonals in mouse tissues. The NeuN RabMAb antibody® is available in a trial size of 10 µl, so that users can try it out themselves risk-free.
- Mullen, R. J., Buck, C. R. & Smith, A. M. Neun, a neuronal specific nuclear protein in vertebrates. Development 116, 201–211 (1992).
- Kim, K. K., Adelstein, R. S. & Kawamoto, S. Identification of neuronal nuclei (NeuN) as Fox-3, a new member of the Fox-1 gene family of splicing factors. J. Biol. Chem. 284, 31052–31061 (2009).
- Wolf, H. K. et al. NeuN: a useful neuronal marker for diagnostic histopathology. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 44, 1167–1171 (1996).
- Sarnat, H. B., Nochlin, D. & Born, D. E. Neuronal nuclear antigen (NeuN): a marker of neuronal maturation in early human fetal nervous system. Brain Dev. 20, 88–94 (1998).
- Eriksson, P. S. et al. Neurogenesis in the adult human hippocampus. Nat. Med. 4, 1313–1317 (1998).
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