Prof. Ofer Yizhar
Optogenetic silencing of synaptic transmission with a mosquito rhodopsin
Long-range projections link distant circuits in the brain, allowing efficient transfer of information between regions and synchronization of distributed patterns of neural activity. Understanding the functional roles of defined neuronal projection pathways requires temporally precise manipulation of their activity, and optogenetic tools appear to be an obvious choice for such experiments. However, we and others have previously shown that commonly-used inhibitory optogenetic tools have low efficacy and off-target effects when applied to presynaptic terminals. In my talk, I will present a new solution to this problem: a targeting-enhanced mosquito homologue of the vertebrate encephalopsin (eOPN3), which upon activation can effectively suppress synaptic transmission through the Gi/o signaling pathway. Brief illumination of presynaptic terminals expressing eOPN3 triggers a lasting suppression of synaptic output that recovers spontaneously within minutes in vitro and in vivo. The efficacy of eOPN3 in suppressing presynaptic release opens new avenues for functional interrogation of long-range neuronal circuits in vivo.
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