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      Sensitive red protein calcium indicators for imaging neural activity


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          Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) allow measurement of activity in large populations of neurons and in small neuronal compartments, over times of milliseconds to months. Although GFP-based GECIs are widely used for in vivo neurophysiology, GECIs with red-shifted excitation and emission spectra have advantages for in vivo imaging because of reduced scattering and absorption in tissue, and a consequent reduction in phototoxicity. However, current red GECIs are inferior to the state-of-the-art GFP-based GCaMP6 indicators for detecting and quantifying neural activity. Here we present improved red GECIs based on mRuby (jRCaMP1a, b) and mApple (jRGECO1a), with sensitivity comparable to GCaMP6. We characterized the performance of the new red GECIs in cultured neurons and in mouse, Drosophila, zebrafish and C. elegans in vivo. Red GECIs facilitate deep-tissue imaging, dual-color imaging together with GFP-based reporters, and the use of optogenetics in combination with calcium imaging.

          DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.12727.001

          eLife digest

          Neurons encode information with brief electrical pulses called spikes. Monitoring spikes in large populations of neurons is a powerful method for studying how networks of neurons process information and produce behavior. This activity can be detected using fluorescent protein indicators, or “probes”, which light up when neurons are active.

          The best existing probes produce green fluorescence. However, red fluorescent probes would allow us to see deeper into the brain, and could also be used with green probes to image the activity and interactions of different neuron types simultaneously. However, existing red fluorescent probes are not as good at detecting neural activity as green probes.

          By optimizing two existing red fluorescent proteins, Dana et al. have now produced two new red fluorescent probes, each with different advantages. The new protein indicators detect neural activity with high sensitivity and allow researchers to image previously unseen brain activity. Tests showed that the probes work in cultured neurons and allow imaging of the activity of neurons in mice, flies, fish and worms.

          History has shown that enhancing the techniques used to study biological processes can lead to fundamentally new insights. In the future, Dana et al. would therefore like to make even more sensitive protein indicators that will allow larger networks of neurons deeper in the brain to be imaged.

          DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.12727.002

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          Most cited references36

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          A mesoscale connectome of the mouse brain.

          Comprehensive knowledge of the brain's wiring diagram is fundamental for understanding how the nervous system processes information at both local and global scales. However, with the singular exception of the C. elegans microscale connectome, there are no complete connectivity data sets in other species. Here we report a brain-wide, cellular-level, mesoscale connectome for the mouse. The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas uses enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-expressing adeno-associated viral vectors to trace axonal projections from defined regions and cell types, and high-throughput serial two-photon tomography to image the EGFP-labelled axons throughout the brain. This systematic and standardized approach allows spatial registration of individual experiments into a common three dimensional (3D) reference space, resulting in a whole-brain connectivity matrix. A computational model yields insights into connectional strength distribution, symmetry and other network properties. Virtual tractography illustrates 3D topography among interconnected regions. Cortico-thalamic pathway analysis demonstrates segregation and integration of parallel pathways. The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas is a freely available, foundational resource for structural and functional investigations into the neural circuits that support behavioural and cognitive processes in health and disease.
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            Optimization of a GCaMP calcium indicator for neural activity imaging.

            Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are powerful tools for systems neuroscience. Recent efforts in protein engineering have significantly increased the performance of GECIs. The state-of-the art single-wavelength GECI, GCaMP3, has been deployed in a number of model organisms and can reliably detect three or more action potentials in short bursts in several systems in vivo. Through protein structure determination, targeted mutagenesis, high-throughput screening, and a battery of in vitro assays, we have increased the dynamic range of GCaMP3 by severalfold, creating a family of "GCaMP5" sensors. We tested GCaMP5s in several systems: cultured neurons and astrocytes, mouse retina, and in vivo in Caenorhabditis chemosensory neurons, Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction and adult antennal lobe, zebrafish retina and tectum, and mouse visual cortex. Signal-to-noise ratio was improved by at least 2- to 3-fold. In the visual cortex, two GCaMP5 variants detected twice as many visual stimulus-responsive cells as GCaMP3. By combining in vivo imaging with electrophysiology we show that GCaMP5 fluorescence provides a more reliable measure of neuronal activity than its predecessor GCaMP3. GCaMP5 allows more sensitive detection of neural activity in vivo and may find widespread applications for cellular imaging in general.
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              Highly selective receptive fields in mouse visual cortex.

              Genetic methods available in mice are likely to be powerful tools in dissecting cortical circuits. However, the visual cortex, in which sensory coding has been most thoroughly studied in other species, has essentially been neglected in mice perhaps because of their poor spatial acuity and the lack of columnar organization such as orientation maps. We have now applied quantitative methods to characterize visual receptive fields in mouse primary visual cortex V1 by making extracellular recordings with silicon electrode arrays in anesthetized mice. We used current source density analysis to determine laminar location and spike waveforms to discriminate putative excitatory and inhibitory units. We find that, although the spatial scale of mouse receptive fields is up to one or two orders of magnitude larger, neurons show selectivity for stimulus parameters such as orientation and spatial frequency that is near to that found in other species. Furthermore, typical response properties such as linear versus nonlinear spatial summation (i.e., simple and complex cells) and contrast-invariant tuning are also present in mouse V1 and correlate with laminar position and cell type. Interestingly, we find that putative inhibitory neurons generally have less selective, and nonlinear, responses. This quantitative description of receptive field properties should facilitate the use of mouse visual cortex as a system to address longstanding questions of visual neuroscience and cortical processing.

                Author and article information

                Role: Reviewing editor
                eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
                24 March 2016
                : 5
                [1 ]Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute , Ashburn, United States
                [2 ]Weizmann Institute of Science , Rehovot, Israel
                [3 ]Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University , New York, United States
                [4]University College London , United Kingdom
                [5]University College London , United Kingdom
                Author notes
                © 2016, Dana et al

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000011, Howard Hughes Medical Institute;
                Award Recipient :
                The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
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                Protein engineering and large-scale screening has led to the development of sensitive red fluorescent indicators that detect neural activity with high sensitivity in various animal models.


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