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Publications in Neuron by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 17, 2022

ChRmine, a recently discovered pump-like cation-conducting channelrhodopsin, exhibits puzzling properties (large photocurrents, red-shifted spectrum, and extreme light sensitivity) that have created new opportunities in optogenetics. ChRmine and its homologs function as ion channels but, by primary sequence, more closely resemble ion pump rhodopsins; mechanisms for passive channel conduction in this family have remained mysterious. Here, we present the 2.0 Å resolution cryo-EM structure of ChRmine, revealing architectural features atypical for channelrhodopsins: trimeric assembly, a short transmembrane-helix 3, a twisting extracellular-loop 1, large vestibules within the monomer, and an opening at the trimer interface. We applied this structure to design three proteins (rsChRmine and hsChRmine, conferring further red-shifted and high-speed properties, respectively, and frChRmine, combining faster and more red-shifted performance) suitable for fundamental neuroscience opportunities. These results illuminate the conduction and gating of pump-like channelrhodopsins and point the way toward further structure-guided creation of channelrhodopsins for applications across biology.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 1, 2021

Achieving temporally precise, noninvasive control over specific neural cell types in the deep brain would advance the study of nervous system function. Here we use the potent channelrhodopsin ChRmine to achieve transcranial photoactivation of defined neural circuits, including midbrain and brainstem structures, at unprecedented depths of up to 7 mm with millisecond precision. Using systemic viral delivery of ChRmine, we demonstrate behavioral modulation without surgery, enabling implant-free deep brain optogenetics.

Research field(s)
Applied Sciences, Enabling & Strategic Technologies, Biotechnology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 23, 2020

The ability to record transient cellular events in the DNA or RNA of cells would enable precise, large-scale analysis, selection, and reprogramming of heterogeneous cell populations. Here, we report a molecular technology for stable genetic tagging of cells that exhibit activity-related increases in intracellular calcium concentration (FLiCRE). We used FLiCRE to transcriptionally label activated neural ensembles in the nucleus accumbens of the mouse brain during brief stimulation of aversive inputs. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we detected FLiCRE transcripts among the endogenous transcriptome, providing simultaneous readout of both cell-type and calcium activation history. We identified a cell type in the nucleus accumbens activated downstream of long-range excitatory projections. Taking advantage of FLiCRE’s modular design, we expressed an optogenetic channel selectively in this cell type and showed that direct recruitment of this otherwise genetically inaccessible population elicits behavioral aversion. The specificity and minute resolution of FLiCRE enables molecularly informed characterization, manipulation, and reprogramming of activated cellular ensembles.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

October 1, 2020

Advanced imaging methods now allow cell-type-specific recording of neural activity across the mammalian brain, potentially enabling the exploration of how brain-wide dynamical patterns give rise to complex behavioural states1–12. Dissociation is an altered behavioural state in which the integrity of experience is disrupted, resulting in reproducible cognitive phenomena including the dissociation of stimulus detection from stimulus-related affective responses. Dissociation can occur as a result of trauma, epilepsy or dissociative drug use13,14, but despite its substantial basic and clinical importance, the underlying neurophysiology of this state is unknown. Here we establish such a dissociation-like state in mice, induced by precisely-dosed administration of ketamine or phencyclidine. Large-scale imaging of neural activity revealed that these dissociative agents elicited a 1–3-Hz rhythm in layer 5 neurons of the retrosplenial cortex. Electrophysiological recording with four simultaneously deployed high-density probes revealed rhythmic coupling of the retrosplenial cortex with anatomically connected components of thalamus circuitry, but uncoupling from most other brain regions was observed—including a notable inverse correlation with frontally projecting thalamic nuclei. In testing for causal significance, we found that rhythmic optogenetic activation of retrosplenial cortex layer 5 neurons recapitulated dissociation-like behavioural effects. Local retrosplenial hyperpolarization-activated cyclic-nucleotide-gated potassium channel 1 (HCN1) pacemakers were required for systemic ketamine to induce this rhythm and to elicit dissociation-like behavioural effects. In a patient with focal epilepsy, simultaneous intracranial stereoencephalography recordings from across the brain revealed a similarly localized rhythm in the homologous deep posteromedial cortex that was temporally correlated with pre-seizure self-reported dissociation, and local brief electrical stimulation of this region elicited dissociative experiences. These results identify the molecular, cellular and physiological properties of a conserved deep posteromedial cortical rhythm that underlies states of dissociation.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

June 25, 2020

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra1. Similar to other major neurodegenerative disorders, there are no disease-modifying treatments for Parkinson’s disease. While most treatment strategies aim to prevent neuronal loss or protect vulnerable neuronal circuits, a potential alternative is to replace lost neurons to reconstruct disrupted circuits2. Here we report an efficient one-step conversion of isolated mouse and human astrocytes to functional neurons by depleting the RNA-binding protein PTB (also known as PTBP1). Applying this approach to the mouse brain, we demonstrate progressive conversion of astrocytes to new neurons that innervate into and repopulate endogenous neural circuits. Astrocytes from different brain regions are converted to different neuronal subtypes. Using a chemically induced model of Parkinson’s disease in mouse, we show conversion of midbrain astrocytes to dopaminergic neurons, which provide axons to reconstruct the nigrostriatal circuit. Notably, re-innervation of striatum is accompanied by restoration of dopamine levels and rescue of motor deficits. A similar reversal of disease phenotype is also accomplished by converting astrocytes to neurons using antisense oligonucleotides to transiently suppress PTB. These findings identify a potentially powerful and clinically feasible approach to treating neurodegeneration by replacing lost neurons.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

January 1, 2018

Neurodegenerative diseases pose a complex field with various neuronal subtypes and distinct differentially affected intra-neuronal compartments. Modelling of neurodegeneration requires faithful in vitro separation of axons and dendrites, their distal and proximal compartments as well as organelle tracking with defined retrograde versus anterograde directionality. We use microfluidic chambers to achieve compartmentalization and established high throughput live organelle imaging at standardized distal and proximal axonal readout sites in iPSC-derived spinal motor neuron cultures from human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients to study trafficking phenotypes of potential disease relevance. Our semi-automated pipeline of organelle tracking with FIJI and KNIME yields quantitative, multiparametric high content phenotypic signatures of organelle morphology and their trafficking in axons. We provide here the resultant large datasets to enable systemic signature interrogations for comprehensive and predictive disease modelling, mechanistic dissection and secondary hit validation (e.g. drug screens, genetic screens). Due to the nearly complete coverage of analysed motility events, our quantitative method yields a bias-free statistical power superior over common analyses of a handful of manual kymographs.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 15, 2017

Channelrhodopsins are light-gated ion channels that, via regulation of flagellar function, enable single-celled motile algae to seek ambient light conditions suitable for photosynthesis and survival. These plant behavioral responses were initially investigated more than 150 years ago. Recently, major principles of function for light-gated ion channels have been elucidated by creating channelrhodopsins with kinetics that are accelerated or slowed over orders of magnitude, by discovering and designing channelrhodopsins with altered spectral properties, by solving the high-resolution channelrhodopsin crystal structure, and by structural model–guided redesign of channelrhodopsins for altered ion selectivity. Each of these discoveries not only revealed basic principles governing the operation of light-gated ion channels, but also enabled the creation of new proteins for illuminating, via optogenetics, the fundamentals of brain function.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 7, 2013

Finding a cure for cardiovascular disease remains a major unmet medical need. Recent investigations have started to unveil the mechanisms of mammalian heart regeneration. The study of the regenerative mechanisms in lower vertebrate and mammalian animal models has provided clues for the experimental activation of proregenerative responses in the heart. In parallel, the use of endogenous adult stem cell populations alongside the recent application of reprogramming technologies has created major expectations for the development of therapies targeting heart disease. Together, these new approaches are bringing us closer to more successful strategies for the treatment of heart disease. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology