Richard H Kramer

University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States

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Publications (61)520.47 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Optogenetics has become an emerging technique for neuroscience investigations owing to the great spatiotemporal precision and the target selectivity it provides. Here we extend the optogenetic strategy to GABAA receptors (GABAARs), the major mediators of inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain. We generated a light-regulated GABAA receptor (LiGABAR) by conjugating a photo-switchable tethered ligand (PTL) onto a mutant receptor containing the cysteine-substituted α1-subunit. The installed PTL can be advanced to or retracted from the GABA-binding pocket with 500-nm and 380-nm light, respectively, resulting in photo-switchable receptor antagonism. In hippocampal neurons, this LiGABAR enabled a robust photoregulation of inhibitory postsynaptic currents. Moreover, it allowed reversible photocontrol over neuron excitation in response to presynaptic stimulation. LiGABAR thus provides a powerful means for functional and mechanistic investigations of GABAAR-mediated neural inhibition.
    ACS Chemical Biology 05/2014; · 5.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are blinding diseases caused by the degeneration of rods and cones, leaving the remainder of the visual system unable to respond to light. Here, we report a chemical photoswitch named DENAQ that restores retinal responses to white light of intensity similar to ordinary daylight. A single intraocular injection of DENAQ photosensitizes the blind retina for days, restoring electrophysiological and behavioral responses with no toxicity. Experiments on mouse strains with functional, nonfunctional, or degenerated rods and cones show that DENAQ is effective only in retinas with degenerated photoreceptors. DENAQ confers light sensitivity on a hyperpolarization-activated inward current that is enhanced in degenerated retina, enabling optical control of retinal ganglion cell firing. The acceptable light sensitivity, favorable spectral sensitivity, and selective targeting to diseased tissue make DENAQ a prime drug candidate for vision restoration in patients with end-stage RP and AMD.
    Neuron 02/2014; 81(4):800-13. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    Richard H Kramer, Alexandre Mourot, Hillel Adesnik
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    ABSTRACT: The optical neuroscience revolution is transforming how we study neural circuits. By providing a precise way to manipulate endogenous neuronal signaling proteins, it also has the potential to transform our understanding of molecular neuroscience. Recent advances in chemical biology have produced light-sensitive compounds that photoregulate a wide variety of proteins underlying signaling between and within neurons. Chemical tools for optopharmacology include caged agonists and antagonists and reversibly photoswitchable ligands. These reagents act on voltage-gated ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors, enabling control of neuronal signaling with a high degree of spatial and temporal precision. By covalently attaching photoswitch molecules to genetically tagged proteins, the newly emerging methodology of optogenetic pharmacology allows biochemically precise control in targeted subsets of neurons. Now that the tools for manipulating endogenous neuronal signaling proteins are available, they can be implemented in vivo to enhance our understanding of the molecular bases of brain function and dysfunctions.
    Nature Neuroscience 06/2013; 16(7):816-823. · 15.25 Impact Factor
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    Alexandre Mourot, Timm Fehrentz, Richard H Kramer
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    ABSTRACT: Voltage-gated potassium (K v) channels are membrane proteins that open a selective pore upon membrane depolarization, allowing K(+) ions to flow down their electrochemical gradient. In neurons, K v channels play a key role in repolarizing the membrane potential during the falling phase of the action potential, often resulting in an after hyperpolarization. Opening of K v channels results in a decrease of cellular excitability, whereas closing (or pharmacological block) has the opposite effect, increased excitability. We have developed a series of photosensitive blockers for K v channels that enable reversible, optical regulation of potassium ion flow. Such molecules can be used for remote control of neuronal excitability using light as an on/off switch. Here we describe the design and electrophysiological characterization of photochromic blockers of ion channels. Our focus is on K v channels but in principle, the techniques described here can be applied to other ion channels and signaling proteins.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2013; 995:89-105. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    Alexandre Mourot, Ivan Tochitsky, Richard H Kramer
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    ABSTRACT: Ion channels are transmembrane proteins that control the movement of ions across the cell membrane. They are the molecular machines that make neurons excitable by enabling the initiation and propagation of action potentials (APs). Rapid signaling within and between neurons requires complex molecular processes that couple the sensing of membrane voltage or neurotransmitter release to the fast opening and closing of the ion channel gate. Malfunction of an ion channel's sensing or gating module can have disastrous pathological consequences. However, linking molecular changes to the modulation of neural circuits and ultimately to a physiological or pathological state is not a straightforward task. It requires precise and sophisticated methods of controlling the function of ion channels in their native environment. To address this issue we have developed new photochemical tools that enable the remote control of neuronal ion channels with light. Due to its optical nature, our approach permits the manipulation of the nervous system with high spatial, temporal and molecular precision that will help us understand the link between ion channel function and physiology. In addition, this strategy may also be used in the clinic for the direct treatment of some neuronal disorders.
    Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 01/2013; 6:5.
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    ABSTRACT: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are degenerative blinding diseases caused by the death of rods and cones, leaving the remainder of the visual system intact but largely unable to respond to light. Here, we show that AAQ, a synthetic small molecule photoswitch, can restore light sensitivity to the retina and behavioral responses in vivo in mouse models of RP, without exogenous gene delivery. Brief application of AAQ bestows prolonged light sensitivity on multiple types of retinal neurons, resulting in synaptically amplified responses and center-surround antagonism in arrays of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Intraocular injection of AAQ restores the pupillary light reflex and locomotory light avoidance behavior in mice lacking retinal photoreceptors, indicating reconstitution of light signaling to brain circuits. AAQ and related photoswitch molecules present a potential drug strategy for restoring retinal function in degenerative blinding diseases.
    Neuron 07/2012; 75(2):271-82. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Selective ligands are lacking for many neuronal signaling proteins. Photoswitched tethered ligands (PTLs) have enabled fast and reversible control of specific proteins containing a PTL anchoring site and have been used to remote control overexpressed proteins. We report here a scheme for optical remote control of native proteins using a "photoswitchable conditional subunit" (PCS), which contains the PTL anchoring site as well as a mutation that prevents it from reaching the plasma membrane. In cells lacking native subunits for the protein, the PCS remains nonfunctional internally. However, in cells expressing native subunits, the native subunit and PCS coassemble, traffic to the plasma membrane, and place the native protein under optical control provided by the coassembled PCS. We apply this approach to the TREK1 potassium channel, which lacks selective, reversible blockers. We find that TREK1, typically considered to be a leak channel, contributes to the hippocampal GABA(B) response.
    Neuron 06/2012; 74(6):1005-14. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    Miao Tian, C Shan Xu, Rachel Montpetit, Richard H Kramer
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    ABSTRACT: Rab3A is a synaptic vesicle-associated protein found throughout the nervous system, but its precise function is unknown. Genetic knock-out studies show that Rab3A is not necessary for vesicular release or replenishment at conventional synapses in the brain. Here we explore the function of Rab3A at ribbon synapses in the retina of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). Fluorescently labeled Rab3A, delivered into rods and cones through a patch pipette, binds to and dissociates from synaptic ribbons. Experiments using nonphosphorylatable GDP analogs and a GTPase-deficient Rab3A mutant indicate that ribbon binding and dissociation are governed by a GTP hydrolysis cycle. Paired recordings from presynaptic photoreceptors and postsynaptic OFF-bipolar cells show that the Rab3A mutant blocks synaptic release in an activity-dependent manner, with more frequent stimulation leading to more rapid block. The frequency dependence of block by exogenous Rab3A suggests that it acts competitively with synaptic vesicles to interfere with their resupply to release sites. Together, these findings suggest a crucial role of Rab3A in delivering vesicles to Ca²⁺-dependent release sites at ribbon synapses.
    Journal of Neuroscience 05/2012; 32(20):6931-6. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rattling the cage: The two γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) derivatives 1 and 2 exhibit efficient and rapid (<5×10(-6)  s) GABA photorelease upon one-photon excitation combined with two-photon uncaging cross-section at λ=800 nm. Compounds 1 and 2 were successfully used for two-photon GABA release in intact brain tissue, thus offering attractive perspectives in chemical neurosciences.
    Angewandte Chemie International Edition 02/2012; 51(8):1840-3. · 13.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Local anesthetics effectively suppress pain sensation, but most of these compounds act nonselectively, inhibiting activity of all neurons. Moreover, their actions abate slowly, preventing precise spatial and temporal control of nociception. We developed a photoisomerizable molecule, quaternary ammonium-azobenzene-quaternary ammonium (QAQ), that enables rapid and selective optical control of nociception. QAQ is membrane-impermeant and has no effect on most cells, but it infiltrates pain-sensing neurons through endogenous ion channels that are activated by noxious stimuli, primarily TRPV1. After QAQ accumulates intracellularly, it blocks voltage-gated ion channels in the trans form but not the cis form. QAQ enables reversible optical silencing of mouse nociceptive neuron firing without exogenous gene expression and can serve as a light-sensitive analgesic in rats in vivo. Because intracellular QAQ accumulation is a consequence of nociceptive ion-channel activity, QAQ-mediated photosensitization is a platform for understanding signaling mechanisms in acute and chronic pain.
    Nature Methods 02/2012; 9(4):396-402. · 23.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Advances in synthetic chemistry, structural biology, molecular modelling and molecular cloning have enabled the systematic functional manipulation of transmembrane proteins. By combining genetically manipulated proteins with light-sensitive ligands, innately 'blind' neurobiological receptors can be converted into photoreceptors, which allows them to be photoregulated with high spatiotemporal precision. Here, we present the optochemical control of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) with photoswitchable tethered agonists and antagonists. Using structure-based design, we produced heteromeric α3β4 and α4β2 nAChRs that can be activated or inhibited with deep-violet light, but respond normally to acetylcholine in the dark. The generation of these engineered receptors should facilitate investigation of the physiological and pathological functions of neuronal nAChRs and open a general pathway to photosensitizing pentameric ligand-gated ion channels.
    Nature Chemistry 02/2012; 4(2):105-11. · 21.76 Impact Factor
  • Christian Herold, Alexandre Mourot, Richard H. Kramer
    Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):137-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2012; 102(3):111-. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Photochromic channel blockers provide a conceptually simple and convenient way to modulate neuronal activity with light. We have recently described a family of azobenzenes that function as tonic blockers of K(v) channels but require UV-A light to unblock and need to be actively switched by toggling between two different wavelengths. We now introduce red-shifted compounds that fully operate in the visible region of the spectrum and quickly turn themselves off in the dark. Furthermore, we have developed a version that does not block effectively in the dark-adapted state, can be switched to a blocking state with blue light, and reverts to the inactive state automatically. Photochromic blockers of this type could be useful for the photopharmacological control of neuronal activity under mild conditions.
    ACS Chemical Neuroscience 09/2011; 2(9):536-43. · 3.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Light hyperpolarizes cone photoreceptors, causing synaptic voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels to open infrequently. To understand neurotransmission under these conditions, we determined the number of L-type Ca(2+) channel openings necessary for vesicle fusion at the cone ribbon synapse. Ca(2+) currents (I(Ca)) were activated in voltage-clamped cones, and excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) were recorded from horizontal cells in the salamander retina slice preparation. Ca(2+) channel number and single-channel current amplitude were calculated by mean-variance analysis of I(Ca). Two different comparisons-one comparing average numbers of release events to average I(Ca) amplitude and the other involving deconvolution of both EPSCs and simultaneously recorded cone I(Ca)-suggested that fewer than three Ca(2+) channel openings accompanied fusion of each vesicle at the peak of release during the first few milliseconds of stimulation. Opening fewer Ca(2+) channels did not enhance fusion efficiency, suggesting that few unnecessary channel openings occurred during strong depolarization. We simulated release at the cone synapse, using empirically determined synaptic dimensions, vesicle pool size, Ca(2+) dependence of release, Ca(2+) channel number, and Ca(2+) channel properties. The model replicated observations when a barrier was added to slow Ca(2+) diffusion. Consistent with the presence of a diffusion barrier, dialyzing cones with diffusible Ca(2+) buffers did not affect release efficiency. The tight clustering of Ca(2+) channels, along with a high-Ca(2+) affinity release mechanism and diffusion barrier, promotes a linear coupling between Ca(2+) influx and vesicle fusion. This may improve detection of small light decrements when cones are hyperpolarized by bright light.
    Journal of Neurophysiology 08/2011; 106(6):2922-35. · 3.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inherited retinal degeneration results from many different mutations in either photoreceptor-specific or nonphotoreceptor-specific genes. However, nearly all mutations lead to a common blinding phenotype that initiates with rod cell death, followed by loss of cones. In most retinal degenerations, other retinal neuron cell types survive for long periods after blindness from photoreceptor loss. One strategy to restore light responsiveness to a retina rendered blind by photoreceptor degeneration is to express light-regulated ion channels or transporters in surviving retinal neurons. Recent experiments in rodents have restored light-sensitivity by expressing melanopsin or microbial opsins either broadly throughout the retina or selectively in the inner segments of surviving cones or in bipolar cells. Here, we present an approach whereby a genetically and chemically engineered light-gated ionotropic glutamate receptor (LiGluR) is expressed selectively in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the longest-surviving cells in retinal blinding diseases. When expressed in the RGCs of a well-established model of retinal degeneration, the rd1 mouse, LiGluR restores light sensitivity to the RGCs, reinstates light responsiveness to the primary visual cortex, and restores both the pupillary reflex and a natural light-avoidance behavior.
    Molecular Therapy 05/2011; 19(7):1212-9. · 7.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cone photoreceptors and horizontal cells (HCs) have a reciprocal synapse that underlies lateral inhibition and establishes the antagonistic center-surround organization of the visual system. Cones transmit to HCs through an excitatory synapse and HCs feed back to cones through an inhibitory synapse. Here we report that HCs also transmit to cone terminals a positive feedback signal that elevates intracellular Ca(2+) and accelerates neurotransmitter release. Positive and negative feedback are both initiated by AMPA receptors on HCs, but positive feedback appears to be mediated by a change in HC Ca(2+), whereas negative feedback is mediated by a change in HC membrane potential. Local uncaging of AMPA receptor agonists suggests that positive feedback is spatially constrained to active HC-cone synapses, whereas the negative feedback signal spreads through HCs to affect release from surrounding cones. By locally offsetting the effects of negative feedback, positive feedback may amplify photoreceptor synaptic release without sacrificing HC-mediated contrast enhancement.
    PLoS Biology 05/2011; 9(5):e1001057. · 12.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Currently available optogenetic tools, including microbial light-activated ion channels and transporters, are transforming systems neuroscience by enabling precise remote control of neuronal firing, but they tell us little about the role of indigenous ion channels in controlling neuronal function. Here, we employ a chemical-genetic strategy to engineer light sensitivity into several mammalian K(+) channels that have different gating and modulation properties. These channels provide the means for photoregulating diverse electrophysiological functions. Photosensitivity is conferred on a channel by a tethered ligand photoswitch that contains a cysteine-reactive maleimide (M), a photoisomerizable azobenzene (A), and a quaternary ammonium (Q), a K(+) channel pore blocker. Using mutagenesis, we identify the optimal extracellular cysteine attachment site where MAQ conjugation results in pore blockade when the azobenzene moiety is in the trans but not cis configuration. With this strategy, we have conferred photosensitivity on channels containing Kv1.3 subunits (which control axonal action potential repolarization), Kv3.1 subunits (which contribute to rapid-firing properties of brain neurons), Kv7.2 subunits (which underlie "M-current"), and SK2 subunits (which are Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels that contribute to synaptic responses). These light-regulated channels may be overexpressed in genetically targeted neurons or substituted for native channels with gene knockin technology to enable precise optopharmacological manipulation of channel function.
    Journal of Neurophysiology 04/2011; 106(1):488-96. · 3.30 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
520.47 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2001–2014
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
      • • Department of Chemistry
      • • Division of Neurobiology
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 2008
    • University of Massachusetts Amherst
      • Department of Chemistry
      Amherst Center, MA, United States
  • 2006
    • University of Berkley
      Berkley, Michigan, United States
  • 1997–2002
    • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
      • Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology
      Miami, FL, United States