Showing 1 - 21 of 21 results
Potassium channel-based optogenetic silencing.
Optogenetics enables manipulation of biological processes with light at high spatio-temporal resolution to control the behavior of cells, networks, or even whole animals. In contrast to the performance of excitatory rhodopsins, the effectiveness of inhibitory optogenetic tools is still insufficient. Here we report a two-component optical silencer system comprising photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and the small cyclic nucleotide-gated potassium channel SthK. Activation of this 'PAC-K' silencer by brief pulses of low-intensity blue light causes robust and reversible silencing of cardiomyocyte excitation and neuronal firing. In vivo expression of PAC-K in mouse and zebrafish neurons is well tolerated, where blue light inhibits neuronal activity and blocks motor responses. In combination with red-light absorbing channelrhodopsins, the distinct action spectra of PACs allow independent bimodal control of neuronal activity. PAC-K represents a reliable optogenetic silencer with intrinsic amplification for sustained potassium-mediated hyperpolarization, conferring high operational light sensitivity to the cells of interest.
Synthetic Light-Activated Ion Channels for Optogenetic Activation and Inhibition.
Optogenetic manipulation of cells or living organisms became widely used in neuroscience following the introduction of the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). ChR2 is a non-selective cation channel, ideally suited to depolarize and evoke action potentials in neurons. However, its calcium (Ca2+) permeability and single channel conductance are low and for some applications longer-lasting increases in intracellular Ca2+ might be desirable. Moreover, there is need for an efficient light-gated potassium (K+) channel that can rapidly inhibit spiking in targeted neurons. Considering the importance of Ca2+ and K+ in cell physiology, light-activated Ca2+-permeant and K+-specific channels would be welcome additions to the optogenetic toolbox. Here we describe the engineering of novel light-gated Ca2+-permeant and K+-specific channels by fusing a bacterial photoactivated adenylyl cyclase to cyclic nucleotide-gated channels with high permeability for Ca2+ or for K+, respectively. Optimized fusion constructs showed strong light-gated conductance in Xenopus laevis oocytes and in rat hippocampal neurons. These constructs could also be used to control the motility of Drosophila melanogaster larvae, when expressed in motoneurons. Illumination led to body contraction when motoneurons expressed the light-sensitive Ca2+-permeant channel, and to body extension when expressing the light-sensitive K+ channel, both effectively and reversibly paralyzing the larvae. Further optimization of these constructs will be required for application in adult flies since both constructs led to eclosion failure when expressed in motoneurons.
Kinetics of Endogenous CaMKII Required for Synaptic Plasticity Revealed by Optogenetic Kinase Inhibitor.
Elucidating temporal windows of signaling activity required for synaptic and behavioral plasticity is crucial for understanding molecular mechanisms underlying these phenomena. Here, we developed photoactivatable autocamtide inhibitory peptide 2 (paAIP2), a genetically encoded, light-inducible inhibitor of CaMKII activity. The photoactivation of paAIP2 in neurons for 1-2 min during the induction of LTP and structural LTP (sLTP) of dendritic spines inhibited these forms of plasticity in hippocampal slices of rodents. However, photoactivation ∼1 min after the induction did not affect them, suggesting that the initial 1 min of CaMKII activation is sufficient for inducing LTP and sLTP. Furthermore, the photoactivation of paAIP2 expressed in amygdalar neurons of mice during an inhibitory avoidance task revealed that CaMKII activity during, but not after, training is required for the memory formation. Thus, we demonstrated that paAIP2 is useful to elucidate the temporal window of CaMKII activation required for synaptic plasticity and learning.
Fast cAMP Modulation of Neurotransmission via Neuropeptide Signals and Vesicle Loading.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling augments synaptic transmission, but because many targets of cAMP and protein kinase A (PKA) may be involved, mechanisms underlying this pathway remain unclear. To probe this mechanism, we used optogenetic stimulation of cAMP signaling by Beggiatoa-photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) in Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons. Behavioral, electron microscopy (EM), and electrophysiology analyses revealed cAMP effects on both the rate and on quantal size of transmitter release and led to the identification of a neuropeptidergic pathway affecting quantal size. cAMP enhanced synaptic vesicle (SV) fusion by increasing mobilization and docking/priming. cAMP further evoked dense core vesicle (DCV) release of neuropeptides, in contrast to channelrhodopsin (ChR2) stimulation. cAMP-evoked DCV release required UNC-31/Ca(2+)-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS). Thus, DCVs accumulated in unc-31 mutant synapses. bPAC-induced neuropeptide signaling acts presynaptically to enhance vAChT-dependent SV loading with acetylcholine, thus causing increased miniature postsynaptic current amplitudes (mPSCs) and significantly enlarged SVs.
Optogenetic Control of Synaptic Composition and Function.
The molecular composition of the postsynaptic membrane is sculpted by synaptic activity. During synaptic plasticity at excitatory synapses, numerous structural, signaling, and receptor molecules concentrate at the postsynaptic density (PSD) to regulate synaptic strength. We developed an approach that uses light to tune the abundance of specific molecules in the PSD. We used this approach to investigate the relationship between the number of AMPA-type glutamate receptors in the PSD and synaptic strength. Surprisingly, adding more AMPA receptors to excitatory contacts had little effect on synaptic strength. Instead, we observed increased excitatory input through the apparent addition of new functional sites. Our data support a model where adding AMPA receptors is sufficient to activate synapses that had few receptors to begin with, but that additional remodeling events are required to strengthen established synapses. More broadly, this approach introduces the precise spatiotemporal control of optogenetics to the molecular control of synaptic function.
Regulation of neural gene transcription by optogenetic inhibition of the RE1-silencing transcription factor.
Optogenetics provides new ways to activate gene transcription; however, no attempts have been made as yet to modulate mammalian transcription factors. We report the light-mediated regulation of the repressor element 1 (RE1)-silencing transcription factor (REST), a master regulator of neural genes. To tune REST activity, we selected two protein domains that impair REST-DNA binding or recruitment of the cofactor mSin3a. Computational modeling guided the fusion of the inhibitory domains to the light-sensitive Avena sativa light-oxygen-voltage-sensing (LOV) 2-phototrophin 1 (AsLOV2). By expressing AsLOV2 chimeras in Neuro2a cells, we achieved light-dependent modulation of REST target genes that was associated with an improved neural differentiation. In primary neurons, light-mediated REST inhibition increased Na(+)-channel 1.2 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor transcription and boosted Na(+) currents and neuronal firing. This optogenetic approach allows the coordinated expression of a cluster of genes impinging on neuronal activity, providing a tool for studying neuronal physiology and correcting gene expression changes taking place in brain diseases.
Optogenetic Control of Gene Expression in Drosophila.
To study the molecular mechanism of complex biological systems, it is important to be able to artificially manipulate gene expression in desired target sites with high precision. Based on the light dependent binding of cryptochrome 2 and a cryptochrome interacting bHLH protein, we developed a split lexA transcriptional activation system for use in Drosophila that allows regulation of gene expression in vivo using blue light or two-photon excitation. We show that this system offers high spatiotemporal resolution by inducing gene expression in tissues at various developmental stages. In combination with two-photon excitation, gene expression can be manipulated at precise sites in embryos, potentially offering an important tool with which to examine developmental processes.
Optogenetic manipulation of cGMP in cells and animals by the tightly light-regulated guanylyl-cyclase opsin CyclOp.
Cyclic GMP (cGMP) signalling regulates multiple biological functions through activation of protein kinase G and cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels. In sensory neurons, cGMP permits signal modulation, amplification and encoding, before depolarization. Here we implement a guanylyl cyclase rhodopsin from Blastocladiella emersonii as a new optogenetic tool (BeCyclOp), enabling rapid light-triggered cGMP increase in heterologous cells (Xenopus oocytes, HEK293T cells) and in Caenorhabditis elegans. Among five different fungal CyclOps, exhibiting unusual eight transmembrane topologies and cytosolic N-termini, BeCyclOp is the superior optogenetic tool (light/dark activity ratio: 5,000; no cAMP production; turnover (20 °C) ∼17 cGMP s(-1)). Via co-expressed CNG channels (OLF in oocytes, TAX-2/4 in C. elegans muscle), BeCyclOp photoactivation induces a rapid conductance increase and depolarization at very low light intensities. In O2/CO2 sensory neurons of C. elegans, BeCyclOp activation evokes behavioural responses consistent with their normal sensory function. BeCyclOp therefore enables precise and rapid optogenetic manipulation of cGMP levels in cells and animals.
A photosensitive degron enables acute light-induced protein degradation in the nervous system.
Acutely inducing degradation enables studying the function of essential proteins. Available techniques target proteins post-translationally, via ubiquitin or by fusing destabilizing domains (degrons), and in some cases degradation is controllable by small molecules. Yet, they are comparably slow, possibly inducing compensatory changes, and do not allow localized protein depletion. The photosensitizer miniature singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG), fused to proteins of interest, provides fast light-induced protein destruction, e.g. affecting neurotransmission within minutes, but the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated also affect proteins nearby, causing multifaceted phenotypes. A photosensitive degron (psd), recently developed and characterized in yeast, only targets the protein it is fused to, acting quickly as it is ubiquitin-independent, and the B-LID light-inducible degron was similarly shown to affect protein abundance in zebrafish. We implemented the psd in Caenorhabditis elegans and compared it to miniSOG. The psd effectively caused protein degradation within one hour of low intensity blue light (30 μW/mm(2)). Targeting synaptotagmin (SNT-1::tagRFP::psd), required for efficient neurotransmission, reduced locomotion within 15 minutes of illumination and within one hour behavior and miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) were affected almost to the same degree seen in snt-1 mutants. Thus, psd effectively photo-degrades specific proteins, quickly inducing loss-of-function effects without affecting bystander proteins.
Optogenetics. Engineering of a light-gated potassium channel.
The present palette of opsin-based optogenetic tools lacks a light-gated potassium (K(+)) channel desirable for silencing of excitable cells. Here, we describe the construction of a blue-light-induced K(+) channel 1 (BLINK1) engineered by fusing the plant LOV2-Jα photosensory module to the small viral K(+) channel Kcv. BLINK1 exhibits biophysical features of Kcv, including K(+) selectivity and high single-channel conductance but reversibly photoactivates in blue light. Opening of BLINK1 channels hyperpolarizes the cell to the K(+) equilibrium potential. Ectopic expression of BLINK1 reversibly inhibits the escape response in light-exposed zebrafish larvae. BLINK1 therefore provides a single-component optogenetic tool that can establish prolonged, physiological hyperpolarization of cells at low light intensities.
Engineering adenylate cyclases regulated by near-infrared window light.
Bacteriophytochromes sense light in the near-infrared window, the spectral region where absorption by mammalian tissues is minimal, and their chromophore, biliverdin IXα, is naturally present in animal cells. These properties make bacteriophytochromes particularly attractive for optogenetic applications. However, the lack of understanding of how light-induced conformational changes control output activities has hindered engineering of bacteriophytochrome-based optogenetic tools. Many bacteriophytochromes function as homodimeric enzymes, in which light-induced conformational changes are transferred via α-helical linkers to the rigid output domains. We hypothesized that heterologous output domains requiring homodimerization can be fused to the photosensory modules of bacteriophytochromes to generate light-activated fusions. Here, we tested this hypothesis by engineering adenylate cyclases regulated by light in the near-infrared spectral window using the photosensory module of the Rhodobacter sphaeroides bacteriophytochrome BphG1 and the adenylate cyclase domain from Nostoc sp. CyaB1. We engineered several light-activated fusion proteins that differed from each other by approximately one or two α-helical turns, suggesting that positioning of the output domains in the same phase of the helix is important for light-dependent activity. Extensive mutagenesis of one of these fusions resulted in an adenylate cyclase with a sixfold photodynamic range. Additional mutagenesis produced an enzyme with a more stable photoactivated state. When expressed in cholinergic neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans, the engineered adenylate cyclase affected worm behavior in a light-dependent manner. The insights derived from this study can be applied to the engineering of other homodimeric bacteriophytochromes, which will further expand the optogenetic toolset.
Optical control of the Ca2+ concentration in a live specimen with a genetically encoded Ca2+-releasing molecular tool.
Calcium ion (Ca2+) is an important second messenger implicated in the control of many different cellular processes in living organisms. Ca2+ is typically studied by direct visualization using chemically or genetically encoded indicators. A complementary, and perhaps more useful, approach involves direct manipulation of Ca2+ concentration; tools for this exist but are rather poorly developed compared to the indicators at least. Here, we report a photoactivatable Ca2+-releasing protein, photoactivatable Ca2+ releaser (PACR), made by the insertion of a photosensitive protein domain (LOV2) into a Ca2+ binding protein (calmodulin fused with the M13 peptide). As the PACR is genetically encoded, and unlike conventional optical control tools (e.g., channel rhodopsin) not membrane bound, we are able to restrict expression within the cell, to allow subcellular perturbation of Ca2+ levels. In whole animals, we are able to control the behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans with light by expressing the PACR only in the touch neuron.
RasGRF2 Rac-GEF activity couples NMDA receptor calcium flux to enhanced synaptic transmission.
Dendritic spines are the primary sites of excitatory synaptic transmission in the vertebrate brain, and the morphology of these actin-rich structures correlates with synaptic function. Here we demonstrate a unique method for inducing spine enlargement and synaptic potentiation in dispersed hippocampal neurons, and use this technique to identify a coordinator of these processes; Ras-specific guanine nucleotide releasing factor 2 (RasGRF2). RasGRF2 is a dual Ras/Rac guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) that is known to be necessary for long-term potentiation in situ. Contrary to the prevailing assumption, we find RasGRF2's Rac-GEF activity to be essential for synaptic potentiation by using a molecular replacement strategy designed to dissociate Rac- from Ras-GEF activities. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Rac1 activity itself is sufficient to rapidly modulate postsynaptic strength by using a photoactivatable derivative of this small GTPase. Because Rac1 is a major actin regulator, our results support a model where the initial phase of long-term potentiation is driven by the cytoskeleton.
Optogenetic inhibition of synaptic release with chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI).
Optogenetic techniques provide effective ways of manipulating the functions of selected neurons with light. In the current study, we engineered an optogenetic technique that directly inhibits neurotransmitter release. We used a genetically encoded singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, to conduct chromophore assisted light inactivation (CALI) of synaptic proteins. Fusions of miniSOG to VAMP2 and synaptophysin enabled disruption of presynaptic vesicular release upon illumination with blue light. In cultured neurons and hippocampal organotypic slices, synaptic release was reduced up to 100%. Such inhibition lasted >1 hr and had minimal effects on membrane electrical properties. When miniSOG-VAMP2 was expressed panneuronally in Caenorhabditis elegans, movement of the worms was reduced after illumination, and paralysis was often observed. The movement of the worms recovered overnight. We name this technique Inhibition of Synapses with CALI (InSynC). InSynC is a powerful way to silence genetically specified synapses with light in a spatially and temporally precise manner.
Optogenetic elevation of endogenous glucocorticoid level in larval zebrafish.
The stress response is a suite of physiological and behavioral processes that help to maintain or reestablish homeostasis. Central to the stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as it releases crucial hormones in response to stress. Glucocorticoids (GCs) are the final effector hormones of the HPA axis, and exert a variety of actions under both basal and stress conditions. Despite their far-reaching importance for health, specific GC effects have been difficult to pin-down due to a lack of methods for selectively manipulating endogenous GC levels. Hence, in order to study stress-induced GC effects, we developed a novel optogenetic approach to selectively manipulate the rise of GCs triggered by stress. Using this approach, we could induce both transient hypercortisolic states and persistent forms of hypercortisolaemia in freely behaving larval zebrafish. Our results also established that transient hypercortisolism leads to enhanced locomotion shortly after stressor exposure. Altogether, we present a highly specific method for manipulating the gain of the stress axis with high temporal accuracy, altering endocrine and behavioral responses to stress as well as basal GC levels. Our study offers a powerful tool for the analysis of rapid (non-genomic) and delayed (genomic) GC effects on brain function and behavior, feedbacks within the stress axis and developmental programming by GCs.
Rac1 is essential in cocaine-induced structural plasticity of nucleus accumbens neurons.
Repeated cocaine administration increases the dendritic arborization of nucleus accumbens neurons, but the underlying signaling events remain unknown. Here we show that repeated exposure to cocaine negatively regulates the active form of Rac1, a small GTPase that controls actin remodeling in other systems. Further, we show, using viral-mediated gene transfer, that overexpression of a dominant negative mutant of Rac1 or local knockout of Rac1 is sufficient to increase the density of immature dendritic spines on nucleus accumbens neurons, whereas overexpression of a constitutively active Rac1 or light activation of a photoactivatable form of Rac1 blocks the ability of repeated cocaine exposure to produce this effect. Downregulation of Rac1 activity likewise promotes behavioral responses to cocaine exposure, with activation of Rac1 producing the opposite effect. These findings establish that Rac1 signaling mediates structural and behavioral plasticity in response to cocaine exposure.
PACα--an optogenetic tool for in vivo manipulation of cellular cAMP levels, neurotransmitter release, and behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase α (PACα) was originally isolated from the flagellate Euglena gracilis. Following stimulation by blue light it causes a rapid increase in cAMP levels. In the present study, we expressed PACα in cholinergic neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans. Photoactivation led to a rise in swimming frequency, speed of locomotion, and a decrease in the number of backward locomotion episodes. The extent of the light-induced behavioral effects was dependent on the amount of PACα that was expressed. Furthermore, electrophysiological recordings from body wall muscle cells revealed an increase in miniature post-synaptic currents during light stimulation. We conclude that the observed effects were caused by cAMP synthesis because of photoactivation of pre-synaptic PACα which subsequently triggered acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction. Our results demonstrate that PACα can be used as an optogenetic tool in C. elegans for straightforward in vivo manipulation of intracellular cAMP levels by light, with good temporal control and high cell specificity. Thus, using PACα allows manipulation of neurotransmitter release and behavior by directly affecting intracellular signaling.
Light modulation of cellular cAMP by a small bacterial photoactivated adenylyl cyclase, bPAC, of the soil bacterium Beggiatoa.
The recent success of channelrhodopsin in optogenetics has also caused increasing interest in enzymes that are directly activated by light. We have identified in the genome of the bacterium Beggiatoa a DNA sequence encoding an adenylyl cyclase directly linked to a BLUF (blue light receptor using FAD) type light sensor domain. In Escherichia coli and Xenopus oocytes, this photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) showed cyclase activity that is low in darkness but increased 300-fold in the light. This enzymatic activity decays thermally within 20 s in parallel with the red-shifted BLUF photointermediate. bPAC is well expressed in pyramidal neurons and, in combination with cyclic nucleotide gated channels, causes efficient light-induced depolarization. In the Drosophila central nervous system, bPAC mediates light-dependent cAMP increase and behavioral changes in freely moving animals. bPAC seems a perfect optogenetic tool for light modulation of cAMP in neuronal cells and tissues and for studying cAMP-dependent processes in live animals.
Optogenetically Induced Olfactory Stimulation in Drosophila Larvae Reveals the Neuronal Basis of Odor-Aversion behavior.
Olfactory stimulation induces an odor-guided crawling behavior of Drosophila melanogaster larvae characterized by either an attractive or a repellent reaction. In order to understand the underlying processes leading to these orientations we stimulated single olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) through photo-activation within an intact neuronal network. Using the Gal4-UAS system two light inducible proteins, the light-sensitive cation channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR-2) or the light-sensitive adenylyl cyclase (Pacalpha) were expressed in all or in individual ORNs of the larval olfactory system. Blue light stimulation caused an activation of these neurons, ultimately producing the illusion of an odor stimulus. Larvae were tested in a phototaxis assay for their orientation toward or away from the light source. Here we show that activation of Pacalpha expressing ORNs bearing the receptors Or33b or Or45a in blind norpA mutant larvae induces a repellent behavior away from the light. Conversely, photo-activation of the majority of ORNs induces attraction towards the light. Interestingly, in wild type larvae two ligands of Or33b and Or45a, octyl acetate and propionic ethylester, respectively, have been found to cause an escape reaction. Therefore, we combined light and odor stimulation to analyze the function of Or33b and Or45a expressing ORNs. We show that the larval olfactory system contains a designated neuronal pathway for repellent odorants and that activation of a specific class of ORNs already determines olfactory avoidance behavior.
Functional transplant of photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) into Aplysia sensory neurons.
In neural mechanisms of animal learning, intracellular cAMP has been known to play an important role. In the present experiments we attempted functional transplant of a photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) isolated from Euglena into Aplysia neurons, and explored whether PAC can produce cAMP in the neurons by light stimulation. Serotonergic modulation of mechanoafferent sensory neurons in Aplysia pleural ganglia has been reported to increase intracellular cAMP level and promotes synaptic transmission to motor neurons by increasing spike width of sensory neurons. When cAMP was directly injected into the sensory neurons, spike amplitude temporarily decreased while spike width temporarily increased. This effect was not substituted by injection of 5'AMP, and maintained longer in a bath solution containing IBMX, the phosphodiesterase inhibitor. We, therefore, explored these changes as indicators of appearance of the PAC function. PAC or the PAC expression vector (pNEX-PAC) was injected into cell bodies of sensory neurons. Spike amplitude decreased in both cases and spike width increased in the PAC injection when the neurons were stimulated with light, suggesting that the transplanted PAC works well in Aplysia neurons. These results indicate that we can control cAMP production in specific neurons with light by the functional transplant of PAC.
Fast manipulation of cellular cAMP level by light in vivo.
The flagellate Euglena gracilis contains a photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC), consisting of the flavoproteins PACalpha and PACbeta. Here we report functional expression of PACs in Xenopus laevis oocytes, HEK293 cells and in Drosophila melanogaster, where neuronal expression yields light-induced changes in behavior. The activity of PACs is strongly and reversibly enhanced by blue light, providing a powerful tool for light-induced manipulation of cAMP in animal cells.