Whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH) is a powerful tool for visualizing gene expression patterns in specific cell and tissue types. Each model organism presents its own unique set of challenges for achieving robust and reproducible staining with cellular resolution. Here we describe a formaldehyde-based WISH method for the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea developed by systematically comparing and optimizing techniques for fixation, permeabilization, hybridization and post-processing. The new method gives robust, high-resolution labeling in fine anatomical detail, allows co-labeling with fluorescent probes, and is sufficiently sensitive to resolve the expression pattern of a microRNA in planarians. Our WISH methodology not only provides significant advancements over current protocols that make it a valuable asset for the planarian community, but should also find wide applicability in WISH methods used in other systems.
*Contributed equally to this work