AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Photoswitchable glutamate receptors to control neurotransmission with light

by Mercè Izquierdo Serra

Institution: Universitat de Barcelona
Year: 2014
Keywords: Neurotransmissió; Neurotransmisión; Neural transmission; Activitat neuronal; Actividad neuronal; Neuronal activity; Detectors òptics; Sensores ópticos; Optical detectors; Molecular switch; Interruptor molecular; Glutamate receptor; Receptor de glutamat; Receptor de glutamato; Ciències de la Salut
Record ID: 1125906
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10803/146130


Optical tools to control neuronal activity include synthetic photoswitchable ligands of receptors and ion channels. Photoswitches can act either as soluble molecules (photochromic ligands, PCLs) or tethered to the protein (photoswitchable tethered ligands, PTLs), and they have been used to photocontrol many ion channels and receptors such as voltage-gated potassium channels, acetylcholine or glutamate receptors. Recognizing both the need for new optical tools in neuroscience and the opportunities offered by photoswitches, this work is focused on the use of light gated glutamate receptors to control neuronal activity and neurotransmission. In the first chapter of results of the thesis, we demonstrate that the Ca2+-permeable LiGluR can be used as a tool to reversibly control neurosecretion by directly affecting the intracellular [Ca2+]. To achieve this goal, LiGluR was expressed in cultured bovine chromaffin cells and cultured hippocampal neurons. We measured secretion in chromaffin cells using two techniques, amperometry and membrane capacitance, and current-clamp recordings to assess neurotransmission in cultured neurons. The results indicated that the magnitude of LiGluR-mediated Ca2+ influx is sufficiently large to trigger regulated exocytosis in chromaffin cells and neurons. In addition, LiGluR induced secretion can be modulated with the wavelength of illumination. This new application of LiGluR opens the possibility to reversibly control the activity of individual synapses, which might help to understand the computational properties of neurons and to unravel how brain circuits work. To use LiGluR as an effective method to interrogate the neuronal function it should support high-spatial 3D resolution and tissue penetration. Multiphoton excitation with near-infrared light enables stimulation in intact tissue with cellular and subcellular resolution, and it has been extensively applied to optical actuators such as caged compounds and more recently to optogenetics. However, two-photon stimulation of synthetic photoswitches had not been explored before. In the second section of the results, the two-photon stimulation of LiGluR is investigated. Two new photoswitches were designed (MAG2p and MAGA2p) based on the structure of the original photoswitch (MAG) and intended to enhance the two-photon absorption ability of the azobenzene switch. The three PTLs, including MAG, successfully activate LiGluR under two-photon stimulation, suggesting that multiphoton excitation can be applied to other azobenzene-based molecules. Interestingly, the rationally designed photoswitches were more efficient in opening LiGluR as lower power and shorter simulation time were required. Finally we validated MAG2p and MAG as new tools to control the activation of neurons and astrocytes with cellular and subcellular resolution. In the last chapter, a new method based on the affinity labeling approach is presented in order to confer light sensitivity to endogenous receptors. Glutamate-azobenzene-reactive PTLs with different lengths and reactive…