ABSTRACT: The optogenetic approach to gain control over neuronal excitability both in vitro and in vivo has emerged as a fascinating scientific tool to explore neuronal networks, but it also opens possibilities for developing novel treatment strategies for neurologic conditions. We have explored whether such an optogenetic approach using the light-driven halorhodopsin chloride pump from Natronomonas pharaonis (NpHR), modified for mammalian CNS expression to hyperpolarize central neurons, may inhibit excessive hyperexcitability and epileptiform activity. We show that a lentiviral vector containing the NpHR gene under the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIalpha promoter transduces principal cells of the hippocampus and cortex and hyperpolarizes these cells, preventing generation of action potentials and epileptiform activity during optical stimulation. This study proves a principle, that selective hyperpolarization of principal cortical neurons by NpHR is sufficient to curtail paroxysmal activity in transduced neurons and can inhibit stimulation train-induced bursting in hippocampal organotypic slice cultures, which represents a model tissue of pharmacoresistant epilepsy. This study demonstrates that the optogenetic approach may prove useful for controlling epileptiform activity and opens a future perspective to develop it into a strategy to treat epilepsy.
Project description:Despite growing interest in light-driven ion pumps for use in optogenetics, current estimates of their transport rates span two orders of magnitude due to challenges in measuring slow transport processes and determining protein concentration and/or orientation in membranes in vitro. In this study, we report, to our knowledge, the first direct quantitative measurement of light-driven Cl<sup>-</sup> transport rates of the anion pump halorohodopsin from Natronomonas pharaonis (NpHR). We used light-interfaced voltage clamp measurements on NpHR-expressing oocytes to obtain a transport rate of 219 (± 98) Cl<sup>-</sup>/protein/s for a photon flux of 630 photons/protein/s. The measurement is consistent with the literature-reported quantum efficiency of ?30% for NpHR, i.e., 0.3 isomerizations per photon absorbed. To reconcile our measurements with an earlier-reported 20 ms rate-limiting step, or 35 turnovers/protein/s, we conducted, to our knowledge, novel consecutive single-turnover flash experiments that demonstrate that under continuous illumination, NpHR bypasses this step in the photocycle.
Project description:Essentially any behavior in simple and complex animals depends on neuronal network function. Currently, the best-defined system to study neuronal circuits is the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as the connectivity of its 302 neurons is exactly known. Individual neurons can be activated by photostimulation of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) using blue light, allowing to directly probe the importance of a particular neuron for the respective behavioral output of the network under study. In analogy, other excitable cells can be inhibited by expressing Halorhodopsin from Natronomonas pharaonis (NpHR) and subsequent illumination with yellow light. However, inhibiting C. elegans neurons using NpHR is difficult. Recently, proton pumps from various sources were established as valuable alternative hyperpolarizers. Here we show that archaerhodopsin-3 (Arch) from Halorubrum sodomense and a proton pump from the fungus Leptosphaeria maculans (Mac) can be utilized to effectively inhibit excitable cells in C. elegans. Arch is the most powerful hyperpolarizer when illuminated with yellow or green light while the action spectrum of Mac is more blue-shifted, as analyzed by light-evoked behaviors and electrophysiology. This allows these tools to be combined in various ways with ChR2 to analyze different subsets of neurons within a circuit. We exemplify this by means of the polymodal aversive sensory ASH neurons, and the downstream command interneurons to which ASH neurons signal to trigger a reversal followed by a directional turn. Photostimulating ASH and subsequently inhibiting command interneurons using two-color illumination of different body segments, allows investigating temporal aspects of signaling downstream of ASH.
Project description:Optogenetics is a technique for controlling subpopulations of neurons in the intact brain using light. This technique has the potential to enhance basic systems neuroscience research and to inform the mechanisms and treatment of brain injury and disease. Before launching large-scale primate studies, the method needs to be further characterized and adapted for use in the primate brain. We assessed the safety and efficiency of two viral vector systems (lentivirus and adeno-associated virus), two human promoters (human synapsin (hSyn) and human thymocyte-1 (hThy-1)) and three excitatory and inhibitory mammalian codon-optimized opsins (channelrhodopsin-2, enhanced Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin and the step-function opsin), which we characterized electrophysiologically, histologically and behaviorally in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). We also introduced a new device for measuring in vivo fluorescence over time, allowing minimally invasive assessment of construct expression in the intact brain. We present a set of optogenetic tools designed for optogenetic experiments in the non-human primate brain.
Project description:The transmembrane pump halorhodopsin in halophilic archaea translocates chloride ions from the extracellular to the cytoplasmic side upon illumination. In the ground state a tightly bound chloride ion occupies the primary chloride-binding site (CBS I) close to the protonated Schiff base that links the retinal chromophore to the protein. The light-triggered trans-cis isomerization of retinal causes structural changes in the protein associated with movement of the chloride ion. In reverse, chemical depletion of CBS I in Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin (NpHR) through deprotonation of the Schiff base results in conformational changes of the protein: a state thought to mimic late stages of the photocycle. Here, crystals of Halobacterium salinarum halorhodopsin (HsHR) were soaked at high pH to provoke deprotonation of the Schiff base and loss of chloride. The crystals changed colour from purple to yellow and the occupancy of CBS I was reduced from 1 to about 0.5. In contrast to NpHR, this chloride depletion did not cause substantial conformational changes in the protein. Nevertheless, two observations indicate that chloride depletion could eventually result in structural changes similar to those found in NpHR. Firstly, the partially chloride-depleted form of HsHR has increased normalized B factors in the region of helix C that is close to CBS I and changes its conformation in NpHR. Secondly, prolonged soaking of HsHR crystals at high pH resulted in loss of diffraction. In conclusion, the conformation of the chloride-free protein may not be compatible with this crystal form of HsHR despite a packing arrangement that hardly restrains helices E and F that presumably move during ion transport.
Project description:We previously showed that the chimeric proteins of microbial rhodopsins, such as light-driven proton pump bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and Gloeobacter rhodopsin (GR) that contain cytoplasmic loops of bovine rhodopsin, are able to activate Gt protein upon light absorption. These facts suggest similar protein structural changes in both the light-driven proton pump and animal rhodopsin. Here we report two trials to engineer chimeric rhodopsins, one for the inserted loop, and another for the microbial rhodopsin template. For the former, we successfully activated Gs protein by light through the incorporation of the cytoplasmic loop of ?2-adrenergic receptor (?2AR). For the latter, we did not observe any G-protein activation for the light-driven sodium pump from Indibacter alkaliphilus (IndiR2) or a light-driven chloride pump halorhodopsin from Natronomonas pharaonis (NpHR), whereas the light-driven proton pump GR showed light-dependent G-protein activation. This fact suggests that a helix opening motion is common to G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) and GR, but not to IndiR2 and NpHR. Light-induced difference FTIR spectroscopy revealed similar structural changes between WT and the third loop chimera for each light-driven pump. A helical structural perturbation, which was largest for GR, was further enhanced in the chimera. We conclude that similar structural dynamics that occur on the cytoplasmic side of GPCR are needed to design chimeric microbial rhodopsins.
Project description:The Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is widely used as a model organism for the human auditory system. Its hearing range is very similar to ours and it uses the same mechanisms for sound localization. The auditory circuits underlying these functions have been characterized. However, important mechanistic details are still under debate. To elucidate these issues, precise and reversible optogenetic manipulation of neuronal activity in this complex circuitry is required. However, genetic and genomic resources for the Mongolian gerbil are poorly developed. Here, we demonstrate a reliable gene delivery system using an AAV8(Y337F)-pseudotyped recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) 2-based vector in which the pan-neural human synapsin (hSyn) promoter drives neuron-specific expression of CatCH (Ca2+-permeable channelrhodopsin) or NpHR3.0 (Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin). After stereotactic injection into the gerbil's auditory brainstem (medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus) and midbrain [inferior colliculus (IC)], we characterized CatCH- and/or NpHR3.0-transduced neurons in acute brain slices by means of whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. As the response properties of optogenetic tools strongly depend on neuronal biophysics, this parameterization is crucial for their in vivo application. In a proof-of-principle experiment in anesthetized gerbils, we observed strong suppression of sound-evoked neural responses in the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (DNLL) and IC upon light activation of NpHR3.0. The successful validation of gene delivery and optogenetic tools in the Mongolian gerbil paves the way for future studies of the auditory circuits in this model system.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Optogenetic silencing techniques have expanded the causal understanding of the functions of diverse neuronal cell types in both the healthy and diseased brain. A widely used inhibitory optogenetic actuator is eNpHR3.0, an improved version of the light-driven chloride pump halorhodopsin derived from Natronomonas pharaonis. A major drawback of eNpHR3.0 is related to its pronounced inactivation on a time-scale of seconds, which renders it unsuited for applications that require long-lasting silencing. RESULTS:Using transgenic mice and Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing an eNpHR3.0-EYFP fusion protein, we here report optimized photo-stimulation techniques that profoundly increase the stability of eNpHR3.0-mediated currents during long-term photo-stimulation. We demonstrate that optimized photo-stimulation enables prolonged hyperpolarization and suppression of action potential discharge on a time-scale of minutes. CONCLUSIONS:Collectively, our findings extend the utility of eNpHR3.0 to the long-lasting inhibition of excitable cells, thus facilitating the optogenetic dissection of neural circuits.
Project description:Cocaine addiction is a disease characterized by chronic relapse despite long periods of abstinence. The lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) promote cocaine-seeking behavior in response to drug-associated conditioned stimuli (CS) and share dense reciprocal connections. Hence, we hypothesized that monosynaptic projections between these brain regions mediate CS-induced cocaine-seeking behavior. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral infusions of a Cre-dependent adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector expressing enhanced halorhodopsin 3.0 fused with a reporter protein (NpHR-mCherry) or a control AAV (mCherry) plus optic fiber implants into the lOFC (Experiment 1) or BLA (Experiment 2). The same rats also received bilateral infusions of a retrogradely transported AAV vector expressing Cre recombinase (Retro-Cre-GFP) into the BLA (Experiment 1) or lOFC (Experiment 2). Thus, NpHR-mCherry or mCherry expression was targeted to lOFC neurons that project to the BLA or to BLA neurons that project to the lOFC in different groups. Rats were trained to lever press for cocaine infusions paired with 5-s CS presentations. Responding was then extinguished. At test, response-contingent CS presentation was discretely coupled with optogenetic inhibition (5-s laser activation) or no optogenetic inhibition while lever responding was assessed without cocaine/food reinforcement. Optogenetic inhibition of lOFC to BLA, but not BLA to lOFC, projections in the NpHR-mCherry groups disrupted CS-induced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior relative to (i) no optogenetic inhibition or (ii) manipulations in mCherry control or (iii) NpHR-mCherry food control groups. These findings suggest that the lOFC sends requisite input to the BLA, via monosynaptic connections, to promote CS-induced cocaine-seeking behavior.
Project description:Neocortical epilepsy is frequently drug-resistant. Surgery to remove the epileptogenic zone is only feasible in a minority of cases, leaving many patients without an effective treatment. We report the potential efficacy of gene therapy in focal neocortical epilepsy using a rodent model in which epilepsy is induced by tetanus toxin injection in the motor cortex. By applying several complementary methods that use continuous wireless electroencephalographic monitoring to quantify epileptic activity, we observed increases in high frequency activity and in the occurrence of epileptiform events. Pyramidal neurons in the epileptic focus showed enhanced intrinsic excitability consistent with seizure generation. Optogenetic inhibition of a subset of principal neurons transduced with halorhodopsin targeted to the epileptic focus by lentiviral delivery was sufficient to attenuate electroencephalographic seizures. Local lentiviral overexpression of the potassium channel Kv1.1 reduced the intrinsic excitability of transduced pyramidal neurons. Coinjection of this Kv1.1 lentivirus with tetanus toxin fully prevented the occurrence of electroencephalographic seizures. Finally, administration of the Kv1.1 lentivirus to an established epileptic focus progressively suppressed epileptic activity over several weeks without detectable behavioral side effects. Thus, gene therapy in a rodent model can be used to suppress seizures acutely, prevent their occurrence after an epileptogenic stimulus, and successfully treat established focal epilepsy.
Project description:An engineered light-inducible chloride pump, Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin 3 (eNpHR3) enables temporally and spatially precise inhibition of genetically defined cell populations in the intact nervous tissues. In this report, we show the generation of new mouse strains that express eNpHR3-EYFP fusion proteins after Cre- and/or Flp-mediated recombination to optically inhibit neuronal activity. In these mouse strains, Cre/Flp recombination induced high levels of opsin expression. We confirmed their light-induced activities by brain slice whole-cell patch clamp experiments. eNpHR3-expressing neurons were optically hyperpolarized and silenced from firing action potentials. In prolonged silencing of action potentials, eNpHR3 was superior to eNpHR2, a former version of the engineered pump. Thus, these eNpHR3 mouse strains offer reliable genetic tools for light-induced inhibiting of neuronal activity in defined sets of neurons.