Bright and photostable chemigenetic indicators for extended in vivo voltage imaging

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Science  16 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 699-704
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav6416

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Visualizing neuronal activity in vivo

Imaging the changes in fluorescence of voltage-sensitive reagents would enable monitoring of the activity of neurons in vivo. Abdelfattah et al. created such a voltage indicator by designing a protein that combines the voltage sensor domain from microbial rhodopsin with a domain that captures a dye molecule with exceptional brightness and photostability. When the protein was expressed in mice, flies, or zebrafish, they could monitor single action potentials in dozens of neurons simultaneously for many minutes.

Science, this issue p. 699


Genetically encoded voltage indicators (GEVIs) enable monitoring of neuronal activity at high spatial and temporal resolution. However, the utility of existing GEVIs has been limited by the brightness and photostability of fluorescent proteins and rhodopsins. We engineered a GEVI, called Voltron, that uses bright and photostable synthetic dyes instead of protein-based fluorophores, thereby extending the number of neurons imaged simultaneously in vivo by a factor of 10 and enabling imaging for significantly longer durations relative to existing GEVIs. We used Voltron for in vivo voltage imaging in mice, zebrafish, and fruit flies. In the mouse cortex, Voltron allowed single-trial recording of spikes and subthreshold voltage signals from dozens of neurons simultaneously over a 15-minute period of continuous imaging. In larval zebrafish, Voltron enabled the precise correlation of spike timing with behavior.

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