Recordings of large neuronal ensembles and neural stimulation of high spatial and temporal precision are important requisites for studying the real-time dynamics of neural networks. Multiple shank silicon probes enable large-scale monitoring of individual neurons. Optical stimulation of genetically targeted neurons expressing light sensitive channels or other fast (milliseconds) actuators offers the means for controlled perturbation of local circuits. Here we describe a method to equip the shanks of silicon probes with micron-scale light guides for allowing the simultaneous use of both approaches. We then show illustrative examples of how these compact hybrid electrodes can be used in probing local circuits in behaving rats and mice. A key advantage of these devices is the enhanced spatial precision of stimulation that is achieved by delivering light close to the recording sites of the probe. When paired with the expression of light sensitive actuators within genetically specified neuronal populations, these devices allow the relatively straightforward and interpretable manipulation of network activity.
circuit analysis; optrode; ChR2; halorhodopsin; excitation; inhibition
The quest to determine how precise neural activity patterns mediate computation, behavior, and pathology would be greatly aided by a set of tools for reliably activating and inactivating genetically targeted neurons, in a temporally precise and rapidly reversible fashion. Having earlier adapted a light-activated cation channel, channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), for allowing neurons to be stimulated by blue light, we searched for a complementary tool that would enable optical neuronal inhibition, driven by light of a second color. Here we report that targeting the codon-optimized form of the light-driven chloride pump halorhodopsin from the archaebacterium Natronomas pharaonis (hereafter abbreviated Halo) to genetically-specified neurons enables them to be silenced reliably, and reversibly, by millisecond-timescale pulses of yellow light. We show that trains of yellow and blue light pulses can drive high-fidelity sequences of hyperpolarizations and depolarizations in neurons simultaneously expressing yellow light-driven Halo and blue light-driven ChR2, allowing for the first time manipulations of neural synchrony without perturbation of other parameters such as spiking rates. The Halo/ChR2 system thus constitutes a powerful toolbox for multichannel photoinhibition and photostimulation of virally or transgenically targeted neural circuits without need for exogenous chemicals, enabling systematic analysis and engineering of the brain, and quantitative bioengineering of excitable cells.
This paper presents optical characterization of a first-generation SiO2 optrode array as a set of penetrating waveguides for both optogenetic and infrared (IR) neural stimulation. Fused silica and quartz discs of 3-mm thickness and 50-mm diameter were micromachined to yield 10 × 10 arrays of up to 2-mm long optrodes at a 400-μm pitch; array size, length and spacing may be varied along with the width and tip angle. Light delivery and loss mechanisms through these glass optrodes were characterized. Light in-coupling techniques include using optical fibers and collimated beams. Losses involve Fresnel reflection, coupling, scattering and total internal reflection in the tips. Transmission efficiency was constant in the visible and near-IR range, with the highest value measured as 71% using a 50-μm multi-mode in-coupling fiber butt-coupled to the backplane of the device. Transmittance and output beam profiles of optrodes with different geometries was investigated. Length and tip angle do not affect the amount of output power, but optrode width and tip angle influence the beam size and divergence independently. Finally, array insertion in tissue was performed to demonstrate its robustness for optical access in deep tissue.
(170.3890) Medical optics instrumentation; (220.4610) Optical fabrication; (230.7380) Waveguides, channeled; (170.3660) Light propagation in tissues
While functional imaging is widely used in studies of the brain, how well the hemodynamic signal represents the underlying neural activity is still unclear. And there is a debate on whether hemodynamic signal is more tightly related to synaptic activity or action potentials. This study intends to address these questions by examining neurovascular coupling driven by pyramidal cells in the motor cortex of rats. Pyramidal cells in the motor cortex of rats were selectively transduced with the light sensitive cation channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). Electrophysiological recordings and optical intrinsic signal imaging were performed simultaneously and synchronously to capture the neural activity and hemodynamics induced by optical stimulation of ChR2-expressing pyramidal cells. Our results indicate that both synaptic activity (local field potential, LFP) and action potentials (multi-unit activity, MUA) are tightly related to hemodynamic signals. While LFPs in γ band are better in predicting hemodynamic signals elicited by short stimuli, MUA has better predictions to hemodynamic signals elicited by long stimuli. Our results also indicate that strong nonlinearity exists in neurovascular coupling.
This paper characterizes the Utah Slant Optrode Array (USOA) as a means to deliver infrared light deep into tissue. An undoped crystalline silicon (100) substrate was used to fabricate 10 × 10 arrays of optrodes with rows of varying lengths from 0.5 mm to 1.5 mm on a 400-μm pitch. Light delivery from optical fibers and loss mechanisms through these Si optrodes were characterized, with the primary loss mechanisms being Fresnel reflection, coupling, radiation losses from the tapered shank and total internal reflection in the tips. Transmission at the optrode tips with different optical fiber core diameters and light in-coupling interfaces was investigated. At λ = 1.55μm, the highest optrode transmittance of 34.7%, relative to the optical fiber output power, was obtained with a 50-μm multi-mode fiber butt-coupled to the optrode through an intervening medium of index n = 1.66. Maximum power is directed into the optrodes when using fibers with core diameters of 200 μm or less. In addition, the output power varied with the optrode length/taper such that longer and less tapered optrodes exhibited higher light transmission efficiency. Output beam profiles and potential impacts on physiological tests were also examined. Future work is expected to improve USOA efficiency to greater than 64%.
(170.3890) Medical optics instrumentation; (220.4610) Optical fabrication; (230.7380) Waveguides, channeled; (260.3060) Infrared
Optogenetics – the use of optically-activated proteins to control neuronal function – is a recent development in neuroscience methodology. Optogenetic techniques provide a means of activating or inhibiting distinct populations of neurons with an unprecedented degree of spatial, temporal, and neurochemical precision. Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), an algal protein from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, is a light-activated cation channel capable of inducing depolarization and action potentials in neurons. Three protocols are presented in this unit for the use of ChR2, with emphasis on technical aspects of fiber optics. The first describes the use of ChR2 in electrophysiological recordings from brain slices. The second and third involve the use of ChR2 in vivo, with light delivered through chronic fiber implants or guide cannula.
Optogenetics; channelrhodopsin; ChR2; optical; light; laser; LED
Light activation and inactivation of neurons by optogenetic techniques has emerged as an important tool for studying neural circuit function. To achieve a high resolution, new methods are being developed to selectively manipulate the activity of individual neurons. Here, we report that the combination of an acousto-optic device (AOD) and single-photon laser was used to achieve rapid and precise spatiotemporal control of light stimulation at multiple points in a neural circuit with millisecond time resolution. The performance of this system in activating ChIEF expressed on HEK 293 cells as well as cultured neurons was first evaluated, and the laser stimulation patterns were optimized. Next, the spatiotemporally selective manipulation of multiple neurons was achieved in a precise manner. Finally, we demonstrated the versatility of this high-resolution method in dissecting neural circuits both in the mouse cortical slice and the Drosophila brain in vivo. Taken together, our results show that the combination of AOD-assisted laser stimulation and optogenetic tools provides a flexible solution for manipulating neuronal activity at high efficiency and with high temporal precision.
To understand how brain states and behaviors are generated by neural circuits, it would be useful to be able to perturb precisely the activity of specific cell types and pathways in the nonhuman primate nervous system. We used lentivirus to target the light-activated cation channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) specifically to excitatory neurons of the macaque frontal cortex. Using a laser-coupled optical fiber in conjunction with a recording microelectrode, we showed that activation of excitatory neurons resulted in well-timed excitatory and suppressive influences on neocortical neural networks. ChR2 was safely expressed, and could mediate opticalneuromodulation, in primate neocortex over many months. These findings highlight a methodology for investigating the causal role of specific cell types in nonhuman primate neural computation, cognition, and behavior, and open up the possibility of a new generation of ultraprecise neurological and psychiatric therapeutics via cell-type-specific optical neural control prosthetics.
Electrical and pharmacological stimulation methods are commonly used to study neuronal brain circuits in vivo, but are problematic, because electrical stimulation has limited specificity, while pharmacological activation has low temporal resolution. A recently developed alternative to these methods is the use of optogenetic techniques, based on the expression of light sensitive channel proteins in neurons. While optogenetics have been applied in in vitro preparations and in in vivo studies in rodents, their use to study brain function in nonhuman primates has been limited to the cerebral cortex. Here, we characterize the effects of channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) transfection in subcortical areas, i.e., the putamen, the external globus pallidus (GPe) and the ventrolateral thalamus (VL) of rhesus monkeys. Lentiviral vectors containing the ChR2 sequence under control of the elongation factor 1α promoter (pLenti-EF1α -hChR2(H134R)-eYFP-WPRE, titer 109 particles/ml) were deposited in GPe, putamen and VL. Four weeks later, a probe combining a conventional electrode and an optic fiber was introduced in the previously injected brain areas. We found light-evoked responses in 31.5% and 32.7% of all recorded neurons in the striatum and thalamus, respectively, but only in 2.5% of recorded GPe neurons. As expected, most responses were time-locked increases in firing, but decreases or mixed responses were also seen, presumably via ChR2-mediated activation of local inhibitory connections. Light and electron microscopic analyses revealed robust expression of ChR2 on the plasma membrane of cell somas, dendrites, spines and terminals in the striatum and VL. This study demonstrates that optogenetic experiments targeting the striatum and basal ganglia-related thalamic nuclei can be successfully achieved in monkeys. Our results indicate important differences of the type and magnitude of responses in each structure. Experimental conditions such as the vector used, the number and rate of injections, or the light stimulation conditions have to be optimized for each structure studied.
We report our studies on the optical signals measured non-invasively on electrically stimulated peripheral nerves. The stimulation consists of the delivery of 0.1 ms current pulses, below the threshold for triggering any visible motion, to a peripheral nerve in human subjects (we have studied the sural nerve and the median nerve). In response to electrical stimulation, we observe an optical signal that peaks at about 100 ms post-stimulus, on a much longer time scale than the few milliseconds duration of the electrical response, or sensory nerve action potential (SNAP). While the 100 ms optical signal we measured is not a direct optical signature of neural activation, it is nevertheless indicative of a mediated response to neural activation. We argue that this may provide information useful for understanding the origin of the fast optical signal (also on a 100 ms time scale) that has been measured non-invasively in the brain in response to cerebral activation. Furthermore, the optical response to peripheral nerve activation may be developed into a diagnostic tool for peripheral neuropathies, as suggested by the delayed optical signals (average peak time: 230 ms) measured in patients with diabetic neuropathy with respect to normal subjects (average peak time: 160 ms).
near-infrared spectroscopy; fast optical signal; peripheral nerve; nerve conduction
Many neural disorders are associated with aberrant activity in specific cell types or neural projection pathways embedded within the densely-wired, heterogeneous matter of the brain. An ideal therapy would permit correction of activity just in specific target neurons, while leaving other neurons unaltered. Recently our lab revealed that the naturally-occurring light-activated proteins channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) and halorhodopsin (Halo/NpHR) can, when genetically expressed in neurons, enable them to be safely, precisely, and reversibly activated and silenced by pulses of blue and yellow light, respectively. We here describe the ability to make specific neurons in the brain light-sensitive, using a viral approach. We also reveal the design and construction of a scalable, fully-implantable optical prosthetic capable of delivering light of appropriate intensity and wavelength to targeted neurons at arbitrary 3-D locations within the brain, enabling activation and silencing of specific neuron types at multiple locations. Finally, we demonstrate control of neural activity in the cortex of the non-human primate, a key step in the translation of such technology for human clinical use. Systems for optical targeting of specific neural circuit elements may enable a new generation of high-precision therapies for brain disorders.
neurons; brain; neurology; psychiatry; control; channelrhodopsin-2; halorhodopsin; viruses; cell types
Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) is widely used for rapid photodepolarization of neurons, yet, as it requires high-intensity blue light for activation, it is not suited for long-term in vivo applications, e.g. for manipulations of behavior, or photoactivation of neurons during development. We used “slow” ChR2 variants with mutations in the C128 residue, that exhibit delayed off-kinetics and increased light sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Following a 1 s light pulse, we could photodepolarize neurons and muscles for minutes (and with repeated brief stimulation, up to days) with low-intensity light. Photoactivation of ChR2(C128S) in command interneurons elicited long-lasting alterations in locomotion. Finally, we could optically induce profound changes in animal development: Long-term photoactivation of ASJ neurons, which regulate larval growth, bypassed the constitutive entry into the “dauer” larval state in daf-11 mutants. These lack a guanylyl cyclase, which possibly renders ASJ neurons hyperpolarized. Furthermore, photostimulated ASJ neurons could acutely trigger dauer-exit. Thus, slow ChR2s can be employed to long-term photoactivate behavior and to trigger alternative animal development.
Spatio-temporal patterns of neuronal activity before and after the induction of long-term potentiation in mouse hippocampal slices were studied using a real-time high-resolution optical recording system. After staining the slices with voltage-sensitive dye, transmitted light images and extracellular field potentials were recorded in response to stimuli applied to CA1 stratum radiatum. Optical and electrical signals in response to single test pulses were enhanced for at least 30 minutes after brief high-frequency stimulation at the same site. In two-pathway experiments, potentiation was restricted to the tetanized pathway. The optical signals demonstrated that both the amplitude and area of the synaptic response were increased, in patterns not predictable from the initial, pretetanus, pattern of activation. Optical signals will be useful for investigating spatio-temporal patterns of synaptic enhancement underlying information storage in the brain.
After the recent cloning of light-sensitive ion channels and their expression in mammalian cells, a new field, optogenetics, emerged in neuroscience, allowing for precise perturbations of neural circuits by light. However, functionality of optogenetic tools has not been fully explored outside neuroscience; and a non-viral, non-embryogenesis based strategy for optogenetics has not been shown before.
Methods and Results
We demonstrate the utility of optogenetics to cardiac muscle by a tandem cell unit (TCU) strategy, where non-excitable cells carry exogenous light-sensitive ion channels, and when electrically coupled to cardiomyocytes, produce optically-excitable heart tissue. A stable channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) expressing cell line was developed, characterized and used as a cell delivery system. The TCU strategy was validated in vitro in cell pairs with adult canine myocytes (for a wide range of coupling strengths) and in cardiac syncytium with neonatal rat cardiomyocytes. For the first time, we combined optical excitation and optical imaging to capture light-triggered muscle contractions and high-resolution propagation maps of light-triggered electrical waves, found to be quantitatively indistinguishable from electrically-triggered waves.
Our results demonstrate feasibility to control excitation and contraction in cardiac muscle by light using the TCU approach. Optical pacing in this case uses less energy, offers superior spatiotemporal control, remote access and can serve not only as an elegant tool in arrhythmia research, but may form the basis for a new generation of light-driven cardiac pacemakers and muscle actuators. The TCU strategy is extendable to (non-viral) stem cell therapy and is directly relevant to in vivo applications.
optogenetics; channelrhodopsin2; light-sensitive ion channels; cardiac; optical mapping
Activation of dopamine receptors in forebrain regions, for minutes or longer, is known to be sufficient for positive reinforcement of stimuli and actions. However, the firing rate of dopamine neurons is increased for only about 200 milliseconds following natural reward events that are better than expected, a response which has been described as a “reward prediction error” (RPE). Although RPE drives reinforcement learning (RL) in computational models, it has not been possible to directly test whether the transient dopamine signal actually drives RL. Here we have performed optical stimulation of genetically targeted ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons expressing Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in mice. We mimicked the transient activation of dopamine neurons that occurs in response to natural reward by applying a light pulse of 200 ms in VTA. When a single light pulse followed each self-initiated nose poke, it was sufficient in itself to cause operant reinforcement. Furthermore, when optical stimulation was delivered in separate sessions according to a predetermined pattern, it increased locomotion and contralateral rotations, behaviors that are known to result from activation of dopamine neurons. All three of the optically induced operant and locomotor behaviors were tightly correlated with the number of VTA dopamine neurons that expressed ChR2, providing additional evidence that the behavioral responses were caused by activation of dopamine neurons. These results provide strong evidence that the transient activation of dopamine neurons provides a functional reward signal that drives learning, in support of RL theories of dopamine function.
Advanced light microscopy offers sensitive and non-invasive means to image neural activity and to control signaling with photolysable molecules and, recently, light-gated channels. These approaches require precise and yet flexible light excitation patterns. For synchronous stimulation of subsets of cells, they also require large excitation areas with millisecond and micrometric resolution. We have recently developed a new method for such optical control using a phase holographic modulation of optical wave-fronts, which minimizes power loss, enables rapid switching between excitation patterns, and allows a true 3D sculpting of the excitation volumes. In previous studies we have used holographic photololysis to control glutamate uncaging on single neuronal cells. Here, we extend the use of holographic photolysis for the excitation of multiple neurons and of glial cells.
The system combines a liquid crystal device for holographic patterned photostimulation, high-resolution optical imaging, the HiLo microscopy, to define the stimulated regions and a conventional Ca2+ imaging system to detect neural activity. By means of electrophysiological recordings and calcium imaging in acute hippocampal slices, we show that the use of excitation patterns precisely tailored to the shape of multiple neuronal somata represents a very efficient way for the simultaneous excitation of a group of neurons. In addition, we demonstrate that fast shaped illumination patterns also induce reliable responses in single glial cells.
We show that the main advantage of holographic illumination is that it allows for an efficient excitation of multiple cells with a spatiotemporal resolution unachievable with other existing approaches. Although this paper focuses on the photoactivation of caged molecules, our approach will surely prove very efficient for other probes, such as light-gated channels, genetically encoded photoactivatable proteins, photoactivatable fluorescent proteins, and voltage-sensitive dyes.
Synchronous neural activity occurs throughout the brain in association with normal and pathological brain functions. Despite theoretical work exploring how such neural coordination might facilitate neural computation and be corrupted in disease states, it has proven difficult to test experimentally the causal role of synchrony in such phenomena. Attempts to manipulate neural synchrony often alter other features of neural activity such as firing rate. Here we evaluate a single gene which encodes for the blue-light gated cation channel channelrhodopsin-2 and the yellow-light driven chloride pump halorhodopsin from Natronobacterium pharaonis, linked by a ‘self-cleaving’ 2A peptide. This fusion enables proportional expression of both opsins, sensitizing neurons to being bi-directionally controlled with blue and yellow light, facilitating proportional optical spike insertion and deletion upon delivery of trains of precisely-timed blue and yellow light pulses. Such approaches may enable more detailed explorations of the causal role of specific features of the neural code.
optogenetics; channelrhodopsin-2; halorhodopsin; fusion protein; synchrony
Thalamocortical and corticothalamic pathways mediate bidirectional communication between the thalamus and neocortex. These pathways are entwined, making their study challenging. Here we used lentiviruses to express channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), a light-sensitive cation channel, in either thalamocortical or corticothalamic projection cells. Infection occurred only locally but efferent axons and their terminals expressed ChR2 strongly, allowing selective optical activation of each pathway. Laser stimulation of ChR2-expressing thalamocortical axons/terminals evoked robust synaptic responses in cortical excitatory cells and fast-spiking (FS) inhibitory interneurons, but only weak responses in somatostatin-containing interneurons. Strong FS cell activation led to feedforward inhibition in all cortical neuron types, including FS cells. Corticothalamic stimulation excited thalamic relay cells and inhibitory neurons of the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN). TRN activation triggered inhibition in relay cells but not in TRN neurons. Thus, a major difference between thalamocortical and corticothalamic processing was the extent to which feedforward inhibitory neurons were themselves engaged by feedforward inhibition.
This paper reviews the existing research on infrared neural stimulation, a means of artificially stimulating neurons that has been proposed as an alternative to electrical stimulation. Infrared neural stimulation (INS) is defined as the direct induction of an evoked potential in response to a transient targeted deposition of optical energy. The foremost advantage of using optical radiation for neural stimulation is its spatial resolution. Exogenously applied or trans-genetically synthesized fluorophores are not used to achieve stimulation. Here, current work on INS is presented for motor nerves, sensory nerves, central nervous system, and in vitro preparations. A discussion follows addressing the mechanism of INS and its potential use in neuroprostheses. A brief review of neural depolarization involving other optical methods is also presented. Topics covered include optical stimulation concurrent with electrical stimulation, optical stimulation using exogenous fluorophores, and optical stimulation by transgenic induction of light-gated ion channels.
Cochlea; cochlear implants; deafening; electrical stimulation; infrared neural stimulation; laser; neuroprosthesis; optical stimulation; spatial selectivity
Cell-type-specific expression of optogenetic molecules allows temporally precise manipulation of targeted neuronal activity. Here we present a toolbox of 4 knock-in mouse lines engineered for strong, Cre-dependent expression of channelrhodopsins ChR2-tdTomato and ChR2-EYFP, halorhodopsin eNpHR3.0, and archaerhodopsin Arch-ER2. All 4 transgenes mediate Cre-dependent, robust activation or silencing of cortical pyramidal neurons in vitro and in vivo upon light stimulation, with ChR2-EYFP and Arch-ER2 demonstrating light sensitivity approaching that of in utero or virally transduced neurons. We further show specific photoactivation of parvalbumin-positive interneurons in behaving ChR2-EYFP reporter mice. The robust, consistent, and inducible nature of our ChR2 mice represents a significant advancement over previous lines, whereas the Arch-ER2 and eNpHR3.0 mice are the first demonstration of successful conditional transgenic optogenetic silencing. When combined with the hundreds of available Cre-driver lines, this optimized toolbox of reporter mice will enable widespread investigations of neural circuit function with unprecedented reliability and accuracy.
The hybrid voltage sensor hVOS combines membrane-targeted GFP and the hydrophobic anion dipicrylamine (DPA) to provide a promising tool for optical recording of electrical activity from genetically defined populations of neurons. However, large fluorescence signals are obtained only at high DPA concentrations (> 3 μM) that increase membrane capacitance to a level that suppresses neural activity. Here we develop a quantitative model of the sensor to guide its optimization and achieve an approximate three-fold increase in fractional fluorescence change at a lower DPA concentration of 2 μM. Using this optimized voltage reporter, we perform optical recordings of evoked activity in the Drosophila antennal lobe with millisecond temporal resolution but fail to detect action potentials, presumably because spike initiation and/or propagation are inhibited by the capacitive load added even at reduced DPA membrane densities. We evaluate strategies for potential further improvement of hVOS quantitatively and derive theoretical performance limits for optical voltage reporters in general.
Neuroimaging; membrane potential; protein-based sensor; fluorescence; multiphoton microscopy; membrane capacitance
Somatosensory neurons in teleosts and amphibians are sensitive to thermal, mechanical, or nociceptive stimuli [1, 2]. The two main types of such cells in zebrafish—Rohon-Beard and trigeminal neurons—have served as models for neural development [3–6], but little is known about how they encode tactile stimuli. The hindbrain networks that transduce somatosensory stimuli into a motor output encode information by using very few spikes in a small number of cells , but it is unclear whether activity in the primary receptor neurons is similarly efficient. To address this question, we manipulated the activity of zebrafish neurons with the light-activated cation channel, Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) [8, 9]. We found that photoactivation of ChR2 in genetically defined populations of somatosensory neurons triggered escape behaviors in 24-hr-old zebrafish. Electrophysiological recordings from ChR2-positive trigeminal neurons in intact fish revealed that these cells have extremely low rates of spontaneous activity and can be induced to fire by brief pulses of blue light. Using this technique, we find that even a single action potential in a single sensory neuron was at times sufficient to evoke an escape behavior. These results establish ChR2 as a powerful tool for the manipulation of neural activity in zebrafish and reveal a degree of efficiency in coding that has not been found in primary sensory neurons.
Optogenetics is a new and rapidly evolving gene and neuroengineering technology that allows optical control of specific populations of neurons without affecting other neurons in the brain at high temporal and spatial resolution. By heterologous expression of the light-sensitive membrane proteins, cell type-specific depolarization or hyperpolarization can be optically induced on a millisecond time scale. Optogenetics has the higher selectivity and specificity compared to traditional electrophysiological techniques and pharmaceutical methods. It has been a novel promising tool for medical research. Because of easy handling, high temporal and spatial precision, optogenetics has been applied to many aspects of nervous system research, such as tactual neural circuit, visual neural circuit, auditory neural circuit and olfactory neural circuit, as well as research of some neurological diseases. The review highlights the recent advances of optogenetics in medical study.
light-sensitive proteins; optogenetics; optical manipulation; medical
Neural circuits are exquisitely organized, consisting of many different neuronal subpopulations. However, it is difficult to assess the functional roles of these subpopulations using conventional extracellular recording techniques because these techniques do not easily distinguish spikes from different neuronal populations. To overcome this limitation, we have developed PINP (Photostimulation-assisted Identification of Neuronal Populations), a method of tagging neuronal populations for identification during in vivo electrophysiological recording. The method is based on expressing the light-activated channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to restricted neuronal subpopulations. ChR2-tagged neurons can be detected electrophysiologically in vivo since illumination of these neurons with a brief flash of blue light triggers a short latency reliable action potential. We demonstrate the feasibility of this technique by expressing ChR2 in distinct populations of cortical neurons using two different strategies. First, we labeled a subpopulation of cortical neurons—mainly fast-spiking interneurons—by using adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver ChR2 in a transgenic mouse line in which the expression of Cre recombinase was driven by the parvalbumin promoter. Second, we labeled subpopulations of excitatory neurons in the rat auditory cortex with ChR2 based on projection target by using herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1), which is efficiently taken up by axons and transported retrogradely; we find that this latter population responds to acoustic stimulation differently from unlabeled neurons. Tagging neurons is a novel application of ChR2, used in this case to monitor activity instead of manipulating it. PINP can be readily extended to other populations of genetically identifiable neurons, and will provide a useful method for probing the functional role of different neuronal populations in vivo.
Coincident signaling by dopamine and glutamate is thought to be crucial for a variety of motivated behaviors. Previous work has suggested that some midbrain dopamine neurons are themselves capable of glutamate co-release, but this phenomenon remains poorly understood. Here, we expressed the light-activated cation channel Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in genetically defined midbrain dopamine neurons to stimulate exocytosis specifically from dopaminergic terminals in both the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell and dorsal striatum (DS) of brain slices from adult mice. Optical activation resulted in robust glutamate-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents in all medium spiny neurons examined in the NAc shell. In contrast, optically evoked glutamatergic currents were nearly undetectable in the dorsal striatum. Further, we used a conditional knockout mouse lacking vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) specifically in dopamine neurons to determine whether VGLUT2 is required for the exocytotic release of glutamate from dopamine neurons. Our data shows that conditional knockout completely abolished all optically evoked glutamate release. These results provide definitive physiological evidence for VGLUT2-mediated glutamate release by mature dopamine neurons projecting to the NAc shell, but not to the dorsal striatum. Thus, the unique ability of NAc-projecting dopamine neurons to synchronously activate both dopamine and glutamate receptors may have crucial implications for the ability to respond to motivationally significant stimuli.
optogenetics; dopamine; glutamate; corelease; VGLUT2; Ventral tegmental area; nucleus accumbens