Doctor of Philosophy, University of California Irvine (2011)
Karl Deisseroth, Postdoctoral Research Mentor
Using light to silence electrical activity in targeted cells is a major goal of optogenetics. Available optogenetic proteins that directly move ions to achieve silencing are inefficient, pumping only a single ion per photon across the cell membrane rather than allowing many ions per photon to flow through a channel pore. Building on high-resolution crystal-structure analysis, pore vestibule modeling, and structure-guided protein engineering, we designed and characterized a class of channelrhodopsins (originally cation-conducting) converted into chloride-conducting anion channels. These tools enable fast optical inhibition of action potentials and can be engineered to display step-function kinetics for stable inhibition, outlasting light pulses and for orders-of-magnitude-greater light sensitivity of inhibited cells. The resulting family of proteins defines an approach to more physiological, efficient, and sensitive optogenetic inhibition.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1252367
View details for Web of Science ID 000334867800043
Primary nociceptors are the first neurons involved in the complex processing system that regulates normal and pathological pain. Because of constraints on pharmacological and electrical stimulation, noninvasive excitation and inhibition of these neurons in freely moving nontransgenic animals has not been possible. Here we use an optogenetic strategy to bidirectionally control nociceptors of nontransgenic mice. Intrasciatic nerve injection of adeno-associated viruses encoding an excitatory opsin enabled light-inducible stimulation of acute pain, place aversion and optogenetically mediated reductions in withdrawal thresholds to mechanical and thermal stimuli. In contrast, viral delivery of an inhibitory opsin enabled light-inducible inhibition of acute pain perception, and reversed mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia in a model of neuropathic pain. Light was delivered transdermally, allowing these behaviors to be induced in freely moving animals. This approach may have utility in basic and translational pain research, and enable rapid drug screening and testing of newly engineered opsins.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nbt.2834
View details for Web of Science ID 000332819800026
View details for PubMedID 24531797
Behavioural states in mammals, such as the anxious state, are characterized by several features that are coordinately regulated by diverse nervous system outputs, ranging from behavioural choice patterns to changes in physiology (in anxiety, exemplified respectively by risk-avoidance and respiratory rate alterations). Here we investigate if and how defined neural projections arising from a single coordinating brain region in mice could mediate diverse features of anxiety. Integrating behavioural assays, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, respiratory physiology and optogenetics, we identify a surprising new role for the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) in the coordinated modulation of diverse anxiety features. First, two BNST subregions were unexpectedly found to exert opposite effects on the anxious state: oval BNST activity promoted several independent anxious state features, whereas anterodorsal BNST-associated activity exerted anxiolytic influence for the same features. Notably, we found that three distinct anterodorsal BNST efferent projections-to the lateral hypothalamus, parabrachial nucleus and ventral tegmental area-each implemented an independent feature of anxiolysis: reduced risk-avoidance, reduced respiratory rate, and increased positive valence, respectively. Furthermore, selective inhibition of corresponding circuit elements in freely moving mice showed opposing behavioural effects compared with excitation, and in vivo recordings during free behaviour showed native spiking patterns in anterodorsal BNST neurons that differentiated safe and anxiogenic environments. These results demonstrate that distinct BNST subregions exert opposite effects in modulating anxiety, establish separable anxiolytic roles for different anterodorsal BNST projections, and illustrate circuit mechanisms underlying selection of features for the assembly of the anxious state.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature12018
View details for Web of Science ID 000317346300041
Currently there is no general approach for achieving specific optogenetic control of genetically defined cell types in rats, which provide a powerful experimental system for numerous established neurophysiological and behavioral paradigms. To overcome this challenge we have generated genetically restricted recombinase-driver rat lines suitable for driving gene expression in specific cell types, expressing Cre recombinase under the control of large genomic regulatory regions (200-300 kb). Multiple tyrosine hydroxylase (Th)::Cre and choline acetyltransferase (Chat)::Cre lines were produced that exhibited specific opsin expression in targeted cell types. We additionally developed methods for utilizing optogenetic tools in freely moving rats and leveraged these technologies to clarify the causal relationship between dopamine (DA) neuron firing and positive reinforcement, observing that optical stimulation of DA neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of Th::Cre rats is sufficient to support vigorous intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS). These studies complement existing targeting approaches by extending the generalizability of optogenetics to traditionally non-genetically-tractable but vital animal models.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.10.028
View details for Web of Science ID 000297971100008
View details for PubMedID 22153370
Parvalbumin-positive (PV+) fast-spiking basket cells are thought to play key roles in network functions related to precise time keeping during behaviorally relevant hippocampal synchronous oscillations. Although they express relatively few receptors for neuromodulators, the highly abundant and functionally important neuropeptide cholecystokinin (CCK) is able to selectively depolarize PV+ basket cells, making these cells sensitive biosensors for CCK. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the CCK-induced selective and powerful excitation of PV+ basket cells are not understood. We used single and paired patch-clamp recordings in acute rat hippocampal slices, in combination with post hoc identification of the recorded interneurons, to demonstrate that CCK acts via G-protein-coupled CCK2 receptors to engage sharply divergent intracellular pathways to exert its cell-type-selective effects. In contrast to CCK2 receptors on pyramidal cells that signal through the canonical G(q)-PLC pathway to trigger endocannabinoid-mediated signaling events, CCK2 receptors on neighboring PV+ basket cells couple to an unusual, pertussis-toxin-sensitive pathway. The latter pathway involves ryanodine receptors on intracellular calcium stores that ultimately activate a nonselective cationic conductance to depolarize PV+ basket cells. CCK has highly cell-type-selective effects even within the PV+ cell population, as the PV+ dendrite-targeting bistratified cells do not respond to CCK. Together, these results demonstrate that an abundant ligand such as CCK can signal through the same receptor in different neurons to use cell-type-selective signaling pathways to provide divergence and specificity to its effects.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1970-11.2011
View details for Web of Science ID 000293171900023
View details for PubMedID 21795548
Cholecystokinin (CCK), a peptide originally discovered in the gastrointestinal tract, is one of the most abundant and widely distributed neuropeptides in the brain. In spite of its abundance, recent data indicate that CCK modulates intrinsic neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission in a surprisingly cell-type specific manner, acting as a key molecular switch to regulate the functional output of neuronal circuits. The central importance of CCK in neuronal networks is also reflected in its involvement in a variety of neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders including panic attacks and epilepsy.
View details for DOI 10.1002/dneu.20815
View details for Web of Science ID 000285258800009
View details for PubMedID 21154912
The medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) is a major center for spatial navigation and memory. We found that cannabinoid type 1 receptor-expressing GABAergic basket cells selectively innervated principal cells in layer II of the rat MEC that projected outside the hippocampus but avoided neighboring cells that give rise to the perforant pathway to the dentate gyrus. These results indicate that the organization of GABAergic microcircuits reflects the long-distance axonal targets of principal neurons.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nn.2570
View details for Web of Science ID 000279173900013
View details for PubMedID 20512133
Neural circuit development requires concurrent morphological and functional changes. Here, we identify coordinated and inversely correlated changes in dendritic morphology and mEPSC amplitude following increased neural activity. We show that overexpression of beta-catenin, a molecule that increases total dendritic length, mimics the effects of increased neuronal activity by scaling down mEPSC amplitudes, while postsynaptic expression of a protein that sequesters beta-catenin reverses the effects of activity on reducing mEPSC amplitudes. These results were confirmed immunocytochemically as changes in the size and density of surface synaptic AMPA receptor clusters. In individual neurons there was an inverse linear relationship between total dendritic length and average mEPSC amplitude. Importantly, beta-catenin overexpression in vivo promoted dendritic growth and reduced mEPSC amplitudes. Together, these results demonstrate that coordinated changes in dendritic morphology and unitary excitatory synaptic strength may serve as an important intrinsic mechanism that helps prevent neurons from overexcitation during neural circuit development.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.11.015
View details for Web of Science ID 000262614400009
View details for PubMedID 19146814
Parvalbumin- and cholecystokinin (CCK)-expressing basket cells provide two parallel, functionally distinct sources of perisomatic inhibition to postsynaptic cells. We show that exogenously applied CCK enhances the output from rat parvalbumin-expressing basket cells, while concurrently suppressing GABA release from CCK-expressing neurons through retrograde endocannabinoid action. These results indicate that CCK may act as a molecular switch that determines the source of perisomatic inhibition for hippocampal principal cells.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nn1952
View details for Web of Science ID 000249144000012
View details for PubMedID 17676058