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Labeling of active neural circuits in vivo with designed calcium integrators

Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 755-760
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260922

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Taking a snapshot of active brain circuitry

Neuroscientists now have a method to mark active populations of neurons in vivo to study circuit activity in the behaving animal. Fosque et al. designed and thoroughly validated a fluorescent protein–based reagent that allows permanent marking of active cells over short time scales. This indicator, termed CaMPARI, switches from its native green to a red fluorescent state by simultaneous illumination with violet light and exposure to increased levels of intracellular calcium. CaMPARI successfully marked active nerve cells in Drosophila, zebrafish, and mouse brains.

Science, this issue p. 755

Abstract

The identification of active neurons and circuits in vivo is a fundamental challenge in understanding the neural basis of behavior. Genetically encoded calcium (Ca2+) indicators (GECIs) enable quantitative monitoring of cellular-resolution activity during behavior. However, such indicators require online monitoring within a limited field of view. Alternatively, post hoc staining of immediate early genes (IEGs) indicates highly active cells within the entire brain, albeit with poor temporal resolution. We designed a fluorescent sensor, CaMPARI, that combines the genetic targetability and quantitative link to neural activity of GECIs with the permanent, large-scale labeling of IEGs, allowing a temporally precise “activity snapshot” of a large tissue volume. CaMPARI undergoes efficient and irreversible green-to-red conversion only when elevated intracellular Ca2+ and experimenter-controlled illumination coincide. We demonstrate the utility of CaMPARI in freely moving larvae of zebrafish and flies, and in head-fixed mice and adult flies.

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