Macro optical projection tomography for large scale 3D imaging of plant structures and gene activity

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Optical projection tomography (OPT) is a well-established method for visualising gene activity in plants and animals. However, a limitation of conventional OPT is that the specimen upper size limit precludes its application to larger structures. To address this problem we constructed a macro version called Macro OPT (M-OPT). We apply M-OPT to 3D live imaging of gene activity in growing whole plants and to visualise structural morphology in large optically cleared plant and insect specimens up to 60 mm tall and 45 mm deep. We also show how M-OPT can be used to image gene expression domains in 3D within fixed tissue and to visualise gene activity in 3D in clones of growing young whole Arabidopsis plants. A further application of M-OPT is to visualise plant-insect interactions. Thus M-OPT provides an effective 3D imaging platform that allows the study of gene activity, internal plant structures and plant-insect interactions at a macroscopic scale.