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- Microbial light-activatable proton pumps as neuronal inhibitors to functionally dissect neuronal networks in C. elegans (2012)
- Essentially any behavior in simple and complex animals depends on neuronal network function. Currently, the best-defined system to study neuronal circuits is the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as the connectivity of its 302 neurons is exactly known. Individual neurons can be activated by photostimulation of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) using blue light, allowing to directly probe the importance of a particular neuron for the respective behavioral output of the network under study. In analogy, other excitable cells can be inhibited by expressing Halorhodopsin from Natronomonas pharaonis (NpHR) and subsequent illumination with yellow light. However, inhibiting C. elegans neurons using NpHR is difficult. Recently, proton pumps from various sources were established as valuable alternative hyperpolarizers. Here we show that archaerhodopsin-3 (Arch) from Halorubrum sodomense and a proton pump from the fungus Leptosphaeria maculans (Mac) can be utilized to effectively inhibit excitable cells in C. elegans. Arch is the most powerful hyperpolarizer when illuminated with yellow or green light while the action spectrum of Mac is more blue-shifted, as analyzed by light-evoked behaviors and electrophysiology. This allows these tools to be combined in various ways with ChR2 to analyze different subsets of neurons within a circuit. We exemplify this by means of the polymodal aversive sensory ASH neurons, and the downstream command interneurons to which ASH neurons signal to trigger a reversal followed by a directional turn. Photostimulating ASH and subsequently inhibiting command interneurons using two-color illumination of different body segments, allows investigating temporal aspects of signaling downstream of ASH.
- Optogenetic long-term manipulation of behavior and animal development (2011)
- Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) is widely used for rapid photodepolarization of neurons, yet, as it requires high-intensity blue light for activation, it is not suited for long-term in vivo applications, e.g. for manipulations of behavior, or photoactivation of neurons during development. We used “slow” ChR2 variants with mutations in the C128 residue, that exhibit delayed off-kinetics and increased light sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Following a 1 s light pulse, we could photodepolarize neurons and muscles for minutes (and with repeated brief stimulation, up to days) with low-intensity light. Photoactivation of ChR2(C128S) in command interneurons elicited long-lasting alterations in locomotion. Finally, we could optically induce profound changes in animal development: Long-term photoactivation of ASJ neurons, which regulate larval growth, bypassed the constitutive entry into the “dauer” larval state in daf-11 mutants. These lack a guanylyl cyclase, which possibly renders ASJ neurons hyperpolarized. Furthermore, photostimulated ASJ neurons could acutely trigger dauer-exit. Thus, slow ChR2s can be employed to long-term photoactivate behavior and to trigger alternative animal development.
- Influenza A (H1N1) 2009: Impact on Frankfurt in due consideration of health care and public health (2010)
- Background: In April 2009 a novel influenza A H1N1/2009 virus was identified in Mexico and in the United States which quickly spread around the world. Most of the countries established infection surveillance systems in order to track the number of (laboratory-confirmed) H1N1 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Methods: The impact of the emergence of the novel pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus on Frankfurt was statistically evaluated by the Health Protection Authority, City of Frankfurt am Main. Vaccination rates of the health care workers (HCWs) of the University Hospital Frankfurt were measured by the Occupational Health Service. Results: Although the virulence of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 seems to be comparable with seasonal influenza, a major patient load and wave of hospital admissions occurred in the summer of 2009. Even though the 2009 vaccination rate of the University Hospital Frankfurt (seasonal influenza [40.5%], swine flu [36.3%]) is better than the average annual uptake of influenza vaccine in the German health care system (approximately 22% for seasonal and 15% for swine flu), vaccination levels remain insufficient. However, physicians were significantly (p < 0.001) more likely to have been vaccinated against swine flu and seasonal influenza than nurses. Conclusions: The outbreak of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in April 2009 provided a major challenge to health services around the world. Nosocomial transmission of H1N1/2009 has been documented. Present experience should be used to improve pandemic preparedness plans and vaccination programs ought to target as many HCWs as possible.
- Keeping track of worm trackers (2012)
- C. elegans is used extensively as a model system in the neurosciences due to its well defined nervous system. However, the seeming simplicity of this nervous system in anatomical structure and neuronal connectivity, at least compared to higher animals, underlies a rich diversity of behaviors. The usefulness of the worm in genome-wide mutagenesis or RNAi screens, where thousands of strains are assessed for phenotype, emphasizes the need for computational methods for automated parameterization of generated behaviors. In addition, behaviors can be modulated upon external cues like temperature, O2 and CO2 concentrations, mechanosensory and chemosensory inputs. Different machine vision tools have been developed to aid researchers in their efforts to inventory and characterize defined behavioral “outputs”. Here we aim at providing an overview of different worm-tracking packages or video analysis tools designed to quantify different aspects of locomotion such as the occurrence of directional changes (turns, omega bends), curvature of the sinusoidal shape (amplitude, body bend angles) and velocity (speed, backward or forward movement).
- Specific expression of channelrhodopsin-2 in single neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans (2012)
- Optogenetic approaches using light-activated proteins like Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) enable investigating the function of populations of neurons in live Caenorhabditis elegans (and other) animals, as ChR2 expression can be targeted to these cells using specific promoters. Sub-populations of these neurons, or even single cells, can be further addressed by restricting the illumination to the cell of interest. However, this is technically demanding, particularly in free moving animals. Thus, it would be helpful if expression of ChR2 could be restricted to single neurons or neuron pairs, as even wide-field illumination would photostimulate only this particular cell. To this end we adopted the use of Cre or FLP recombinases and conditional ChR2 expression at the intersection of two promoter expression domains, i.e. in the cell of interest only. Success of this method depends on precise knowledge of the individual promoters' expression patterns and on relative expression levels of recombinase and ChR2. A bicistronic expression cassette with GFP helps to identify the correct expression pattern. Here we show specific expression in the AVA reverse command neurons and the aversive polymodal sensory ASH neurons. This approach shall enable to generate strains for optogenetic manipulation of each of the 302 C. elegans neurons. This may eventually allow to model the C. elegans nervous system in its entirety, based on functional data for each neuron.
- Bimodal activation of different neuron classes with the spectrally red-shifted channelrhodopsin chimera C1V1 in Caenorhabditis elegans (2012)
- The C. elegans nervous system is particularly well suited for optogenetic analyses of circuit function: Essentially all connections have been mapped, and light can be directed at the neuron of interest in the freely moving, transparent animals, while behavior is observed. Thus, different nodes of a neuronal network can be probed for their role in controlling a particular behavior, using different optogenetic tools for photo-activation or –inhibition, which respond to different colors of light. As neurons may act in concert or in opposing ways to affect a behavior, one would further like to excite these neurons concomitantly, yet independent of each other. In addition to the blue-light activated Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), spectrally red-shifted ChR variants have been explored recently. Here, we establish the green-light activated ChR chimera C1V1 (from Chlamydomonas and Volvox ChR1′s) for use in C. elegans. We surveyed a number of red-shifted ChRs, and found that C1V1-ET/ET (E122T; E162T) works most reliable in C. elegans, with 540–580 nm excitation, which leaves ChR2 silent. However, as C1V1-ET/ET is very light sensitive, it still becomes activated when ChR2 is stimulated, even at 400 nm. Thus, we generated a highly efficient blue ChR2, the H134R; T159C double mutant (ChR2-HR/TC). Both proteins can be used in the same animal, in different neurons, to independently control each cell type with light, enabling a further level of complexity in circuit analyses.