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Ahrens Lab / Publications
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40 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 40 results
07/08/20 | Bright and high-performance genetically encoded Ca indicator based on mNeonGreen fluorescent protein.
Zarowny L, Aggarwal A, Rutten VM, Kolb I, GENIE Project , Patel R, Huang H, Chang Y, Phan T, Kanyo R, Ahrens MB, Allison WT, Podgorski K, Campbell RE
ACS Sensors. 2020 Jul 08:. doi: 10.1021/acssensors.0c00279

Genetically encodable calcium ion (Ca) indicators (GECIs) based on green fluorescent proteins (GFP) are powerful tools for imaging of cell signaling and neural activity in model organisms. Following almost 2 decades of steady improvements in the GFP-based GCaMP series of GECIs, the performance of the most recent generation (i.e., jGCaMP7) may have reached its practical limit due to the inherent properties of GFP. In an effort to sustain the steady progression toward ever-improved GECIs, we undertook the development of a new GECI based on the bright monomeric GFP, mNeonGreen (mNG). The resulting indicator, mNG-GECO1, is 60% brighter than GCaMP6s in vitro and provides comparable performance as demonstrated by imaging Ca dynamics in cultured cells, primary neurons, and in vivo in larval zebrafish. These results suggest that mNG-GECO1 is a promising next-generation GECI that could inherit the mantle of GCaMP and allow the steady improvement of GECIs to continue for generations to come.

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06/25/20 | Precision Calcium Imaging of Dense Neural Populations via a Cell-Body-Targeted Calcium Indicator.
Shemesh OA, Linghu C, Piatkevich KD, Goodwin D, Celiker OT, Gritton HJ, Romano MF, Gao R, Yu CJ, Tseng H, Bensussen S, Narayan S, Yang C, Freifeld L, Siciliano CA, Gupta I, Wang J, Pak N, Yoon Y, Ullmann JF, Guner-Ataman B, Noamany H, Sheinkopf ZR, Park WM, Asano S, Keating AE, Trimmer JS, Reimer J, Tolias AS, Bear MF, Tye KM, Han X, Ahrens MB, Boyden ES
Neuron. 2020 Jun 25:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.05.029

Methods for one-photon fluorescent imaging of calcium dynamics can capture the activity of hundreds of neurons across large fields of view at a low equipment complexity and cost. In contrast to two-photon methods, however, one-photon methods suffer from higher levels of crosstalk from neuropil, resulting in a decreased signal-to-noise ratio and artifactual correlations of neural activity. We address this problem by engineering cell-body-targeted variants of the fluorescent calcium indicators GCaMP6f and GCaMP7f. We screened fusions of GCaMP to natural, as well as artificial, peptides and identified fusions that localized GCaMP to within 50 μm of the cell body of neurons in mice and larval zebrafish. One-photon imaging of soma-targeted GCaMP in dense neural circuits reported fewer artifactual spikes from neuropil, an increased signal-to-noise ratio, and decreased artifactual correlation across neurons. Thus, soma-targeting of fluorescent calcium indicators facilitates usage of simple, powerful, one-photon methods for imaging neural calcium dynamics.

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02/25/20 | High-throughput cellular-resolution synaptic connectivity mapping in vivo with concurrent two-photon optogenetics and volumetric Ca2+ imaging
McRaven C, Tanese D, Zhang L, Yang C, Ahrens MB, Emiliani V, Koyama M
bioRxiv. 2020 Feb 25:. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.21.959650

The ability to measure synaptic connectivity and properties is essential for understanding neuronal circuits. However, existing methods that allow such measurements at cellular resolution are laborious and technically demanding. Here, we describe a system that allows such measurements in a high-throughput way by combining two-photon optogenetics and volumetric Ca2+ imaging with whole-cell recording. We reveal a circuit motif for generating fast undulatory locomotion in zebrafish.

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11/04/19 | Zebrafish neuroscience: Using artificial neural networks to help understand brains.
Ahrens MB
Current Biology. 2019 Nov 04;29(21):R1138-R1140. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.039

Brains are notoriously hard to understand, and neuroscientists need all the tools they can get their hands on to have a realistic shot at it. Advances in machine learning are proving instrumental, illustrated by their recent use to shed light on navigational strategies implemented by zebrafish brains.

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10/18/19 | A bidirectional network for appetite control in larval zebrafish.
Wee CL, Song EY, Johnson RE, Ailani D, Randlett O, Kim J, Nikitchenko M, Bahl A, Yang C, Ahrens MB, Kawakami K, Engert F, Kunes S
Elife. 2019 Oct 18;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.43775

Medial and lateral hypothalamic loci are known to suppress and enhance appetite, respectively, but the dynamics and functional significance of their interaction have yet to be explored. Here we report that, in larval zebrafish, primarily serotonergic neurons of the ventromedial caudal hypothalamus (cH) become increasingly active during food deprivation, whereas activity in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) is reduced. Exposure to food sensory and consummatory cues reverses the activity patterns of these two nuclei, consistent with their representation of opposing internal hunger states. Baseline activity is restored as food-deprived animals return to satiety via voracious feeding. The antagonistic relationship and functional importance of cH and LH activity patterns were confirmed by targeted stimulation and ablation of cH neurons. Collectively, the data allow us to propose a model in which these hypothalamic nuclei regulate different phases of hunger and satiety and coordinate energy balance via antagonistic control of distinct behavioral outputs.

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08/13/19 | Bright and photostable chemigenetic indicators for extended in vivo voltage imaging.
Abdelfattah AS, Kawashima T, Singh A, Novak O, Liu H, Shuai Y, Huang Y, Campagnola L, Seeman SC, Yu J, Zheng J, Grimm JB, Patel R, Friedrich J, Mensh BD, Paninski L, Macklin JJ, Murphy GJ, Podgorski K, Lin B, Chen T, Turner GC, Liu Z, Koyama M, Svoboda K, Ahrens MB, Lavis LD, Schreiter ER
Science. 2019 Aug 13;365(6454):699-704. doi: 10.1126/science.aav6416

Imaging changes in membrane potential using genetically encoded fluorescent voltage indicators (GEVIs) has great potential for monitoring neuronal activity with high spatial and temporal resolution. Brightness and photostability of fluorescent proteins and rhodopsins have limited the utility of existing GEVIs. We engineered a novel GEVI, "Voltron", that utilizes bright and photostable synthetic dyes instead of protein-based fluorophores, extending the combined duration of imaging and number of neurons imaged simultaneously by more than tenfold relative to existing GEVIs. We used Voltron for in vivo voltage imaging in mice, zebrafish, and fruit flies. In mouse cortex, Voltron allowed single-trial recording of spikes and subthreshold voltage signals from dozens of neurons simultaneously, over 15 min of continuous imaging. In larval zebrafish, Voltron enabled the precise correlation of spike timing with behavior.

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07/15/19 | A genetically encoded fluorescent sensor for in vivo imaging of GABA.
Marvin JS, Shimoda Y, Magloire V, Leite M, Kawashima T, Jensen TP, Kolb I, Knott EL, Novak O, Podgorski K, Leidenheimer NJ, Rusakov DA, Ahrens MB, Kullmann DM, Looger LL
Nature Methods. 2019 Jul 15;16(8):763-770. doi: 10.1038/s41592-019-0471-2

Current techniques for monitoring GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in vertebrates, cannot follow transients in intact neural circuits. To develop a GABA sensor, we applied the design principles used to create the fluorescent glutamate receptor iGluSnFR. We used a protein derived from a previously unsequenced Pseudomonas fluorescens strain and performed structure-guided mutagenesis and library screening to obtain intensity-based GABA sensing fluorescence reporter (iGABASnFR) variants. iGABASnFR is genetically encoded, detects GABA release evoked by electric stimulation of afferent fibers in acute brain slices and produces readily detectable fluorescence increases in vivo in mice and zebrafish. We applied iGABASnFR to track mitochondrial GABA content and its modulation by an anticonvulsant, swimming-evoked, GABA-mediated transmission in zebrafish cerebellum, GABA release events during interictal spikes and seizures in awake mice, and found that GABA-mediated tone decreases during isoflurane anesthesia.

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06/27/19 | Glia accumulate evidence that actions are futile and suppress unsuccessful behavior.
Mu Y, Bennett DV, Rubinov M, Narayan S, Yang C, Tanimoto M, Mensh BD, Looger LL, Ahrens MB
Cell. 2019 Jun 27;178(1):27-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.050

When a behavior repeatedly fails to achieve its goal, animals often give up and become passive, which can be strategic for preserving energy or regrouping between attempts. It is unknown how the brain identifies behavioral failures and mediates this behavioral-state switch. In larval zebrafish swimming in virtual reality, visual feedback can be withheld so that swim attempts fail to trigger expected visual flow. After tens of seconds of such motor futility, animals became passive for similar durations. Whole-brain calcium imaging revealed noradrenergic neurons that responded specifically to failed swim attempts and radial astrocytes whose calcium levels accumulated with increasing numbers of failed attempts. Using cell ablation and optogenetic or chemogenetic activation, we found that noradrenergic neurons progressively activated brainstem radial astrocytes, which then suppressed swimming. Thus, radial astrocytes perform a computation critical for behavior: they accumulate evidence that current actions are ineffective and consequently drive changes in behavioral states.

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11/30/18 | Brain-wide circuit interrogation at the cellular level guided by online analysis of neuronal function.
Vladimirov N, Wang C, Höckendorf B, Pujala A, Tanimoto M, Mu Y, Yang C, Wittenbach J, Freeman J, Preibisch S, Koyama M, Keller PJ, Ahrens MB
Nature Methods. 2018 Nov 30;15(12):1117-1125. doi: 10.1038/s41592-018-0221-x

Whole-brain imaging allows for comprehensive functional mapping of distributed neural pathways, but neuronal perturbation experiments are usually limited to targeting predefined regions or genetically identifiable cell types. To complement whole-brain measures of activity with brain-wide manipulations for testing causal interactions, we introduce a system that uses measuredactivity patterns to guide optical perturbations of any subset of neurons in the same fictively behaving larval zebrafish. First, a light-sheet microscope collects whole-brain data that are rapidly analyzed by a distributed computing system to generate functional brain maps. On the basis of these maps, the experimenter can then optically ablate neurons and image activity changes across the brain. We applied this method to characterize contributions of behaviorally tuned populations to the optomotor response. We extended the system to optogenetically stimulate arbitrary subsets of neurons during whole-brain imaging. These open-source methods enable delineating the contributions of neurons to brain-wide circuit dynamics and behavior in individual animals.

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11/21/18 | Brain-wide organization of neuronal activity and convergent sensorimotor transformations in larval zebrafish.
Chen X, Mu Y, Hu Y, Kuan AT, Nikitchenko M, Randlett O, Chen AB, Gavornik JP, Sompolinsky H, Engert F, Ahrens MB
Neuron. 2018 Nov 21;100(4):876-890.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.09.042

Simultaneous recordings of large populations of neurons in behaving animals allow detailed observation of high-dimensional, complex brain activity. However, experimental approaches often focus on singular behavioral paradigms or brain areas. Here, we recorded whole-brain neuronal activity of larval zebrafish presented with a battery of visual stimuli while recording fictive motor output. We identified neurons tuned to each stimulus type and motor output and discovered groups of neurons in the anterior hindbrain that respond to different stimuli eliciting similar behavioral responses. These convergent sensorimotor representations were only weakly correlated to instantaneous motor activity, suggesting that they critically inform, but do not directly generate, behavioral choices. To catalog brain-wide activity beyond explicit sensorimotor processing, we developed an unsupervised clustering technique that organizes neurons into functional groups. These analyses enabled a broad overview of the functional organization of the brain and revealed numerous brain nuclei whose neurons exhibit concerted activity patterns.

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