February 28, 2021

Targeted sensors for glutamatergic neurotransmission

Optical report of neurotransmitter release allows visualization of excitatory synaptic transmission. Sensitive genetically-encoded glutamate reporters operating with a range of affinities and emission wavelengths are available. However, without targeting to synapses, the specificity of the fluorescent signal is uncertain, compared to sensors directed at vesicles or other synaptic markers. We fused the state-of-the-art reporter iGluSnFR to glutamate receptor auxiliary proteins in order to target it to postsynaptic sites. Chimeras of Stargazin and gamma-8 that we named SnFR-{gamma}2 and SnFR-{gamma}8, retained function and reported spontaneous glutamate release in hippocampal cells, with apparently diffraction-limited spatial precision. In autaptic neurons on micro island cultures, evoked release could be quantitatively detected at tens of synapses in a field of view whilst evoked currents were recorded simultaneously. These experiments revealed a specific postsynaptic deficit from Stargazin overexpression, resulting in synapses with normal release but without postsynaptic responses. This defect was reverted by delaying overexpression. By working at different calcium concentrations, we determined that SnFR-{gamma}2 is a linear reporter of the global quantal parameters and short term synaptic plasticity, whereas iGluSnFR is not. On average, half of iGluSnFR regions of interest showing evoked fluorescence changes had intense rundown, whereas less than 5% of SnFR-{gamma}2 ROIs did. We provide an open-source analysis suite for extracting quantal parameters including release probability from fluorescence time series of individual and grouped synaptic responses. Taken together, postsynaptic targeting improves several properties of iGluSnFR and further demonstrates the importance of subcellular targeting for optogenetic actuators and reporters.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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