Mouse Necropsy

Piper M. Treuting1, Jessica M. Snyder1

1 Department of Comparative Medicine & Comparative Pathology Program, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Mouse Biology
Unit Number:   
DOI:  10.1002/9780470942390.mo140296
Online Posting Date:  September, 2015
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Necropsy (also known as autopsy) is the post‐mortem dissection of bodies after euthanasia or death and is a scientific examination conducted to observe and dissect the organs, collect tissues, and determine the extent of grossly evident disease. Research necropsies are conducted to obtain specific samples tailored according to study objectives. Diagnostic necropsy may be undertaken when unexpected illness or death occurs. The systematic collection of samples at necropsy is the critical first step in generating morphologic data from animal models. The morphologic (anatomic and histologic) data generates information on changes in cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems providing context for phenotypes (functional and morphological) to the level of the whole organism. Optimal insight into phenotype or pathophysiologic mechanisms is obtained when morphologic data is coupled with laboratory, medical, and molecular findings. This protocol provides a standard for an efficient routine mouse necropsy with brief comments on advanced or alternative techniques. © 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Keywords: rodent; autopsy; histopathology; fixation; disease models; phenotyping

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Basic Protocol 1: Basic Necropsy of the Mouse
  • Alternate Protocol 1: Abbreviated Necropsy for Mice
  • Commentary
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: Basic Necropsy of the Mouse

  • Mouse
  • 70% to 95% ethanol in a dip‐container or spray bottle
  • 10% (v/v) neutral buffered formalin (fixative; e.g., VWR, cat. no. 16004‐124)
  • Specimen containers
  • Embedding cassettes
  • #2 pencil
  • Necropsy record
  • Optional: supplies for blood collection
  • Dissection board
  • Dissection pins
  • Forceps
  • Surgical scissors
    • Sharp for most dissection
    • Less sharp or older for tough tissue
  • Digital scale (readability 0.01 g)
  • Ruler (metric)
  • Optional: supplies for preparing intestinal Swiss roll
  • 3‐ml syringe
  • 18‐ or 21‐G needle
  • Dissecting microscope or magnifying lens
  • Optional: biopsy bag
  • Optional: digital camera for documentation

Alternate Protocol 1: Abbreviated Necropsy for Mice

  • Specimen container filled with 10% (v/v) neutral buffered formalin or 450‐ml prefilled formalin container (e.g., VWR, cat. no. 16004‐124)
  • Necropsy record
  • Surgical scissors
  • Forceps
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Literature Cited

Literature Cited
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  Treuting, P.M. and Dintzis, S.M. (eds.) 2012. Comparative Anatomy and Histology: A Mouse and Human Atlas. Academic Press, London.
Key References
  Bolon et al., 2012. See above.
Internet Resources
  Images showing necropsy of the mouse.
  Video and protocol for necropsy of the mouse and rat.‐lab‐protocols/complete‐mouse‐necropsy.html
  Protocol from Matthew Fero laboratory detailing euthanasia, fixatives, and necropsy of the mouse.
  Images from the Atlas of Laboratory Mouse Histology.
  Course and conference listings offered by The Jackson Laboratory, including the Annual Workshop on Pathology of Mouse Models of Human Diseases.
  Mouse Pathobiology and Phenotyping Short Course offered by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  Meetings and syllabi offered by the Charles Louis Davis, D.V.M. Foundation, including the Pathology of Laboratory Animals course.
  List of major mouse strains with information and links.
  Mouse nomenclature: rules for naming mouse and rat strains, genes, alleles, and mutations.
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