UPDATE : Bi-Directional Optogenetic Control

26 03 2010

The Deissseroth lab has released an updated version of their optical neuronal silencing gene Natronomonas halorhodopsin. In Molecular and Cellular Approaches for Diversifying and Extending Optogenetics, Gradinaru et al review current optogenetic methodology, and introduce eNpHR3.0-2A-ChR2, a genetic vector whose expression allows both action potential silencing and firing via illumination. This vector uses post-translational cleavage (via cis-acting hydrolase elements) of the 2A peptide to coexpress channelrhodopsin and halorohdopsin at high levels via a single promoter. The use of 2A provides a more balanced level of relative expression compared to the traditional strategy of using an IRES site, though differing degradation rates of the two proteins cause expression to not be truly stoichiometric.

eNpHR3.0 has superior cellular membrane expression

The improved eNpHR 3.0 contains additional trafficking sequences that greatly reduce expression in intracelluar compartments.  This results in enhanced surface expression a 20-fold increase in photocurrents over eNpHR1 and large, near-nanoampere currents at modest 3.5mW/mm^2 light intensities.  The paper implies superior performance over the Boyden group’s Arch optogenetic silencer technology, but shows no head to head data.  As always, testing both in your own system is the best way to evaluate their relative merits.

Activation spectrum for eNPAC (left), and for ChR2(H134R) (right, blue) and eNpHR3.0 (right, yellow) alone. Maximum eNPAC steady-state excitation was 567 ± 49 pA at 427 nm (n = 9), 62% of the value for ChR2(H134R) alone (916 ± 185 pA; n = 5). Similarly, maximum eNPAC inhibition was 679 ± 109 pA at 590 nm (n = 9), 61% of the value for eNpHR3.0 alone (1110 ± 333 pA; n = 4). Output power density for peak eNpHR3.0 current values was 3.5–5 mW/mm2 (3.5 mW/mm2 at 590 nm).


ResearchBlogging.org
Gradinaru, V., Zhang, F., Ramakrishnan, C., Mattis, J., Prakash, R., Diester, I., Goshen, I., Thompson, K., & Deisseroth, K. (2010). Molecular and Cellular Approaches for Diversifying and Extending Optogenetics Cell DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.037

ResearchBlogging.org

Tang, W., Ehrlich, I., Wolff, S., Michalski, A., Wolfl, S., Hasan, M., Luthi, A., & Sprengel, R. (2009). Faithful Expression of Multiple Proteins via 2A-Peptide Self-Processing: A Versatile and Reliable Method for Manipulating Brain Circuits Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (27), 8621-8629 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0359-09.2009





Ultrafast optogenetic control with ChETA

19 01 2010

The Deisseroth and Hegemann groups have just published a newly engineered channelrhodopsin, ChETA, in the Nature Neuroscience paper, Ultrafast optogenetic control.  Gunaydin et al rationally targeted mutations to the opsin pocket of channelrhodopsin-2 to increase the speed of channel deactivation/closing. ChETA provides higher fidelity optical control of spiking at high expression levels or firing frequencies (up to 200Hz!) and eliminates plateau potentials during sustained spike trains.

ChETA improves spike train fidelity

ChETA clearly provides higher precision in optical control of spiking, particularly at high spike rates.  However, a big problem limiting some in vivo channelrhodopsin use has been insufficient conductance. Some groups have sought to increase single channel conductance, but this approach can lead to increased ChR toxicity and/or spurious spikes. At first glance, increasing deactivation rates, and thus decreasing single channel current from a brief light pulse, seems to make life MORE difficult for situations where light and conductance levels are limiting. ChETA produces a very low number of successful spikes at 1ms illumination (Fig 3f), as compared to ChR2. ChETA response peaks within 1ms but requires 2ms illumination and >10Hz trains to induces spikes more reliably than ChR2. Is this due to a decreased peak single channel conductance in ChETA or just the activation/deactivation rate differences?  I couldn’t find a direct single-channel conductance comparison in the paper.

ChETA requires a longer light pulse than ChR2 to generate spikes.

A reduced conductance might not be a bad thing though. ChETA’s increased deactivation rate might make less toxic to cells, allowing a higher expression level, which would compensate for a reduced single channel current flow. It all depends on what causes ChR2 toxicity.  Is toxicity caused by a non-illuminated leak current or something else?  Is the deactivation rate correlated with a leak current and/or toxicity?  I would love to see a quantitative comparison of expression level and toxicity between wt ChR2  and ChETA.  Maybe our readers can post their experiences with it in the coming weeks.





A Better Neuronal Off-Switch

13 01 2010

Ed Boyden’s group has published High-performance genetically targetable optical neural silencing by light-driven proton pumps, detailing a set of new optical neuronal off-switches borrowed from various species that appear to be much better than Halorhodopsin for silencing neurons.  Halo works well for preventing action potentials when the nucleus is illuminated, but has a harder time blocking transmission of action potentials down an axon after it has been initiated. Also, previously engineered Halo variants, including eNpHR, suffer from light-dependent inactivation and have an expression sweet spot that could use broadening.  I’m looking forward to finding out if Arch, and the other new switches from Boyden’s group allow more powerful experiments in our hands.





Optogenetic induction of memory recall

18 09 2009

Speaking of reactivating specific memories, at the 2009 Society for Neuroscience meeting, Matteo Rizzi of Michael Häusser’s lab is presenting the realization of an idea that has been floating around in some research proposals I’ve read over the last year.  Express channelrhodopsin-2 under control of the immediate early gene c-fos, induce a strong memory formation via fear conditioning, and then drive the recall of that memory by stimulating the neurons that are expressing ChR2. Immediate early genes are activated shorty after high levels activity in neurons, though the precise patterns are different depending on which promoter (c-fos, Zif268, etc) you use, making precisely HOW they reflect recent neuronal activity patterns unclear.  Nevertheless, the activation of the c-fos based pattern seems close enough to trigger an identical behavioral response as the conditioned stimulus.

Get your ass to Mars!

Not yet, but getting closer...

Electrically-induced fear conditioning is probably the most blunt instrument possible, encoding a very powerful, general ‘fear’ memory, and many things can make a mouse freeze. Thus, this is definitely the low-hanging fruit on the ‘reverse-engineering’ memories tree. Understanding how the information in a memory is distributed across participating neurons is going to take a more sophisticated approach and a lot more work. This result is still incredibly cool, and I’m somewhat surprised it worked by driving ChR2 with c-fos in a hundred cells in the dentate gyrus. That has pretty powerful implications for avenues by which memories can be recalled.  Surely the entire memory is not encoded by only the 100 neurons that were activated! How many other neurons participate, and how does the optical stimulation activate the entire ensemble? Is it even necessary to activate the entire ensemble to drive behavior? The poster will be MOBBED.  I look forward to reading the details.

Program#/Poster#: 388.8/GG103
Title: Memory recall driven by optical stimulation of functionally identified sub-populations of neurons
Location: South Hall A
Presentation Time: Monday, Oct 19, 2009, 10:00 AM -11:00 AM
Authors: *M. RIZZI, K. POWELL, J. HEFENDEHL, A. FERNANDES, M. HAUSSER;
Wolfson Inst. for Biomed. Res., UCL, London, United Kingdom
Abstract: The mammalian brain is capable of storing information in sparse populations of neurons encompassing several brain areas. Immediate recall of this information is possible upon presentation of a cue or context. Most aspects of this process remain unresolved: are the cells involved in information storage also responsible for its recall? What portion of this distributed circuit needs to be reactivated, in order to achieve successful recall? To answer these questions we selectively expressed a genetically encoded optogenetic probe (Boyden et al., 2005) in neurons engaged during the learning of a specific association. A plasmid encoding channelrhodopsin-2 and EGFP under an immediate early gene promoter (c-fos-ChR2-IRES-EGFP) was electroporated in vivo into granule cells (GCs) of the dorsal dentate gyrus of anaesthetized C57BL/6 mice. Mice were allowed to recover, and then underwent classical delay fear conditioning (consisting of 10-20 pairings of a 5 second auditory tone and a 2 second footshock). An optic fiber was implanted intra-cranially to allow optical stimulation of transfected neurons. Light stimulation (λ = 530 nm; 5 Hz) successfully induced recall of the fear memory, measured as freezing behaviour (n = 27 animals). Post-hoc analysis of the transfected tissue revealed that a remarkably small subpopulation of GCs (<~100 cells) was sufficient to cause this effect. We then tested whether any, comparatively sized, subset of GCs could be equally effective. We transfected neurons with a plasmid encoding ChR2 expression under a general promoter (pCAG-ChR2) to obtain ChR2 expression in a random population of cells. Interestingly, optical stimulation of this population was insufficient to induce memory recall (population data: n=30). Our results therefore suggest that recall of a learned association, sparsely stored in neuronal circuits distributed over several brain areas, can be achieved by the simple reactivation of a very small subset of neurons involved in learning this association. Furthermore, our strategy may also be useful for dissecting the complexities associated with memory storage and recall.
Support: Gatsby Charitable Foundation; Wellcome Trust




Deisseroth is on fire

29 04 2009

Is there any biology lab hotter that Karl Deisseroth’s right now?  In the last TWO WEEKS he’s authored

3 Nature papers

2 Science papers

and a PLOS One for icing.

avalanche

He’s the Xander Cage of neuroscience, having just triggered an avalanche, he manages to move quickly enough to stay ahead as his pursuers get mowed down by the rapidly accelerating barrage of papers.  Over the next year, we are going to see hundreds of ChR2 papers coming out, making it really hard to stand out from the crowd.





Non-desensitizing Channelrhodopsin

12 03 2009

One of the problems with Channelrhodopsin-2 is that it desensitizes during continuous illumination or at high illumination frequencies. This limits the application of ChR2 to systems where high spike rates are not used to code information.

Desensitization of various Channelrhodopsins

Desensitization of various Channelrhodopsins

In Characterization of Engineered Channelrhodopsin Variants with Improved Properties and Kinetics, John Lin reports a new Channelrhodopsin, ChIEF, that has increased single channel conductance, faster kinetics and much less desensitization. This allows much higher rates of action potential generation. The in vitro results look great!

Success of action potential firing for ChR2 and ChIEF for various frequencies

Success of action potential firing for ChR2 and ChIEF for various frequencies

However, ChR2 has a relatively small effective expression window.  Too little expression and you cannot drive spiking.  Too high and the cell gets sick.  Tuning this expression is finicky. For ChIEF, it remains to be seen how the lack of desensitization, which might cause additional current leak in the resting state, effects this expression window in vivo. It certainly looks like its worth testing in your system of choice.





Deep & local Channelrhodopsin-2 two-photon activation

17 07 2008

An interesting paper on two-photon activation of channelrhodopsin-2 is out in Biophysical Journal. In In-depth activation of ChR2 sensitized excitable cells with high spatial resolution using two-photon excitation with near-IR laser microbeam, Mohanty et. al show cellular activation with a fast-scanning two-photon laser.

Action potential generation from Channelrhodopsin-2 with a two-photon beam has been difficult to achieve, presumably due to the small activation volume of the 2p spot. They show similar calcium transients in response to 2p stimulation as with one-photon stimulation. As depth increases, the one-photon response attenuates faster than the two-photon. Unfortunately, the supplemental info with  electrophysiology traces are not yet online.  Presumably, they are generating action potentials, but I’d like to see the raw data.  Interestingly, they also show calcium increases when the laser stays in once place.  This would imply that local depolarization causes local voltage-gated calcium channels to open, or that calcium is getting through the ChR2. I was under the impression that ChR2 has a low conductance for calcium, though this study by Caldwell et. al, in press for JBC, uses ChR2 specifically for its calcium permeability.

I’m not sure what to make of the first paper. Are they really able to fire action potentials with two-photon stimulation, at depth?  Or are the calcium traces they are seeing simply the result of localized calcium flux.  I’ll followup once the Supplemental Data becomes available.  Still worth a look if this is the sort of thing you are interested in.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers