Conversion of Channelrhodopsin into a Light-Gated Chloride Channel

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Science  25 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6182, pp. 409-412
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249375

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Optogenetic Insights

Mapping functional neural circuits for many behaviors has been almost impossible, so Vogelstein et al. (p. 386, published online 27 March; see the Perspective by O'Leary and Marder) developed a broadly applicable optogenetic method for neuron-behavior mapping and used it to phenotype larval Drosophila and thus developed a reference atlas. As optogenetic experiments become routine in certain fields of neuroscience research, creating even more specialized tools is imperative (see the Perspective by Hayashi). By engineering channelrhodopsin, Wietek et al. (p. 409, published online 27 March) and Berndt et al. (p. 420) created two different light-gated anion channels to block action potential generation during synaptic stimulation or depolarizing current injections. These new tools not only improve understanding of channelrhodopsins but also provide a way to silence cells.


The field of optogenetics uses channelrhodopsins (ChRs) for light-induced neuronal activation. However, optimized tools for cellular inhibition at moderate light levels are lacking. We found that replacement of E90 in the central gate of ChR with positively charged residues produces chloride-conducting ChRs (ChloCs) with only negligible cation conductance. Molecular dynamics modeling unveiled that a high-affinity Cl-binding site had been generated near the gate. Stabilizing the open state dramatically increased the operational light sensitivity of expressing cells (slow ChloC). In CA1 pyramidal cells, ChloCs completely inhibited action potentials triggered by depolarizing current injections or synaptic stimulation. Thus, by inverting the charge of the selectivity filter, we have created a class of directly light-gated anion channels that can be used to block neuronal output in a fully reversible fashion.

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