Optogenetic methods have emerged as a powerful tool for elucidating neural circuit activity underlying a diverse set of behaviors across a broad range of species. Optogenetic tools of microbial origin consist of light-sensitive membrane proteins that are able to activate (e.g., channelrhodopsin-2, ChR2) or silence (e.g., halorhodopsin, NpHR) neural activity ingenetically-defined cell types over behaviorally-relevant timescales. We first demonstrate a simple approach for adeno-associated virus-mediated delivery of ChR2 and NpHR transgenes to the dorsal subiculum and prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex in rat. Because ChR2 and NpHR are genetically targetable, we describe the use of this technology to control the electrical activity of specific populations of neurons (i.e., pyramidal neurons) embedded in heterogeneous tissue with high temporal precision. We describe herein the hardware, custom software user interface, and procedures that allow for simultaneous light delivery and electrical recording from transduced pyramidal neurons in an anesthetized in vivo preparation. These light-responsive tools provide the opportunity for identifying the causal contributions of different cell types to information processing and behavior.
13 Related JoVE Articles!
Optogenetic Stimulation of Escape Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster
Institutions: Stanford University .
A growing number of genetically encoded tools are becoming available that allow non-invasive manipulation of the neural activity of specific neurons in Drosophila melanogaster1
. Chief among these are optogenetic tools, which enable the activation or silencing of specific neurons in the intact and freely moving animal using bright light. Channelrhodopsin (ChR2) is a light-activated cation channel that, when activated by blue light, causes depolarization of neurons that express it. ChR2 has been effective for identifying neurons critical for specific behaviors, such as CO2
avoidance, proboscis extension and giant-fiber mediated startle response2-4
. However, as the intense light sources used to stimulate ChR2 also stimulate photoreceptors, these optogenetic techniques have not previously been used in the visual system. Here, we combine an optogenetic approach with a mutation that impairs phototransduction to demonstrate that activation of a cluster of loom-sensitive neurons in the fly's optic lobe, Foma-1 neurons, can drive an escape behavior used to avoid collision. We used a null allele of a critical component of the phototransduction cascade, phospholipase C-β, encoded by the norpA
gene, to render the flies blind and also use the Gal4-UAS transcriptional activator system to drive expression of ChR2 in the Foma-1 neurons. Individual flies are placed on a small platform surrounded by blue LEDs. When the LEDs are illuminated, the flies quickly take-off into flight, in a manner similar to visually driven loom-escape behavior. We believe that this technique can be easily adapted to examine other behaviors in freely moving flies.
Neurobiology, Issue 71, Neuroscience, Genetics, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Behavior, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, ChR2, escape behavior, neurons, fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, animal model
A Guide to In vivo Single-unit Recording from Optogenetically Identified Cortical Inhibitory Interneurons
Institutions: University of Oregon.
A major challenge in neurophysiology has been to characterize the response properties and function of the numerous inhibitory cell types in the cerebral cortex.
We here share our strategy for obtaining stable, well-isolated single-unit recordings from identified inhibitory interneurons in the anesthetized mouse cortex using a method developed by Lima and colleagues1
. Recordings are performed in mice expressing Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in specific neuronal subpopulations. Members of the population are identified by their response to a brief flash of blue light. This technique – termed “PINP”, or Photostimulation-assisted Identification of Neuronal Populations – can be implemented with standard extracellular recording equipment. It can serve as an inexpensive and accessible alternative to calcium imaging or visually-guided patching, for the purpose of targeting extracellular recordings to genetically-identified cells. Here we provide a set of guidelines for optimizing the method in everyday practice. We refined our strategy specifically for targeting parvalbumin-positive (PV+) cells, but have found that it works for other interneuron types as well, such as somatostatin-expressing (SOM+) and calretinin-expressing (CR+) interneurons.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Optogenetics, Channelrhodopsin, ChR2, cortex, in vivo recording, extracellular, Parvalbumin, interneuron, mouse, electrophysiology
Using Affordable LED Arrays for Photo-Stimulation of Neurons
Institutions: Institut Pasteur and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Standard slice electrophysiology has allowed researchers to probe individual components of neural circuitry by recording electrical responses of single cells in response to electrical or pharmacological manipulations1,2
. With the invention of methods to optically control genetically targeted neurons (optogenetics), researchers now have an unprecedented level of control over specific groups of neurons in the standard slice preparation. In particular, photosensitive channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) allows researchers to activate neurons with light3,4
. By combining careful calibration of LED-based photostimulation of ChR2 with standard slice electrophysiology, we are able to probe with greater detail the role of adult-born interneurons in the olfactory bulb, the first central relay of the olfactory system. Using viral expression of ChR2-YFP specifically in adult-born neurons, we can selectively control young adult-born neurons in a milieu of older and mature neurons. Our optical control uses a simple and inexpensive LED system, and we show how this system can be calibrated to understand how much light is needed to evoke spiking activity in single neurons. Hence, brief flashes of blue light can remotely control the firing pattern of ChR2-transduced newborn cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 57, Adult neurogenesis, Channelrhodopsin, Neural stem cells, Plasticity, Synapses, Electrophysiology
Optogenetic Stimulation of the Auditory Nerve
Institutions: University Medical Center Goettingen, University of Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, University of Goettingen, University of Guanajuato.
Direct electrical stimulation of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) by cochlear implants (CIs) enables open speech comprehension in the majority of implanted deaf subjects1-6
. Nonetheless, sound coding with current CIs has poor frequency and intensity resolution due to broad current spread from each electrode contact activating a large number of SGNs along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea7-9
. Optical stimulation is proposed as an alternative to electrical stimulation that promises spatially more confined activation of SGNs and, hence, higher frequency resolution of coding. In recent years, direct infrared illumination of the cochlea has been used to evoke responses in the auditory nerve10
. Nevertheless it requires higher energies than electrical stimulation10,11
and uncertainty remains as to the underlying mechanism12
. Here we describe a method based on optogenetics to stimulate SGNs with low intensity blue light, using transgenic mice with neuronal expression of channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2)13
or virus-mediated expression of the ChR2-variant CatCh14
. We used micro-light emitting diodes (µLEDs) and fiber-coupled lasers to stimulate ChR2-expressing SGNs through a small artificial opening (cochleostomy) or the round window. We assayed the responses by scalp recordings of light-evoked potentials (optogenetic auditory brainstem response: oABR) or by microelectrode recordings from the auditory pathway and compared them with acoustic and electrical stimulation.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, hearing, cochlear implant, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, optical stimulation, deafness
Optogenetic Activation of Zebrafish Somatosensory Neurons using ChEF-tdTomato
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Larval zebrafish are emerging as a model for describing the development and function of simple neural circuits. Due to their external fertilization, rapid development, and translucency, zebrafish are particularly well suited for optogenetic approaches to investigate neural circuit function. In this approach, light-sensitive ion channels are expressed in specific neurons, enabling the experimenter to activate or inhibit them at will and thus assess their contribution to specific behaviors. Applying these methods in larval zebrafish is conceptually simple but requires the optimization of technical details. Here we demonstrate a procedure for expressing a channelrhodopsin variant in larval zebrafish somatosensory neurons, photo-activating single cells, and recording the resulting behaviors. By introducing a few modifications to previously established methods, this approach could be used to elicit behavioral responses from single neurons activated up to at least 4 days post-fertilization (dpf). Specifically, we created a transgene using a somatosensory neuron enhancer, CREST3
, to drive the expression of the tagged channelrhodopsin variant, ChEF-tdTomato. Injecting this transgene into 1-cell stage embryos results in mosaic expression in somatosensory neurons, which can be imaged with confocal microscopy. Illuminating identified cells in these animals with light from a 473 nm DPSS laser, guided through a fiber optic cable, elicits behaviors that can be recorded with a high-speed video camera and analyzed quantitatively. This technique could be adapted to study behaviors elicited by activating any zebrafish neuron. Combining this approach with genetic or pharmacological perturbations will be a powerful way to investigate circuit formation and function.
Neuroscience, Issue 71, Developmental Biology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Zebrafish, Behavior, Animal, Touch, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, ChEF, sensory neuron, Rohon-Beard, Danio rerio, somatosensory, neurons, microinjection, confocal microscopy, high speed video, animal model
A Standardized Obstacle Course for Assessment of Visual Function in Ultra Low Vision and Artificial Vision
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh.
We describe an indoor, portable, standardized course that can be used to evaluate obstacle avoidance in persons who have ultralow vision. Six sighted controls and 36 completely blind but otherwise healthy adult male (n=29) and female (n=13) subjects (age range 19-85 years), were enrolled in one of three studies involving testing of the BrainPort sensory substitution device. Subjects were asked to navigate the course prior to, and after, BrainPort training. They completed a total of 837 course runs in two different locations. Means and standard deviations were calculated across control types, courses, lights, and visits. We used a linear mixed effects model to compare different categories in the PPWS (percent preferred walking speed) and error percent data to show that the course iterations were properly designed. The course is relatively inexpensive, simple to administer, and has been shown to be a feasible way to test mobility function. Data analysis demonstrates that for the outcome of percent error as well as for percentage preferred walking speed, that each of the three courses is different, and that within each level, each of the three iterations are equal. This allows for randomization of the courses during administration.
preferred walking speed (PWS)
course speed (CS)
percentage preferred walking speed (PPWS)
Medicine, Issue 84, Obstacle course, navigation assessment, BrainPort, wayfinding, low vision
A Behavioral Assay to Measure Responsiveness of Zebrafish to Changes in Light Intensities
The optokinetic reflex (OKR) is a basic visual reflex exhibited by most vertebrates and plays an important role in stabilizing the eye relative to the visual scene. However, the OKR requires that an animal detect moving stripes and it is possible that fish that fail to exhibit an OKR may not be completely blind. One zebrafish mutant, the no optokinetic response c (nrc) has no OKR under any light conditions tested and was reported to be completely blind. Previously, we have shown that OFF-ganglion cell activity can be recorded in these mutants. To determine whether mutant fish with no OKR such as the nrc mutant can detect simple light increments and decrements we developed the visual motor behavioral assay (VMR). In this assay, single zebrafish larvae are placed in each well of a 96-well plate allowing the simultaneous monitoring of larvae using an automated video-tracking system. The locomotor responses of each larva to 30 minutes light ON and 30 minutes light OFF were recorded and quantified. WT fish have a brief spike of motor activity upon lights ON, known as the startle response, followed by return to lower-than baseline activity, called a freeze. WT fish also sharply increase their locomotor activity immediately following lights OFF and only gradually (over several minutes) return to baseline locomotor activity. The nrc mutants respond similarly to light OFF as WT fish, but exhibit a slight reduction in their average activity as compared to WT fish. Motor activity in response to light ON in nrc mutants is delayed and sluggish. There is a slow rise time of the nrc mutant response to light ON as compared to WT light ON response. The results indicate that nrc fish are not completely blind. Because teleosts can detect light through non-retinal tissues, we confirmed that the immediate behavioral responses to light-intensity changes require intact eyes by using the chokh (chk) mutants, which completely lack eyes from the earliest stages of development. In our VMR assay, the chk mutants exhibit no startle response to either light ON or OFF, showing that the lateral eyes mediate this behavior. The VMR assay described here complements the well-established OKR assay, which does not test the ability of zebrafish larvae to respond to changes in light intensities. Additionally, the automation of the VMR assay lends itself to high-throughput screening for defects in light-intensity driven visual responses.
Developmental Biology, Issue 20, vision, ON- and OFF-responses, behavior, zebrafish
In vivo Imaging of Optic Nerve Fiber Integrity by Contrast-Enhanced MRI in Mice
Institutions: Jena University Hospital, Fritz Lipmann Institute, Jena, Jena University Hospital.
The rodent visual system encompasses retinal ganglion cells and their axons that form the optic nerve to enter thalamic and midbrain centers, and postsynaptic projections to the visual cortex. Based on its distinct anatomical structure and convenient accessibility, it has become the favored structure for studies on neuronal survival, axonal regeneration, and synaptic plasticity. Recent advancements in MR imaging have enabled the in vivo
visualization of the retino-tectal part of this projection using manganese mediated contrast enhancement (MEMRI). Here, we present a MEMRI protocol for illustration of the visual projection in mice, by which resolutions of (200 µm)3
can be achieved using common 3 Tesla scanners. We demonstrate how intravitreal injection of a single dosage of 15 nmol MnCl2
leads to a saturated enhancement of the intact projection within 24 hr. With exception of the retina, changes in signal intensity are independent of coincided visual stimulation or physiological aging. We further apply this technique to longitudinally monitor axonal degeneration in response to acute optic nerve injury, a paradigm by which Mn2+
transport completely arrests at the lesion site. Conversely, active Mn2+
transport is quantitatively proportionate to the viability, number, and electrical activity of axon fibers. For such an analysis, we exemplify Mn2+
transport kinetics along the visual path in a transgenic mouse model (NF-κB p50KO
) displaying spontaneous atrophy of sensory, including visual, projections. In these mice, MEMRI indicates reduced but not delayed Mn2+
transport as compared to wild type mice, thus revealing signs of structural and/or functional impairments by NF-κB mutations.
In summary, MEMRI conveniently bridges in vivo
assays and post mortem
histology for the characterization of nerve fiber integrity and activity. It is highly useful for longitudinal studies on axonal degeneration and regeneration, and investigations of mutant mice for genuine or inducible phenotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, manganese-enhanced MRI, mouse retino-tectal projection, visual system, neurodegeneration, optic nerve injury, NF-κB
Proton Transfer and Protein Conformation Dynamics in Photosensitive Proteins by Time-resolved Step-scan Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy
Institutions: Freie Universität Berlin.
Monitoring the dynamics of protonation and protein backbone conformation changes during the function of a protein is an essential step towards understanding its mechanism. Protonation and conformational changes affect the vibration pattern of amino acid side chains and of the peptide bond, respectively, both of which can be probed by infrared (IR) difference spectroscopy. For proteins whose function can be repetitively and reproducibly triggered by light, it is possible to obtain infrared difference spectra with (sub)microsecond resolution over a broad spectral range using the step-scan Fourier transform infrared technique. With ~102
repetitions of the photoreaction, the minimum number to complete a scan at reasonable spectral resolution and bandwidth, the noise level in the absorption difference spectra can be as low as ~10-4
, sufficient to follow the kinetics of protonation changes from a single amino acid. Lower noise levels can be accomplished by more data averaging and/or mathematical processing. The amount of protein required for optimal results is between 5-100 µg, depending on the sampling technique used. Regarding additional requirements, the protein needs to be first concentrated in a low ionic strength buffer and then dried to form a film. The protein film is hydrated prior to the experiment, either with little droplets of water or under controlled atmospheric humidity. The attained hydration level (g of water / g of protein) is gauged from an IR absorption spectrum. To showcase the technique, we studied the photocycle of the light-driven proton-pump bacteriorhodopsin in its native purple membrane environment, and of the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 solubilized in detergent.
Biophysics, Issue 88, bacteriorhodopsin, channelrhodopsin, attenuated total reflection, proton transfer, protein dynamics, infrared spectroscopy, time-resolved spectroscopy, step-scan, membrane proteins, singular value decomposition
Selective Viral Transduction of Adult-born Olfactory Neurons for Chronic in vivo Optogenetic Stimulation
Institutions: Institut Pasteur and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Local interneurons are continuously regenerated in the olfactory bulb of adult rodents1-3
. In this process, called adult neurogenesis, neural stem cells in the walls of the lateral ventricle give rise to neuroblasts that migrate for several millimeters along the rostral migratory stream (RMS) to reach and incorporate into the olfactory bulb. To study the different steps and the impact of adult-born neuron integration into preexisting olfactory circuits, it is necessary to selectively label and manipulate the activity of this specific population of neurons. The recent development of optogenetic technologies offers the opportunity to use light to precisely activate this specific cohort of neurons without affecting surrounding neurons4,5
. Here, we present a series of procedures to virally express Channelrhodopsin2(ChR2)-YFP in a temporally restricted cohort of neuroblasts in the RMS before they reach the olfactory bulb and become adult-born neurons. In addition, we show how to implant and calibrate a miniature LED for chronic in vivo
stimulation of ChR2-expressing neurons.
Neuroscience, Issue 58, Olfactory bulb, Olfactory neurons, in vivo, viral transduction, mouse, LED
Optogenetic Perturbation of Neural Activity with Laser Illumination in Semi-intact Drosophila Larvae in Motion
Institutions: The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo.
larval locomotion is a splendid model system in developmental and physiological neuroscience, by virtue of the genetic accessibility of the underlying neuronal components in the circuits1-6
. Application of optogenetics7,8
in the larval neural circuit allows us to manipulate neuronal activity in spatially and temporally patterned ways9-13
. Typically, specimens are broadly illuminated with a mercury lamp or LED, so specificity of the target neurons is controlled by binary gene expression systems such as the Gal4-UAS system14,15
. In this work, to improve the spatial resolution to "sub-genetic resolution", we locally illuminated a subset of neurons in the ventral nerve cord using lasers implemented in a conventional confocal microscope. While monitoring the motion of the body wall of the semi-intact larvae, we interactively activated or inhibited neural activity with channelrhodopsin16,17
, respectively. By spatially and temporally restricted illumination of the neural tissue, we can manipulate the activity of specific neurons in the circuit at a specific phase of behavior. This method is useful for studying the relationship between the activities of a local neural assembly in the ventral nerve cord and the spatiotemporal pattern of motor output.
Neuroscience, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology, Developmental Biology, Bioengineering, Cellular Biology, Motor Neurons, Neurosciences, Drosophila, Optogenetics, Channelrhodopsin-2, Halorhodopsin, laser, confocal microscopy, animal model
The FlyBar: Administering Alcohol to Flies
Institutions: Florida State University, University of Houston.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster
) are an established model for both alcohol research and circadian biology. Recently, we showed that the circadian clock modulates alcohol sensitivity, but not the formation of tolerance. Here, we describe our protocol in detail. Alcohol is administered to the flies using the FlyBar. In this setup, saturated alcohol vapor is mixed with humidified air in set proportions, and administered to the flies in four tubes simultaneously. Flies are reared under standardized conditions in order to minimize variation between the replicates. Three-day old flies of different genotypes or treatments are used for the experiments, preferably by matching flies of two different time points (e.g.
, CT 5 and CT 17) making direct comparisons possible. During the experiment, flies are exposed for 1 hr to the pre-determined percentage of alcohol vapor and the number of flies that exhibit the Loss of Righting reflex (LoRR) or sedation are counted every 5 min. The data can be analyzed using three different statistical approaches. The first is to determine the time at which 50% of the flies have lost their righting reflex and use an Analysis of the Variance (ANOVA) to determine whether significant differences exist between time points. The second is to determine the percentage flies that show LoRR after a specified number of minutes, followed by an ANOVA analysis. The last method is to analyze the whole times series using multivariate statistics. The protocol can also be used for non-circadian experiments or comparisons between genotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, neuroscience, alcohol sensitivity, Drosophila, Circadian, sedation, biological rhythms, undergraduate research
Channelrhodopsin2 Mediated Stimulation of Synaptic Potentials at Drosophila Neuromuscular Junctions
larval neuromuscular preparation has proven to be a useful tool for studying synaptic physiology1,2,3
. Currently, the only means available to evoke excitatory junctional potentials (EJPs) in this preparation involves the use of suction electrodes. In both research and teaching labs, students often have difficulty maneuvering and manipulating this type of stimulating electrode. In the present work, we show how to remotely stimulate synaptic potentials at the larval NMJ without the use of suction electrodes. By expressing channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) 4,5,6
motor neurons using the GAL4-UAS
, and making minor changes to a basic electrophysiology rig, we were able to reliably evoke EJPs with pulses of blue light. This technique could be of particular use in neurophysiology teaching labs where student rig practice time and resources are limited.
Neuroscience, Issue 25, Intracellular neurophysiology, Drosophila melanogaster larvae, Channelrhodopsin2