Expanding the optogenetics toolkit

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Science  07 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6248, pp. 590-591
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7889

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Many microbial opsin genes encode proteins that, upon absorption of a photon, move ions across the cell membrane. The resulting ion flow can activate, inhibit, or modulate cells depending on the type, direction, and quantity of the ion being conducted (1). For optogenetic experiments, expressing these proteins has been useful for providing activity patterns to targeted cells (1, 2). On page 647 of this issue, Govorunova et al. (3) report a potent new opsin from the microbe Guillardia theta that can inhibit target cells. The discovery of this channelrhodopsin punctuates the long search for a naturally occurring, light-activated ion channel with utility for inhibition in optogenetic studies.