Engineering of a light-gated potassium channel

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 707-710
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2787

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An optogenetic tool to silence neurons

Potassium channels in the cell membrane open and close in response to molecular signals to alter the local membrane potential. Cosentino et al. linked a light-responsive module to the pore of a potassium channel to build a genetically encoded channel called BLINK1 that is closed in the dark and opens in response to low doses of blue light. Zebrafish embryos expressing BLINK1 in their neurons changed their behavior in response to blue light.

Science, this issue p. 707


The present palette of opsin-based optogenetic tools lacks a light-gated potassium (K+) channel desirable for silencing of excitable cells. Here, we describe the construction of a blue-light–induced K+ channel 1 (BLINK1) engineered by fusing the plant LOV2-Jα photosensory module to the small viral K+ channel Kcv. BLINK1 exhibits biophysical features of Kcv, including K+ selectivity and high single-channel conductance but reversibly photoactivates in blue light. Opening of BLINK1 channels hyperpolarizes the cell to the K+ equilibrium potential. Ectopic expression of BLINK1 reversibly inhibits the escape response in light-exposed zebrafish larvae. BLINK1 therefore provides a single-component optogenetic tool that can establish prolonged, physiological hyperpolarization of cells at low light intensities.

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