RecV recombinase system for in vivo targeted optogenomic modifications of single cells or cell populations.
ABSTRACT: Brain circuits comprise vast numbers of interconnected neurons with diverse molecular, anatomical and physiological properties. To allow targeting of individual neurons for structural and functional studies, we created light-inducible site-specific DNA recombinases based on Cre, Dre and Flp (RecVs). RecVs can induce genomic modifications by one-photon or two-photon light induction in vivo. They can produce targeted, sparse and strong labeling of individual neurons by modifying multiple loci within mouse and zebrafish genomes. In combination with other genetic strategies, they allow intersectional targeting of different neuronal classes. In the mouse cortex they enable sparse labeling and whole-brain morphological reconstructions of individual neurons. Furthermore, these enzymes allow single-cell two-photon targeted genetic modifications and can be used in combination with functional optical indicators with minimal interference. In summary, RecVs enable spatiotemporally precise optogenomic modifications that can facilitate detailed single-cell analysis of neural circuits by linking genetic identity, morphology, connectivity and function.
Project description:Optogenetic control of individual neurons with high temporal precision within intact mammalian brain circuitry would enable powerful explorations of how neural circuits operate. Two-photon computer-generated holography enables precise sculpting of light and could in principle enable simultaneous illumination of many neurons in a network, with the requisite temporal precision to simulate accurate neural codes. We designed a high-efficacy soma-targeted opsin, finding that fusing the N-terminal 150 residues of kainate receptor subunit 2 (KA2) to the recently discovered high-photocurrent channelrhodopsin CoChR restricted expression of this opsin primarily to the cell body of mammalian cortical neurons. In combination with two-photon holographic stimulation, we found that this somatic CoChR (soCoChR) enabled photostimulation of individual cells in mouse cortical brain slices with single-cell resolution and <1-ms temporal precision. We used soCoChR to perform connectivity mapping on intact cortical circuits.
Project description:Mosaicism with Repeat Frameshift (MORF) allows a single Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) transgene to direct sparse labeling of genetically-defined neuronal populations in mice. The BAC transgene drives cell-type-specific transcription of an out-of-frame mononucleotide repeat that is placed between a translational start codon and a membrane-bound fluorescent protein lacking its start codon. The stochastic frameshift of the unstable repeat DNA in a subset of BAC-expressing neurons results in the in-frame translation of the reporter protein hence the sparse neuronal labeling. As a proof-of-concept, we generated D1-dopamine receptor (D1) BAC MORF mice that label about 1% striatal D1-expressing medium spiny neurons and allow visualization of their dendrites. These mice enable the study of D1-MSN dendrite development in wildtype mice, and its degeneration in a mouse model of Huntington's disease.
Project description:Labeling and visualizing cells and subcellular structures within thick tissues, whole organs, and even intact animals is key to studying biological processes. This is particularly true for studies of neural circuits where neurons form submicron synapses but have arbors that may span millimeters in length. Traditionally, labeling is achieved by immunofluorescence; however, diffusion of antibody molecules (>100 kDa) is slow and often results in uneven labeling with very poor penetration into the center of thick specimens; these limitations can be partially addressed by extending staining protocols to over a week (Drosophila brain) and months (mice). Recently, we developed an alternative approach using genetically encoded chemical tags CLIP, SNAP, Halo, and TMP for tissue labeling; this resulted in >100-fold increase in labeling speed in both mice and Drosophila, at the expense of a considerable drop in absolute sensitivity when compared to optimized immunofluorescence staining. We now present a second generation of UAS- and LexA-responsive CLIPf, SNAPf, and Halo chemical labeling reagents for flies. These multimerized tags, with translational enhancers, display up to 64-fold increase in sensitivity over first-generation reagents. In addition, we developed a suite of conditional reporters (4xSNAPf tag and CLIPf-SNAPf-Halo2) that are activated by the DNA recombinase Bxb1. Our new reporters can be used with weak and strong GAL4 and LexA drivers and enable stochastic, intersectional, and multicolor Brainbow labeling. These improvements in sensitivity and experimental versatility, while still retaining the substantial speed advantage that is a signature of chemical labeling, should significantly increase the scope of this technology.
Project description:To decipher neural circuits underlying brain functions, viral tracers are widely applied to map input and output connectivity of neuronal populations. Despite the successful application of retrograde transsynaptic viruses for identifying presynaptic neurons of transduced neurons, analogous anterograde transsynaptic tools for tagging postsynaptically targeted neurons remain under development. Here, we discovered that adeno-associated viruses (AAV1 and AAV9) exhibit anterograde transsynaptic spread properties. AAV1-Cre from transduced presynaptic neurons effectively and specifically drives Cre-dependent transgene expression in selected postsynaptic neuronal targets, thus allowing axonal tracing and functional manipulations of the latter input-defined neuronal population. Its application in superior colliculus (SC) reveals that SC neuron subpopulations receiving corticocollicular projections from auditory and visual cortex specifically drive flight and freezing, two different types of defense behavior, respectively. Together with an intersectional approach, AAV-mediated anterograde transsynaptic tagging can categorize neurons by their inputs and molecular identity, and allow forward screening of distinct functional neural pathways embedded in complex brain circuits.
Project description:Here we describe "Supernova" series of vector systems that enable single-cell labeling and labeled cell-specific gene manipulation, when introduced by in utero electroporation (IUE) or adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene delivery. In Supernova, sparse labeling relies on low TRE leakage. In a small population of cells with over-threshold leakage, initial tTA-independent weak expression is enhanced by tTA/TRE-positive feedback along with a site-specific recombination system (e.g., Cre/loxP, Flpe/FRT). Sparse and bright labeling by Supernova with little background enables the visualization of the morphological details of individual neurons in densely packed brain areas such as the cortex and hippocampus, both during development and in adulthood. Sparseness levels are adjustable. Labeled cell-specific gene knockout was accomplished by introducing Cre/loxP-based Supernova vectors into floxed mice. Furthermore, by combining with RNAi, TALEN, and CRISPR/Cas9 technologies, IUE-based Supernova achieved labeled cell-specific gene knockdown and editing/knockout without requiring genetically altered mice. Thus, Supernova system is highly extensible and widely applicable for single-cell analyses in complex organs, such as the mammalian brain.
Project description:The defining features of a neuron are its functional and anatomical connections with thousands of other neurons in the brain. Together, these neurons form functional networks that direct animal behavior. Current approaches that allow the interrogation of specific populations of neurons and neural circuits rely heavily on targeting their gene expression profiles or connectivity. However, these approaches are often unable to delineate specific neuronal populations. Here, we developed a novel intersectional split intein-mediated split-Cre recombinase system that can selectively label specific types of neurons based on their gene expression profiles and structural connectivity. We developed this system by splitting Cre recombinase into two fragments with evolved split inteins and subsequently expressed one fragment under the influence of a cell type-specific promoter in a transgenic animal, and delivered the other fragment via retrograde viral gene transfer. This approach results in the reconstitution of Cre recombinase in only specific population of neurons projecting from a specific brain region or in those of a specific neuronal type. Taken together, our split intein-based split-Cre system will be useful for sophisticated characterization of mammalian brain circuits.
Project description:Decoding the functional connectivity of the nervous system is facilitated by transgenic methods that express a genetically encoded reporter or effector in specific neurons; however, most transgenic lines show broad spatiotemporal and cell-type expression. Increased specificity can be achieved using intersectional genetic methods which restrict reporter expression to cells that co-express multiple drivers, such as Gal4 and Cre. To facilitate intersectional targeting in zebrafish, we have generated more than 50 new Cre lines, and co-registered brain expression images with the Zebrafish Brain Browser, a cellular resolution atlas of 264 transgenic lines. Lines labeling neurons of interest can be identified using a web-browser to perform a 3D spatial search (zbbrowser.com). This resource facilitates the design of intersectional genetic experiments and will advance a wide range of precision circuit-mapping studies.
Project description:Parvalbumin (PV)-expressing GABAergic neurons are the largest class of inhibitory neocortical cells. We visualize brain-wide, monosynaptic inputs to PV neurons in mouse barrel cortex. We develop intersectional rabies virus tracing to specifically target GABAergic PV cells and exclude a small fraction of excitatory PV cells from our starter population. Local inputs are mainly from layer (L) IV and excitatory cells. A small number of inhibitory inputs originate from LI neurons, which connect to LII/III PV neurons. Long-range inputs originate mainly from other sensory cortices and the thalamus. In visual cortex, most transsynaptically labeled neurons are located in LIV, which contains a molecularly mixed population of projection neurons with putative functional similarity to LIII neurons. This study expands our knowledge of the brain-wide circuits in which PV neurons are embedded and introduces intersectional rabies virus tracing as an applicable tool to dissect the circuitry of more clearly defined cell types.
Project description:Cortical neurons are often functionally heterogeneous even for molecularly defined subtypes. In sensory cortices, physiological responses to natural stimuli can be sparse and vary widely even for neighboring neurons. It is thus difficult to parse out circuits that encode specific stimuli for further experimentation. Here, we report the development of a Cre-reporter mouse that allows recombination for cellular labeling and genetic manipulation, and use it with an activity-dependent Fos-CreERT2 driver to identify functionally active circuits in the auditory cortex. In vivo targeted patch recordings validate our method for neurons responding to physiologically relevant natural sounds such as pup wriggling calls and ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Using this system to investigate cortical responses in postpartum mothers, we find a transient recruitment of neurons highly responsive to USVs. This subpopulation of neurons has distinct physiological properties that improve the coding efficiency for pup USV calls, implicating it as a unique signature in parental plasticity.
Project description:Neural activity manifests itself as complex spatiotemporal activation patterns in cell populations. Even for local neural circuits, a comprehensive description of network activity has been impossible so far. Here we demonstrate that two-photon calcium imaging of bulk-labeled tissue permits dissection of local input and output activities in rat neocortex in vivo. Besides astroglial and neuronal calcium transients, we found spontaneous calcium signals in the neuropil that were tightly correlated to the electrocorticogram. This optical encephalogram (OEG) is shown to represent bulk calcium signals in axonal structures, thus providing a measure of local input activity. Simultaneously, output activity in local neuronal populations could be derived from action potential-evoked calcium transients with single-spike resolution. By using these OEG and spike activity measures, we characterized spontaneous activity during cortical Up states. We found that (i) spiking activity is sparse (<0.1 Hz); (ii) on average, only approximately 10% of neurons are active during each Up state; (iii) this active subpopulation constantly changes with time; and (iv) spiking activity across the population is evenly distributed throughout the Up-state duration. Furthermore, the number of active neurons directly depended on the amplitude of the OEG, thus optically revealing an input-output function for the local network. We conclude that spontaneous activity in the neocortex is sparse and heterogeneously distributed in space and time across the neuronal population. The dissection of the various signal components in bulk-loaded tissue as demonstrated here will enable further studies of signal flow through cortical networks.