Abstract: BioLuminescent (BL) light production can modulate neural activity and behavior through co-expressed OptoGenetic (OG) elements, an approach termed "BL-OG". Yet, the relationship between BL-OG effects and bioluminescent photon emission has not been characterized in vivo. Further, the degree to which BL-OG effects strictly depend on optogenetic mechanisms driven by bioluminescent photons is unknown. Crucial to every neuromodulation method is whether the activator shows a dynamic concentration range driving robust, selective, and non-toxic effects. We systematically tested the effects of four key components of the BL-OG mechanism (luciferin, oxidized luciferin, luciferin vehicle, and bioluminescence), and compared these against effects induced by the Luminopsin-3 (LMO3) BL-OG molecule, a fusion of slow burn Gaussia luciferase (sbGLuc) and Volvox ChannelRhodopsin-1 (VChR1). We performed combined bioluminescence imaging and electrophysiological recordings while injecting specific doses of Coelenterazine (substrate for sbGluc), Coelenteramide (CTM, the oxidized product of CTZ), or CTZ vehicle. CTZ robustly drove activity in mice expressing LMO3, with photon production proportional to firing rate. In contrast, low and moderate doses of CTZ, CTM, or vehicle did not modulate activity in mice that did not express LMO3. We also failed to find bioluminescence effects on neural activity in mice expressing an optogenetically non-sensitive LMO3 variant. We observed weak responses to the highest dose of CTZ in control mice, but these effects were significantly smaller than those observed in the LMO3 group. These results show that in neocortex in vivo, there is a large CTZ range wherein BL-OG effects are specific to its active chemogenetic mechanism.

Authors: Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, Alexander I More, Nina G Friedman, Ute Hochgeschwender, Christopher I Moore