Improved CoChR Variants Restore Visual Acuity and Contrast Sensitivity in a Mouse Model of Blindness under Ambient Light Conditions.
ABSTRACT: Severe photoreceptor cell death in retinal degenerative diseases leads to partial or complete blindness. Optogenetics is a promising strategy to treat blindness. The feasibility of this strategy has been demonstrated through the ectopic expression of microbial channelrhodopsins (ChRs) and other genetically encoded light sensors in surviving retinal neurons in animal models. A major drawback for ChR-based visual restoration is low light sensitivity. Here, we report the development of highly operational light-sensitive ChRs by optimizing the kinetics of a recently reported ChR variant, Chloromonas oogama (CoChR). In particular, we identified two CoChR mutants, CoChR-L112C and CoChR-H94E/L112C/K264T, with markedly enhanced light sensitivity. The improved light sensitivity of the CoChR mutants was confirmed by ex vivo electrophysiological recordings in the retina. Furthermore, the CoChR mutants restored the vision of a blind mouse model under ambient light conditions with remarkably good contrast sensitivity and visual acuity, as evidenced by the results of behavioral assays. The ability to restore functional vision under normal light conditions with the improved CoChR variants removed a major obstacle for ChR-based optogenetic vision restoration.
Project description:We engineered light-gated channelrhodopsins (ChRs) whose current strength and light sensitivity enable minimally invasive neuronal circuit interrogation. Current ChR tools applied to the mammalian brain require intracranial surgery for transgene delivery and implantation of fiber-optic cables to produce light-dependent activation of a small volume of tissue. To facilitate expansive optogenetics without the need for invasive implants, our engineering approach leverages the substantial literature of ChR variants to train statistical models for the design of high-performance ChRs. With Gaussian process models trained on a limited experimental set of 102 functionally characterized ChRs, we designed high-photocurrent ChRs with high light sensitivity. Three of these, ChRger1-3, enable optogenetic activation of the nervous system via systemic transgene delivery. ChRger2 enables light-induced neuronal excitation without fiber-optic implantation; that is, this opsin enables transcranial optogenetics.
Project description:Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) are light-gated cation channels derived from algae that have shown experimental utility in optogenetics; for example, neurons expressing ChRs can be optically controlled with high temporal precision within systems as complex as freely moving mammals. Although ChRs have been broadly applied to neuroscience research, little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which these unusual and powerful proteins operate. Here we present the crystal structure of a ChR (a C1C2 chimaera between ChR1 and ChR2 from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) at 2.3?Å resolution. The structure reveals the essential molecular architecture of ChRs, including the retinal-binding pocket and cation conduction pathway. This integration of structural and electrophysiological analyses provides insight into the molecular basis for the remarkable function of ChRs, and paves the way for the precise and principled design of ChR variants with novel properties.
Project description:The loss of photoreceptors in individuals with retinal degenerative diseases leads to partial or complete blindness. Optogenetic therapy is a promising approach for restoring vision to the blind. Multiple strategies have been employed by targeting genetically encoded light sensors, particularly channelrhodopsins, to surviving retinal neurons in animal models. In particular, the strategy of targeting retinal bipolar cells has commonly been expected to result in better vision than ubiquitous expression in retinal ganglion cells. However, a direct comparison of the channelrhodopsin-restored vision between these two strategies has not been performed. Here, we compared the restored visual functions achieved by adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated expression of a channelrhodopsin in ON-type bipolar cells and retinal ganglion cells driven by an improved mGluR6 promoter and a CAG promoter, respectively, in a blind mouse model by performing electrophysiological recordings and behavioral assessments. Unexpectedly, the efficacy of the restored vision based on light sensitivity and visual acuity was much higher following ubiquitous retinal ganglion cell expression than that of the strategy targeting ON-type bipolar cells. Our study suggests that, at least based on currently available gene delivery techniques, the expression of genetically encoded light sensors in retinal ganglion cells is likely a practical and advantageous strategy for optogenetic vision restoration.
Project description:Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) are light-gated cation channels that mediate ion transport across membranes in microalgae (vectorial catalysis). ChRs are now widely used for the analysis of neural networks in tissues and living animals with light (optogenetics). For elucidation of functional mechanisms at the atomic level, as well as for further engineering and application, a detailed structure is urgently needed. In the absence of an experimental structure, here we develop a structural ChR model based on several molecular computational approaches, capitalizing on characteristic patterns in amino acid sequences of ChR1, ChR2, Volvox ChRs, Mesostigma ChR, and the recently identified ChR of the halophilic alga Dunaliella salina. In the present model, we identify remarkable structural motifs that may explain fundamental electrophysiological properties of ChR2, ChR1, and their mutants, and in a crucial validation of the model, we successfully reproduce the excitation energy predicted by absorption spectra.
Project description:Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) are light-activated channels from algae that provide these organisms with fast sensors to visible light for phototaxis. Since its discovery, channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) has been used as a research tool to depolarize membranes of excitable cells with light. Subsequent chimeragenesis, mutagenesis and bioinformatic approaches have introduced additional ChR variants, such as channelrhodopsin-2 with H134R mutation (ChR2/H134R), channelrhodopsin-2 with E123T mutation (ChETA), Volvox carteri channelrhodopsin-1 (VChR1), Volvox carteri channelrhodopsin-2 (VChR2), channelrhodopsin-2 with C128 or D156A mutations (ChR2/C128X/D156A), chimera D (ChD), chimera EF (ChEF) and chimera EF with I170V mutation (I170V). Each of these ChR variuants has unique features and limitations, but there are few resources summarizing and comparing these ChRs in a systematic manner. In this review, the seven following key properties of ChRs that have significant influences on their effectiveness as research tools are examined: conductance, selectivity, kinetics, desensitization, light sensitivity, spectral response and membrane trafficking. Using this information, valuable qualities and deficits of each ChR variant are summarized. Optimal uses and potential future improvements of ChRs as optogenetic tools are also discussed.
Project description:Rod-cone degenerations, for example, retinitis pigmentosa are leading causes of blindness worldwide. Despite slow disease progression in humans, vision loss is inevitable; therefore, development of vision restoration strategies is crucial. Among others, promising approaches include optogenetics and prosthetic implants, which aim to bypass lost photoreceptors (PRs). Naturally, the efficacy of these therapeutic strategies will depend on inner retinal structural and functional preservation. The present study shows that in photoinducible I307N rhodopsin mice (Translational Vision Research Model 4 [Tvrm4]), a 12k lux light exposure eliminates PRs in the central retina in 1 week, but interneurons and their synapses are maintained for as long as 9?weeks postinduction. Despite bipolar cell dendritic retraction and moderate loss of horizontal cells, the survival rate of various cell types is very high. Significant preservation of conventional synapses and gap junctions in the inner plexiform layer is also observed. We found the number of synaptic ribbons to gradually decline and their ultrastructure to become transiently abnormal, although based on our findings intrinsic retinal architecture is maintained despite complete loss of PRs. Unlike common rodent models of PR degeneration, where the disease phenotype often interferes with retinal development, in Tvrm4 mice, the degenerative process can be induced after retinal development is complete. This time course more closely mimics the timing of disease onset in affected patients. Stability of the inner retina found in these mutants 2 months after PR degeneration suggests moderate, stereotyped remodeling in the early stages of the human disease and represents a promising finding for prompt approaches of vision restoration.
Project description:Retinitis pigmentosa results in blindness due to degeneration of photoreceptors, but spares other retinal cells, leading to the hope that expression of light-activated signaling proteins in the surviving cells could restore vision. We used a retinal G protein-coupled receptor, mGluR2, which we chemically engineered to respond to light. In retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) of blind rd1 mice, photoswitch-charged mGluR2 ("SNAG-mGluR2") evoked robust OFF responses to light, but not in wild-type retinas, revealing selectivity for RGCs that have lost photoreceptor input. SNAG-mGluR2 enabled animals to discriminate parallel from perpendicular lines and parallel lines at varying spacing. Simultaneous viral delivery of the inhibitory SNAG-mGluR2 and excitatory light-activated ionotropic glutamate receptor LiGluR yielded a distribution of expression ratios, restoration of ON, OFF and ON-OFF light responses and improved visual acuity. Thus, SNAG-mGluR2 restores patterned vision and combinatorial light response diversity provides a new logic for enhanced-acuity retinal prosthetics.
Project description:Some hereditary diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, lead to blindness due to the death of photoreceptors, though the rest of the visual system might be only slightly affected. Optogenetics is a promising tool for restoring vision after retinal degeneration. In optogenetics, light-sensitive ion channels ("channelrhodopsins") are expressed in neurons so that the neurons can be activated by light. Currently existing variants of channelrhodopsin--engineered for use in neurophysiological research--do not necessarily support the goal of vision restoration optimally, due to two factors: First, the nature of the light stimulus is fundamentally different in "optogenetic vision" compared to "optogenetic neuroscience". Second, the retinal target neurons have specific properties that need to be accounted for, e.g. most retinal neurons are non-spiking. In this study, by using a computational model, we investigate properties of channelrhodopsin that might improve successful vision restoration. We pay particular attention to the operational brightness range and suggest strategies that would allow optogenetic vision over a wider intensity range than currently possible, spanning the brightest 5 orders of naturally occurring luminance. We also discuss the biophysical limitations of channelrhodopsin, and of the expressing cells, that prevent further expansion of this operational range, and we suggest design strategies for optogenetic tools which might help overcoming these limitations. Furthermore, the computational model used for this study is provided as an interactive tool for the research community.
Project description:Inherited and age-related retinal degenerative diseases cause progressive loss of rod and cone photoreceptors, leading to blindness, but spare downstream retinal neurons, which can be targeted for optogenetic therapy. However, optogenetic approaches have been limited by either low light sensitivity or slow kinetics, and lack adaptation to changes in ambient light, and not been shown to restore object vision. We find that the vertebrate medium wavelength cone opsin (MW-opsin) overcomes these limitations and supports vision in dim light. MW-opsin enables an otherwise blind retinitis pigmenotosa mouse to discriminate temporal and spatial light patterns displayed on a standard LCD computer tablet, displays adaption to changes in ambient light, and restores open-field novel object exploration under incidental room light. By contrast, rhodopsin, which is similar in sensitivity but slower in light response and has greater rundown, fails these tests. Thus, MW-opsin provides the speed, sensitivity and adaptation needed to restore patterned vision.
Project description:Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) are microbial light-gated ion channels with a retinal chromophore and are widely utilized in optogenetics to precisely control neuronal activity with light. Despite increasing understanding of their structures and photoactivation kinetics, the atomistic mechanism of light gating and ion conduction remains elusive. Here, we present an atomic structural model of a chimeric ChR in a precursor state of the channel opening determined by an accurate hybrid molecular simulation technique and a statistical theory of internal water distribution. The photoactivated structure features extensive tilt of the chromophore accompanied by redistribution of water molecules in its binding pocket, which is absent in previously known photoactivated structures of analogous photoreceptors, and widely agrees with structural and spectroscopic experimental evidence of ChRs. The atomistic model manifests a photoactivated ion-conduction pathway that is markedly different from a previously proposed one and successfully explains experimentally observed mutagenic effects on key channel properties.