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1.  Scalable Control of Mounting and Attack by ESR1+ Neurons in the Ventromedial Hypothalamus 
Nature  2014;509(7502):627-632.
Social behaviors, such as aggression or mating, proceed through a series of appetitive and consummatory phases1 that are associated with increasing levels of arousal2. How such escalation is encoded in the brain, and linked to behavioral action selection, remains an important unsolved problem in neuroscience. The ventrolateral subdivision of the murine ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) contains neurons whose activity increases during male-male and male-female social encounters. Non-cell type-specific optogenetic activation of this region elicited attack behavior, but not mounting3. We have identified a subset of VMHvl neurons marked by the estrogen receptor 1 (Esr1), and investigated their role in male social behavior. Optogenetic manipulations indicated that Esr1+ (but not Esr1-) neurons are sufficient to initiate attack, and that their activity is continuously required during ongoing agonistic behavior. Surprisingly, weaker optogenetic activation of these neurons promoted mounting behavior, rather than attack, towards both males and females, as well as sniffing and close investigation (CI). Increasing photostimulation intensity could promote a transition from CI and mounting to attack, within a single social encounter. Importantly, time-resolved optogenetic inhibition experiments revealed requirements for Esr1+ neurons in both the appetitive (investigative) and the consummatory phases of social interactions. Combined optogenetic activation and calcium imaging experiments in vitro, as well as c-Fos analysis in vivo, indicated that increasing photostimulation intensity increases both the number of active neurons and the average level of activity per neuron. These data suggest that Esr1+ neurons in VMHvl control the progression of a social encounter from its appetitive through its consummatory phases, in a scalable manner that reflects the number or type of active neurons in the population.
PMCID: PMC4098836  PMID: 24739975
2.  Olfactory cortical neurons read out a relative time code in the olfactory bulb 
Nature neuroscience  2013;16(7):10.1038/nn.3407.
Odor stimulation evokes complex spatiotemporal activity in the olfactory bulb, suggesting that the identity of activated neurons as well as the timing of their activity convey information about odors. However, whether and how downstream neurons decipher these temporal patterns remains debated. We addressed this question by measuring the spiking activity of downstream neurons while optogenetically stimulating two foci in the olfactory bulb with varying relative timing in mice. We found that the overall spike rates of piriform cortex neurons were sensitive to the relative timing of activation. Posterior piriform cortex neurons showed higher sensitivity to relative input times than neurons in the anterior piriform cortex. In contrast, olfactory bulb neurons rarely showed such sensitivity. Thus, the brain can transform a relative time code in the periphery into a firing-rate-based representation in central brain areas, providing evidence for the relevance of relative time-based code in the olfactory bulb.
PMCID: PMC3695490  PMID: 23685720
3.  Anatomical characterization of Cre driver mice for neural circuit mapping and manipulation 
Significant advances in circuit-level analyses of the brain require tools that allow for labeling, modulation of gene expression, and monitoring and manipulation of cellular activity in specific cell types and/or anatomical regions. Large-scale projects and individual laboratories have produced hundreds of gene-specific promoter-driven Cre mouse lines invaluable for enabling genetic access to subpopulations of cells in the brain. However, the potential utility of each line may not be fully realized without systematic whole brain characterization of transgene expression patterns. We established a high-throughput in situ hybridization (ISH), imaging and data processing pipeline to describe whole brain gene expression patterns in Cre driver mice. Currently, anatomical data from over 100 Cre driver lines are publicly available via the Allen Institute's Transgenic Characterization database, which can be used to assist researchers in choosing the appropriate Cre drivers for functional, molecular, or connectional studies of different regions and/or cell types in the brain.
PMCID: PMC4091307  PMID: 25071457
Cre driver mice; genetic tools; anatomical characterization; in situ hybridization; neuronal cell types
4.  A toolbox of Cre-dependent optogenetic transgenic mice for light-induced activation and silencing 
Nature neuroscience  2012;15(5):793-802.
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.
PMCID: PMC3337962  PMID: 22446880
5.  Mouse transgenic approaches in optogenetics 
Progress in brain research  2012;196:193-213.
A major challenge in neuroscience is to understand how universal behaviors, such as sensation, movement, cognition, and emotion, arise from the interactions of specific cells that are present within intricate neural networks in the brain. Dissection of such complex networks has typically relied on disturbing the activity of individual gene products, perturbing neuronal activities pharmacologically, or lesioning specific brain regions, to investigate the network’s response in a behavioral output. Though informative for many kinds of studies, these approaches are not sufficiently fine-tuned for examining the functionality of specific cells or cell classes in a spatially or temporally-restricted context. Recent advances in the field of optogenetics now enable researchers to monitor and manipulate the activity of genetically defined cell populations with the speed and precision uniquely afforded by light. Transgenic mice engineered to express optogenetic tools in a cell type-specific manner offer a powerful approach for examining the role of particular cells in discrete circuits in a defined and reproducible way. Not surprisingly then, recent years have seen substantial efforts directed towards generating transgenic mouse lines that express functionally relevant levels of optogenetic tools. In this chapter, we review the state of these efforts and consider aspects of the current technology that would benefit from additional improvement.
PMCID: PMC3433654  PMID: 22341327
transgenic mice; genetic manipulation; cell type; Cre; channelrhodopsin; halorhodopsin; archaerhodopsin; calcium indicator; voltage sensor
6.  A Cre-dependent GCaMP3 reporter mouse for neuronal imaging in vivo 
Fluorescent calcium indicator proteins, such as GCaMP3, allow imaging of activity in genetically defined neuronal populations. GCaMP3 can be expressed using various gene delivery methods, such as viral infection or electroporation. However, these methods are invasive and provide inhomogeneous and non-stationary expression. Here we developed a genetic reporter mouse, Ai38, which expresses GCaMP3 in a Cre-dependent manner from the ROSA26 locus, driven by a strong CAG promoter. Crossing Ai38 with appropriate Cre mice produced robust GCaMP3 expression in defined cell populations in the retina, cortex and cerebellum. In the primary visual cortex, visually-evoked GCaMP3 signals showed normal orientation and direction selectivity. GCaMP3 signals were rapid, compared to virally expressed GCaMP3 and synthetic calcium indicators. In the retina, Ai38 allowed imaging spontaneous calcium waves in starburst amacrine cells during development, and light-evoked responses in ganglion cells in adult tissue. Our results show that the Ai38 reporter mouse provides a flexible method for targeted expression of GCaMP3.
PMCID: PMC3315707  PMID: 22378886
Protein calcium sensor; GECI; reporter mouse; recombinase; orientation selectivity; microcircuitry; OGB-1
7.  A robust and high-throughput Cre reporting and characterization system for the whole mouse brain 
Nature neuroscience  2009;13(1):133-140.
The Cre/lox system is widely used in mice to achieve cell-type-specific gene expression. However, a strong and universal responding system to express genes under Cre control is still lacking. We have generated a set of Cre reporter mice with strong, ubiquitous expression of fluorescent proteins of different spectra. The robust native fluorescence of these reporters enables direct visualization of fine dendritic structures and axonal projections of the labeled neurons, which is useful in mapping neuronal circuitry, imaging and tracking specific cell populations in vivo. Using these reporters and a high-throughput in situ hybridization platform, we are systematically profiling Cre-directed gene expression throughout the mouse brain in a number of Cre-driver lines, including novel Cre lines targeting different cell types in the cortex. Our expression data are displayed in a public online database to help researchers assess the utility of various Cre-driver lines for cell-type-specific genetic manipulation.
PMCID: PMC2840225  PMID: 20023653
8.  Visual Tuning Properties of Genetically Identified Layer 2/3 Neuronal Types in the Primary Visual Cortex of Cre-Transgenic Mice 
The putative excitatory and inhibitory cell classes within the mouse primary visual cortex V1 have different functional properties as studied using recording microelectrode. Excitatory neurons show high selectivity for the orientation angle of moving gratings while the putative inhibitory neurons show poor selectivity. However, the study of selectivity of the genetically identified interneurons and their subtypes remain controversial. Here we use novel Cre-driver and reporter mice to identify genetic subpopulations in vivo for two-photon calcium dye imaging: Wfs1(+)/Gad1(−) mice that labels layer 2/3 excitatory cell population and Pvalb(+)/Gad1(+) mice that labels a genetic subpopulation of inhibitory neurons. The cells in both mice were identically labeled with a tdTomato protein, visible in vivo, using a Cre-reporter line. We found that the Wfs1(+) cells exhibited visual tuning properties comparable to the excitatory population, i.e., high selectivity and tuning to the angle, direction, and spatial frequency of oriented moving gratings. The functional tuning of Pvalb(+) neurons was consistent with previously reported narrow-spiking interneurons in microelectrode studies, exhibiting poorer selectivity than the excitatory neurons. This study demonstrates the utility of Cre-transgenic mouse technology in selective targeting of subpopulations of neurons and makes them amenable to structural, functional, and connectivity studies.
PMCID: PMC3028542  PMID: 21283555
orientation preference; GABAergic; somatic inhibition; microcircuitry; cre; reporter mouse; cell type
9.  An Inducible and Reversible Mouse Genetic Rescue System 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(5):e1000069.
Inducible and reversible regulation of gene expression is a powerful approach for uncovering gene function. We have established a general method to efficiently produce reversible and inducible gene knockout and rescue in mice. In this system, which we named iKO, the target gene can be turned on and off at will by treating the mice with doxycycline. This method combines two genetically modified mouse lines: a) a KO line with a tetracycline-dependent transactivator replacing the endogenous target gene, and b) a line with a tetracycline-inducible cDNA of the target gene inserted into a tightly regulated (TIGRE) genomic locus, which provides for low basal expression and high inducibility. Such a locus occurs infrequently in the genome and we have developed a method to easily introduce genes into the TIGRE site of mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells by recombinase-mediated insertion. Both KO and TIGRE lines have been engineered for high-throughput, large-scale and cost-effective production of iKO mice. As a proof of concept, we have created iKO mice in the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene, which allows for sensitive and quantitative phenotypic analyses. The results demonstrated reversible switching of ApoE transcription, plasma cholesterol levels, and atherosclerosis progression and regression. The iKO system shows stringent regulation and is a versatile genetic system that can easily incorporate other techniques and adapt to a wide range of applications.
Author Summary
We describe a technology for the creation of inducible and reversible gene inactivation in mice. It combines two genetically modified mouse lines: a knock-out line with a tetracycline transactivator replacing the endogenous target gene, and a line in which a tetracycline-inducible cDNA of the target gene has been inserted into a specific genomic locus. A critical component of this system is the unique chromosomal loci we have identified and engineered that offer a platform for easy insertion of any gene of interest for tightly controlled expression. Because of its simple binary nature, allowing independent modification of each of the two components and possibility of use in a high-throughput mode, we believe that our system will be useful for multiple applications, such as introducing mutant or humanized form of the target gene as well as functional manipulating tools. We have applied this technology to the Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene and have demonstrated that: a) the expression of ApoE is strictly dependent on the presence of doxycycline, a tetracycline group antibiotic, in the mouse diet, b) in the absence of doxycycline (ApoE repressed) atherosclerotic plaques are formed, confirming the importance of ApoE in the process, and c) upon re-induction of ApoE in the animals with doxicyclin, atherosclerosis regressed.
PMCID: PMC2346557  PMID: 18464897
10.  The Immunoglobulin Heavy Chain Locus Control Region Increases Histone Acetylation along Linked c-myc Genes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(11):6281-6292.
In chromosome translocations characteristic of Burkitt lymphomas (BL) and murine plasmacytomas, c-myc genes become juxtaposed to immunoglobulin heavy-chain (IgH) sequences, resulting in aberrant c-myc transcription. Translocated c-myc alleles that retain the first exon exhibit increased transcription from the normally minor c-myc promoter, P1, and increased transcriptional elongation through inherent pause sites proximal to the major c-myc promoter, P2. We recently demonstrated that a cassette derived from four DNase I-hypersensitive sites (HS1234) in the 3′Cα region of the IgH locus functions as an enhancer-locus control region (LCR) and directs a similar pattern of deregulated expression of linked c-myc genes in BL and plasmacytoma cell lines. Here, we report that the HS1234 enhancer-LCR mediates a widespread increase in histone acetylation along linked c-myc genes in Raji BL cells. Significantly, the increase in acetylation was not restricted to nucleosomes within the promoter region but also was apparent upstream and downstream of the transcription start sites as well as along vector sequences. Histone hyperacetylation of control c-myc genes, which was induced by the deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A, mimics the effect of the HS1234 enhancer on expression from the c-myc P2 promoter, but not that from the P1 promoter. These results suggest that the HS1234 enhancer stimulates transcription of c-myc by a combination of mechanisms. Whereas HS1234 activates expression from the P2 promoter through a mechanism that includes increased histone acetylation, a general increase in histone acetylation is not sufficient to explain the HS1234-mediated activation of transcription from P1.
PMCID: PMC109215  PMID: 9774645

Results 1-10 (10)