Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Algal Protein In Worm Neurons Allows Remote Control Of Behavior By Light

Date:
December 31, 2005
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
By introducing expression of a special green-algae gene into neurons of the tiny, transparent nematode C. elegans, researchers have been able to elicit specific behavioral responses by simply illuminating animals with blue light. The work paves the way for better understanding of how neurons communicate with each other, and with muscles, to regulate behavior in intact, living organisms. Generally speaking, detailed information about the activity and function of specific neurons during particular behaviors has been difficult to achieve in undissected animals.

By introducing expression of a special green-algae gene into neurons of the tiny, transparent nematode C. elegans, researchers have been able to elicit specific behavioral responses by simply illuminating animals with blue light. The work paves the way for better understanding of how neurons communicate with each other, and with muscles, to regulate behavior in intact, living organisms. Generally speaking, detailed information about the activity and function of specific neurons during particular behaviors has been difficult to achieve in undissected animals.

The new findings are reported by Alexander Gottschalk and colleagues at Goethe-University Frankfurt and at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, also in Frankfurt.

In their new study, the researchers employed a light-sensitive protein from the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This protein, channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), sits in cell membranes, where it gates the flow of certain ions from one side of the membrane to the other. Such so-called channel proteins play central roles in the activities of neurons and muscle cells, and while some channel proteins are sensitive to chemicals or electrical signals, ChR2 and its relatives are controlled directly by certain wavelengths of light, making them ideal for remote control in the laboratory.

In their experiments, the researchers took advantage of the light sensitivity of the algal channel protein by introducing expression of a modified form of ChR2 in specific C. elegans neurons and muscle cells. The researchers found that when this form of ChR2 was expressed in muscle cells, blue-light activation of the protein was sufficient to cause strong contraction of the muscle. They found that muscle contraction was simultaneous with light exposure.

The researchers went on to show that expression of the engineered ChR2 in mechanosensory neurons, which respond to touch by activating a reflex that causes worms to back up, was sufficient to prompt the backing behavior in response to blue-light exposure. In fact, the ChR2 expression in mechanosensory neurons allowed the backing behavior to occur (in response to light) even in mutant worms that lacked the C. elegans ion channel that normally mediates backing behavior in response to touch.

The researchers performed electrophysiological experiments to show that the effects they observed were indeed due to the inward flow of ions caused by activation of the ChR2 protein by light; this inward ion flow persisted for the duration of blue-light exposure.

Future work may include studies using forms of ChR2 or related proteins that are sensitive to different wavelengths of light; by allowing remote-control activation of different neurons and muscle cells within an individual animal, such approaches could aid in understanding the circuitry and control of complex behaviors.

###

The researchers include Georg Nagel and Nona Adeishvili of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany; Ernst Bamberg of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany and Goethe-University Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany; Martin Brauner, Jana F. Liewald, and Alexander Gottschalk of Goethe-University Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany. This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (SFB628) and the Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst to A.G. and from the DFG (SFB472) and the Max Planck Societyto G.N. and E.B.

Nagel et al.: "Light Activation of Channelrhodopsin-2 in Excitable Cells of Caenorhabditis elegans Triggers Rapid Behavioral Responses." Publishing in Current Biology, Vol. 15, 2279-2284, December 20, 2005, DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2005.11.032 www.current-biology.com.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Algal Protein In Worm Neurons Allows Remote Control Of Behavior By Light." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051231180623.htm>.
Cell Press. (2005, December 31). Algal Protein In Worm Neurons Allows Remote Control Of Behavior By Light. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051231180623.htm
Cell Press. "Algal Protein In Worm Neurons Allows Remote Control Of Behavior By Light." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051231180623.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) — Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) — Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins