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03/24/16 | Sensitive red protein calcium indicators for imaging neural activity.
Dana H, Mohar B, Sun Y, Narayan S, Gordus A, Hasseman JP, Tsegaye G, Holt GT, Hu A, Walpita D, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Bargmann CI, Ahrens MB, Schreiter ER, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Kim DS
eLife. 2016 Mar 24;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.12727

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) allow measurement of activity in large populations of neurons and in small neuronal compartments, over times of milliseconds to months. Although GFP-based GECIs are widely used for in vivo neurophysiology, GECIs with red-shifted excitation and emission spectra have advantages for in vivo imaging because of reduced scattering and absorption in tissue, and a consequent reduction in phototoxicity. However, current red GECIs are inferior to the state-of-the-art GFP-based GCaMP6 indicators for detecting and quantifying neural activity. Here we present improved red GECIs based on mRuby (jRCaMP1a, b) and mApple (jRGECO1a), with sensitivity comparable to GCaMP6. We characterized the performance of the new red GECIs in cultured neurons and in mouse, Drosophila, zebrafish and C. elegans in vivo. Red GECIs facilitate deep-tissue imaging, dual-color imaging together with GFP-based reporters, and the use of optogenetics in combination with calcium imaging.

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02/13/15 | Labeling of active neural circuits in vivo with designed calcium integrators.
Fosque BF, Sun Y, Dana H, Yang CT, Ohyama T, Tadross MR, Patel R, Zlatic M, Kim DS, Ahrens MB, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Schreiter ER
Science. 2015 Feb 13;347(6223):755-60. doi: 10.1126/science.1260922

The identification of active neurons and circuits in vivo is a fundamental challenge in understanding the neural basis of behavior. Genetically encoded calcium (Ca(2+)) indicators (GECIs) enable quantitative monitoring of cellular-resolution activity during behavior. However, such indicators require online monitoring within a limited field of view. Alternatively, post hoc staining of immediate early genes (IEGs) indicates highly active cells within the entire brain, albeit with poor temporal resolution. We designed a fluorescent sensor, CaMPARI, that combines the genetic targetability and quantitative link to neural activity of GECIs with the permanent, large-scale labeling of IEGs, allowing a temporally precise "activity snapshot" of a large tissue volume. CaMPARI undergoes efficient and irreversible green-to-red conversion only when elevated intracellular Ca(2+) and experimenter-controlled illumination coincide. We demonstrate the utility of CaMPARI in freely moving larvae of zebrafish and flies, and in head-fixed mice and adult flies.

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09/24/14 | Thy1 - GCaMP6 transgenic mice for neuronal population imaging in vivo.
Dana H, Chen TW, Hu A, Shields BC, Cui G, Looger L, Kim DS, Svoboda K
PLoS One. 2014;9(9):e108697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108697

Genetically-encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) facilitate imaging activity of genetically defined neuronal populations in vivo. The high intracellular GECI concentrations required for in vivo imaging are usually achieved by viral gene transfer using adeno-associated viruses. Transgenic expression of GECIs promises important advantages, including homogeneous, repeatable, and stable expression without the need for invasive virus injections. Here we present the generation and characterization of transgenic mice expressing the GECIs GCaMP6s or GCaMP6f under the Thy1 promoter. We quantified GCaMP6 expression across brain regions and neurons and compared to other transgenic mice and AAV-mediated expression. We tested three mouse lines for imaging in the visual cortex in vivo and compared their performance to mice injected with AAV expressing GCaMP6. Furthermore, we show that GCaMP6 Thy1 transgenic mice are useful for long-term, high-sensitivity imaging in behaving mice.

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02/01/14 | Optimized ratiometric calcium sensors for functional in vivo imaging of neurons and T lymphocytes.
Thestrup T, Litzlbauer J, Bartholomäus I, Mues M, Russo L, Dana H, Kovalchuk Y, Liang Y, Kalamakis G, Laukat Y, Becker S, Witte G, Geiger A, Allen T, Rome LC, Chen TW, Kim DS, Garaschuk O, Griesinger C, Griesbeck O
Nature Methods. 2014 Feb;11(2):175-82. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2773

The quality of genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) has improved dramatically in recent years, but high-performing ratiometric indicators are still rare. Here we describe a series of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based calcium biosensors with a reduced number of calcium binding sites per sensor. These ’Twitch’ sensors are based on the C-terminal domain of Opsanus troponin C. Their FRET responses were optimized by a large-scale functional screen in bacterial colonies, refined by a secondary screen in rat hippocampal neuron cultures. We tested the in vivo performance of the most sensitive variants in the brain and lymph nodes of mice. The sensitivity of the Twitch sensors matched that of synthetic calcium dyes and allowed visualization of tonic action potential firing in neurons and high resolution functional tracking of T lymphocytes. Given their ratiometric readout, their brightness, large dynamic range and linear response properties, Twitch sensors represent versatile tools for neuroscience and immunology.

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10/14/13 | A neuron-based screening platform for optimizing genetically-encoded calcium indicators.
Wardill TJ, Chen TW, Schreiter ER, Hasseman JP, Tsegaye G, Fosque BF, Behnam R, Shields BC, Ramirez M, Kimmel BE, Kerr RA, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Kim DS
PLoS One. 2013;8:e77728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077728

Fluorescent protein-based sensors for detecting neuronal activity have been developed largely based on non-neuronal screening systems. However, the dynamics of neuronal state variables (e.g., voltage, calcium, etc.) are typically very rapid compared to those of non-excitable cells. We developed an electrical stimulation and fluorescence imaging platform based on dissociated rat primary neuronal cultures. We describe its use in testing genetically-encoded calcium indicators (GECIs). Efficient neuronal GECI expression was achieved using lentiviruses containing a neuronal-selective gene promoter. Action potentials (APs) and thus neuronal calcium levels were quantitatively controlled by electrical field stimulation, and fluorescence images were recorded. Images were segmented to extract fluorescence signals corresponding to individual GECI-expressing neurons, which improved sensitivity over full-field measurements. We demonstrate the superiority of screening GECIs in neurons compared with solution measurements. Neuronal screening was useful for efficient identification of variants with both improved response kinetics and high signal amplitudes. This platform can be used to screen many types of sensors with cellular resolution under realistic conditions where neuronal state variables are in relevant ranges with respect to timing and amplitude.

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07/18/13 | Ultrasensitive fluorescent proteins for imaging neuronal activity.
Chen TW, Wardill TJ, Sun Y, Pulvar SR, Renninger SL, Baohan A, Schreiter ER, Kerr RA, Orger MB, Jayaraman V, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Kim DS
Nature. 2013 Jul 18;499:295-300. doi: 10.1038/nature12354

Fluorescent calcium sensors are widely used to image neural activity. Using structure-based mutagenesis and neuron-based screening, we developed a family of ultrasensitive protein calcium sensors (GCaMP6) that outperformed other sensors in cultured neurons and in zebrafish, flies and mice in vivo. In layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the mouse visual cortex, GCaMP6 reliably detected single action potentials in neuronal somata and orientation-tuned synaptic calcium transients in individual dendritic spines. The orientation tuning of structurally persistent spines was largely stable over timescales of weeks. Orientation tuning averaged across spine populations predicted the tuning of their parent cell. Although the somata of GABAergic neurons showed little orientation tuning, their dendrites included highly tuned dendritic segments (5–40-µm long). GCaMP6 sensors thus provide new windows into the organization and dynamics of neural circuits over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

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03/04/13 | Genetically encoded calcium indicators for multi-color neural activity imaging and combination with optogenetics.
Akerboom J, Calderón NCarreras, Tian L, Wabnig S, Prigge M, Tolö J, Gordus A, Orger MB, Severi KE, Macklin JJ, Patel R, Pulver SR, Wardill TJ, Fischer E, Schüler C, Chen TW, Sarkisyan KS, Marvin JS, Bargmann CI, Kim DS, Kügler S, Lagnado L, Hegemann P, Gottschalk A, Schreiter ER, Looger LL
Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. 2013 Mar 4;6:2. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2013.00002

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are powerful tools for systems neuroscience. Here we describe red, single-wavelength GECIs, "RCaMPs," engineered from circular permutation of the thermostable red fluorescent protein mRuby. High-resolution crystal structures of mRuby, the red sensor RCaMP, and the recently published red GECI R-GECO1 give insight into the chromophore environments of the Ca(2+)-bound state of the sensors and the engineered protein domain interfaces of the different indicators. We characterized the biophysical properties and performance of RCaMP sensors in vitro and in vivo in Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila larvae, and larval zebrafish. Further, we demonstrate 2-color calcium imaging both within the same cell (registering mitochondrial and somatic [Ca(2+)]) and between two populations of cells: neurons and astrocytes. Finally, we perform integrated optogenetics experiments, wherein neural activation via channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) or a red-shifted variant, and activity imaging via RCaMP or GCaMP, are conducted simultaneously, with the ChR2/RCaMP pair providing independently addressable spectral channels. Using this paradigm, we measure calcium responses of naturalistic and ChR2-evoked muscle contractions in vivo in crawling C. elegans. We systematically compare the RCaMP sensors to R-GECO1, in terms of action potential-evoked fluorescence increases in neurons, photobleaching, and photoswitching. R-GECO1 displays higher Ca(2+) affinity and larger dynamic range than RCaMP, but exhibits significant photoactivation with blue and green light, suggesting that integrated channelrhodopsin-based optogenetics using R-GECO1 may be subject to artifact. Finally, we create and test blue, cyan, and yellow variants engineered from GCaMP by rational design. This engineered set of chromatic variants facilitates new experiments in functional imaging and optogenetics.

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10/03/12 | Optimization of a GCaMP calcium indicator for neural activity imaging.
Akerboom J, Chen TW, Wardill TJ, Marvin JS, Mutlu S, Caldero NCarreras, Esposti F, Borghuis BG, Sun XRichard, Gordus A, Orger MB, Portugues R, Engert F, Macklin JJ, Filosa A, Aggarwal A, Kerr R, Takagi R, Kracun S, Shigetomi E, Khakh BS, Baier H, Lagnado L, Wang SSH, Bargmann C, Kimmel B, Jayaraman V, Svoboda K, Kim DS, Schreiter ER, Looger LL
The Journal of Neuroscience. 2012 Oct 3;32:13819-40. doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.2601-12.2012

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are powerful tools for systems neuroscience. Recent efforts in protein engineering have significantly increased the performance of GECIs. The state-of-the art single-wavelength GECI, GCaMP3, has been deployed in a number of model organisms and can reliably detect three or more action potentials in short bursts in several systems in vivo . Through protein structure determination, targeted mutagenesis, high-throughput screening, and a battery of in vitro assays, we have increased the dynamic range of GCaMP3 by severalfold, creating a family of “GCaMP5” sensors. We tested GCaMP5s in several systems: cultured neurons and astrocytes, mouse retina, and in vivo in Caenorhabditis chemosensory neurons, Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction and adult antennal lobe, zebrafish retina and tectum, and mouse visual cortex. Signal-to-noise ratio was improved by at least 2- to 3-fold. In the visual cortex, two GCaMP5 variants detected twice as many visual stimulus-responsive cells as GCaMP3. By combining in vivo imaging with electrophysiology we show that GCaMP5 fluorescence provides a more reliable measure of neuronal activity than its predecessor GCaMP3.GCaMP5allows more sensitive detection of neural activity in vivo andmayfind widespread applications for cellular imaging in general.

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02/29/12 | A Cre-dependent GCaMP3 reporter mouse for neuronal imaging in vivo.
Zariwala HA, Borghuis BG, Hoogland TM, Madisen L, Tian L, De Zeeuw CI, Zeng H, Looger LL, Svoboda K, Chen TW
The Journal of Neuroscience. 2012 Feb 29;32:3131-41. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4469-11.2012

Fluorescent calcium indicator proteins, such as GCaMP3, allow imaging of activity in genetically defined neuronal populations. GCaMP3 can be expressed using various gene delivery methods, such as viral infection or electroporation. However, these methods are invasive and provide inhomogeneous and nonstationary expression. Here, we developed a genetic reporter mouse, Ai38, which expresses GCaMP3 in a Cre-dependent manner from the ROSA26 locus, driven by a strong CAG promoter. Crossing Ai38 with appropriate Cre mice produced robust GCaMP3 expression in defined cell populations in the retina, cortex, and cerebellum. In the primary visual cortex, visually evoked GCaMP3 signals showed normal orientation and direction selectivity. GCaMP3 signals were rapid, compared with virally expressed GCaMP3 and synthetic calcium indicators. In the retina, Ai38 allowed imaging spontaneous calcium waves in starburst amacrine cells during development, and light-evoked responses in ganglion cells in adult tissue. Our results show that the Ai38 reporter mouse provides a flexible method for targeted expression of GCaMP3.

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