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Here we design and optimize a genetically encoded fluorescent indicator, iAChSnFR, for the ubiquitous neurotransmitter acetylcholine, based on a bacterial periplasmic binding protein. iAChSnFR shows large fluorescence changes, rapid rise and decay kinetics, and insensitivity to most cholinergic drugs. iAChSnFR revealed large transients in a variety of slice and in vivo preparations in mouse, fish, fly and worm. iAChSnFR will be useful for the study of acetylcholine in all animals.