[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Lateral inhibition at the first synapse in the retina is important for visual perception, enhancing image contrast, color discrimination, and light adaptation. Despite decades of research, the feedback signal from horizontal cells to photoreceptors that generates lateral inhibition remains uncertain. GABA, protons, or an ephaptic mechanism have all been suggested as the primary mediator of feedback. However, the complexity of the reciprocal cone to horizontal cell synapse has left the identity of the feedback signal an unsolved mystery.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Exogenously expressed opsins are valuable tools for optogenetic control of neurons in circuits. A deeper understanding of neural function can be gained by bringing control to endogenous neurotransmitter receptors that mediate synaptic transmission. Here we introduce a comprehensive optogenetic toolkit for controlling GABAA receptor-mediated inhibition in the brain. We developed a series of photoswitch ligands and the complementary genetically modified GABAA receptor subunits. By conjugating the two components, we generated light-sensitive versions of the entire GABAA receptor family. We validated these light-sensitive receptors for applications across a broad range of spatial scales, from subcellular receptor mapping to in vivo photo-control of visual responses in the cerebral cortex. Finally, we generated a knockin mouse in which the “photoswitch-ready” version of a GABAA receptor subunit genomically replaces its wild-type counterpart, ensuring normal receptor expression. This optogenetic pharmacology toolkit allows scalable interrogation of endogenous GABAA receptor function with high spatial, temporal, and biochemical precision.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Developmental bioelectricity, electrical signaling among non-excitable cells, is now known to regulate proliferation, apoptosis, gene expression, and patterning during development. The extraordinary temporal and spatial resolution offered by optogenetics could revolutionize the study of bioelectricity the same way it has revolutionized neuroscience. There is, however, no guide to adapting optogenetics to patterning systems. To fill this gap, we used optogenetic reagents, both proteins and photochemical switches, to vary steady-state bioelectrical properties of non-spiking embryonic cells in Xenopus laevis. We injected mRNA for various proteins, including Channelrhodopsins and Archaerhodopsin, into 1-8 cell embryos, or soaked embryos in media containing photochemical switches, then examined the effect of light and dark on membrane voltage (Vmem) using both electrodes and fluorescent membrane voltage reporters. We also scored tadpoles for known effects of varying Vmem, including left-right asymmetry disruption, hyperpigmentation, and craniofacial phenotypes. The majority of reagents we tested caused a significant increase in the percentage of light-exposed tadpoles showing relevant phenotypes; however, the majority of reagents also induced phenotypes in controls kept in the dark. Experiments on this “dark phenotype” yielded evidence that the direction of ion flux via common optogenetic reagents may be reversed, or unpredictable in non-neural cells. When used in combination with rigorous controls, optogenetics can be a powerful tool for investigating ion-flux based signaling in non-excitable systems. Nonetheless, it is crucial that new reagents be designed with these non-neural cell types in mind.
No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · The International Journal of Developmental Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Full-text · Article · May 2014 · ACS Chemical Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The reciprocal synapse between photoreceptors and horizontal cells underlies lateral inhibition and establishes the antagonistic center-surround receptive fields of retinal neurons to enhance visual contrast. Despite decades of study, the signal mediating the negative feedback from horizontal cells to cones has remained under debate because the small, invaginated synaptic cleft has precluded measurement. Using zebrafish retinas, we show that light elicits a change in synaptic proton concentration with the correct magnitude, kinetics and spatial dependence to account for lateral inhibition. Light, which hyperpolarizes horizontal cells, causes synaptic alkalinization, whereas activating an exogenously expressed ligand-gated Na(+) channel, which depolarizes horizontal cells, causes synaptic acidification. Whereas acidification was prevented by blocking a proton pump, re-alkalinization was prevented by blocking proton-permeant ion channels, suggesting that distinct mechanisms underlie proton efflux and influx. These findings reveal that protons mediate lateral inhibition in the retina, raising the possibility that protons are unrecognized retrograde messengers elsewhere in the nervous system.
Preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Nature Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Nature Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Preview · Article · May 2012 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · Angewandte Chemie International Edition
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] 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.