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30 Janelia Publications

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    06/01/18 | Adaptive optical microscopy for neurobiology.
    Rodriguez C, Ji N
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2018 Jun;50:83-91. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2018.01.011


    • Biological specimens introduce wavefront aberrations and deteriorate the image quality of optical microscopy.
    • Adaptive optics is used in optical microscopy to recover ideal imaging performance.
    • Adaptive optical imaging improves structural imaging of neurons, allowing for synaptic-level resolution at depth.
    • Adaptive optical imaging leads to a more accurate characterization of the functional properties of neurons.

    With the ability to correct for the aberrations introduced by biological specimens, adaptive optics—a method originally developed for astronomical telescopes—has been applied to optical microscopy to recover diffraction-limited imaging performance deep within living tissue. In particular, this technology has been used to improve image quality and provide a more accurate characterization of both structure and function of neurons in a variety of living organisms. Among its many highlights, adaptive optical microscopy has made it possible to image large volumes with diffraction-limited resolution in zebrafish larval brains, to resolve dendritic spines over 600μm deep in the mouse brain, and to more accurately characterize the orientation tuning properties of thalamic boutons in the primary visual cortex of awake mice.

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    04/01/18 | 50 Hz volumetric functional imaging with continuously adjustable depth of focus.
    Lu R, Tanimoto M, Koyama M, Na J
    Biomedical Optics Express. 2018 Apr;9(4):1964-76. doi: 10.1364/BOE.9.001964

    Understanding how neural circuits control behavior requires monitoring a large population of neurons with high spatial resolution and volume rate. Here we report an axicon-based Bessel beam module with continuously adjustable depth of focus (CADoF), that turns frame rate into volume rate by extending the excitation focus in the axial direction while maintaining high lateral resolutions. Cost-effective and compact, this CADoF Bessel module can be easily integrated into existing two-photon fluorescence microscopes. Simply translating one of the relay lenses along its optical axis enabled continuous adjustment of the axial length of the Bessel focus. We used this module to simultaneously monitor activity of spinal projection neurons extending over 60 µm depth in larval zebrafish at 50 Hz volume rate with adjustable axial extent of the imaged volume.

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    09/05/17 | A general method to fine-tune fluorophores for live-cell and in vivo imaging.
    Grimm JB, Muthusamy AK, Liang Y, Brown TA, Lemon WC, Patel R, Lu R, Macklin JJ, Keller PJ, Ji N, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2017 Oct;14(10):987-994. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4403

    Pushing the frontier of fluorescence microscopy requires the design of enhanced fluorophores with finely tuned properties. We recently discovered that incorporation of four-membered azetidine rings into classic fluorophore structures elicits substantial increases in brightness and photostability, resulting in the Janelia Fluor (JF) series of dyes. We refined and extended this strategy, finding that incorporation of 3-substituted azetidine groups allows rational tuning of the spectral and chemical properties of rhodamine dyes with unprecedented precision. This strategy allowed us to establish principles for fine-tuning the properties of fluorophores and to develop a palette of new fluorescent and fluorogenic labels with excitation ranging from blue to the far-red. Our results demonstrate the versatility of these new dyes in cells, tissues and animals.

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    08/01/17 | Adaptive optical versus spherical aberration corrections for in vivo brain imaging.
    Biomedical Optics Express. 2017 Aug;8(8):3891-902. doi: 10.1364/BOE.8.003891

    Adjusting the objective correction collar is a widely used approach to correct spherical aberrations (SA) in optical microscopy. In this work, we characterized and compared its performance with adaptive optics in the context of in vivo brain imaging with two-photon fluorescence microscopy. We found that the presence of sample tilt had a deleterious effect on the performance of SA-only correction. At large tilt angles, adjusting the correction collar even worsened image quality. In contrast, adaptive optical correction always recovered optimal imaging performance regardless of sample tilt. The extent of improvement with adaptive optics was dependent on object size, with smaller objects having larger relative gains in signal intensity and image sharpness. These observations translate into a superior performance of adaptive optics for structural and functional brain imaging applications in vivo, as we confirmed experimentally.

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    04/02/17 | Near-infrared fluorescent protein iRFP713 as a reporter protein for optogenetic vectors, a transgenic Cre-reporter rat, and other neuronal studies.
    Richie CT, Whitaker LR, Whitaker KW, Necarsulmer J, Baldwin HA, Zhang Y, Fortuno L, Hinkle JJ, Koivula P, Henderson MJ, Sun W, Wang K, Smith JC, Pickel J, Ji N, Hope BT, Harvey BK
    Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 2017 Apr 02;284:1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.03.020

    BACKGROUND: The use of genetically-encoded fluorescent reporters is essential for the identification and observation of cells that express transgenic modulatory proteins. Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent proteins have superior light penetration through biological tissue, but are not yet widely adopted.

    NEW METHOD: Using the near-infrared fluorescent protein, iRFP713, improves the imaging resolution in thick tissue sections or the intact brain due to the reduced light-scattering at the longer, NIR wavelengths used to image the protein. Additionally, iRFP713 can be used to identify transgenic cells without photobleaching other fluorescent reporters or affecting opsin function. We have generated a set of adeno-associated vectors in which iRFP713 has been fused to optogenetic channels, and can be expressed constitutively or Cre-dependently.

    RESULTS: iRFP713 is detectable when expressed in neurons both in vitro and in vivo without exogenously supplied chromophore biliverdin. Neuronally-expressed iRFP713 has similar properties to GFP-like fluorescent proteins, including the ability to be translationally fused to channelrhodopsin or halorhodopsin, however, it shows superior photostability compared to EYFP. Furthermore, electrophysiological recordings from iRFP713-labeled cells compared to cells labeled with mCherry suggest that iRFP713 cells are healthier and therefore more stable and reliable in an ex vivo preparation. Lastly, we have generated a transgenic rat that expresses iRFP713 in a Cre-dependent manner.

    CONCLUSIONS: Overall, we have demonstrated that iRFP713 can be used as a reporter in neurons without the use of exogenous biliverdin, with minimal impact on viability and function thereby making it feasible to extend the capabilities for imaging genetically-tagged neurons in slices and in vivo.

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    03/31/17 | Adaptive optical fluorescence microscopy.
    Ji N
    Nature Methods. 2017 Mar 31;14(4):374-380. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4218

    The past quarter century has witnessed rapid developments of fluorescence microscopy techniques that enable structural and functional imaging of biological specimens at unprecedented depth and resolution. The performance of these methods in multicellular organisms, however, is degraded by sample-induced optical aberrations. Here I review recent work on incorporating adaptive optics, a technology originally applied in astronomical telescopes to combat atmospheric aberrations, to improve image quality of fluorescence microscopy for biological imaging.

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    02/27/17 | Video-rate volumetric functional imaging of the brain at synaptic resolution.
    Lu R, Sun W, Liang Y, Kerlin A, Bierfeld J, Seelig JD, Wilson DE, Scholl B, Mohar B, Tanimoto M, Koyama M, Fitzpatrick D, Orger MB, Ji N
    Nature Neuroscience. 2017 Feb 27;20(4):620-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.4516

    Neurons and neural networks often extend hundreds of micrometers in three dimensions. Capturing the calcium transients associated with their activity requires volume imaging methods with subsecond temporal resolution. Such speed is a challenge for conventional two-photon laser-scanning microscopy, because it depends on serial focal scanning in 3D and indicators with limited brightness. Here we present an optical module that is easily integrated into standard two-photon laser-scanning microscopes to generate an axially elongated Bessel focus, which when scanned in 2D turns frame rate into volume rate. We demonstrated the power of this approach in enabling discoveries for neurobiology by imaging the calcium dynamics of volumes of neurons and synapses in fruit flies, zebrafish larvae, mice and ferrets in vivo. Calcium signals in objects as small as dendritic spines could be resolved at video rates, provided that the samples were sparsely labeled to limit overlap in their axially projected images.

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    11/02/16 | Opportunities for Technology and Tool Development.
    Neuron. 2016 Nov 2;92(3):564-566. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.10.042

    Major resources are now available to develop tools and technologies aimed at dissecting the circuitry and computations underlying behavior, unraveling the underpinnings of brain disorders, and understanding the neural substrates of cognition. Scientists from around the world shared their views around new tools and technologies to drive advances in neuroscience.

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    Ji LabFreeman Lab
    08/26/16 | Technologies for imaging neural activity in large volumes.
    Ji N, Freeman J, Smith SL
    Nature Neuroscience. 2016 Aug 26;19(9):1154-64. doi: 10.1038/nn.4358

    Neural circuitry has evolved to form distributed networks that act dynamically across large volumes. Conventional microscopy collects data from individual planes and cannot sample circuitry across large volumes at the temporal resolution relevant to neural circuit function and behaviors. Here we review emerging technologies for rapid volume imaging of neural circuitry. We focus on two critical challenges: the inertia of optical systems, which limits image speed, and aberrations, which restrict the image volume. Optical sampling time must be long enough to ensure high-fidelity measurements, but optimized sampling strategies and point-spread function engineering can facilitate rapid volume imaging of neural activity within this constraint. We also discuss new computational strategies for processing and analyzing volume imaging data of increasing size and complexity. Together, optical and computational advances are providing a broader view of neural circuit dynamics and helping elucidate how brain regions work in concert to support behavior.

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    06/10/16 | in vivo brain imaging with adaptive optical microscope.
    Wang K, Sun W, Ji N, Betzig E
    CLEO: Applications and Technology. 2016 Jun :AM40.1. doi: 10.1364/CLEO_AT.2016.AM4O.1

    The diffraction limited resolution of two photon and confocal microscope can be recovered using adaptive optics to explore the detailed neuronal network in the brains of zebrafish and mouse in vivo.

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