New Techniques in Systems Neuroscience

Part of the series Biological and Medical Physics, Biomedical Engineering pp 57-96


Fluorescent Proteins for Neuronal Imaging

  • Yongxin ZhaoAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Alberta Email author 
  • , Robert E. CampbellAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Alberta

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Over the past two decades, the growing selection of engineered fluorescent proteins have helped drive a revolution in the ability of researchers to image protein localization and biochemical dynamics in live cells in real time. Although the fluorescent proteins were long preceded by other fluorophores compatible with live cell imaging, the fact that fluorescent proteins are fully genetically encoded has enabled them to be applied in applications that would not otherwise be possible. In particular, fluorescent proteins have enabled the creation of transgenic animals in which specific neuronal cell types are uniquely and fluorescently labeled. Furthermore, through the use of highly engineered fluorescent proteins that change their fluorescence in response to a change in calcium ion concentration or membrane potential, fluorescent proteins have enabled high resolution minimally invasive imaging of neuronal activity in model organisms. In this chapter we will provide an overview of fluorescent protein technology and detail the technological developments that have made such experiments possible. Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of strategies for engineering Ca2+ and voltage indicators, and the latest breakthroughs in these directions will be highlighted.