Understanding how neuronal activity patterns in the brain correlate with complex behavior is one of the primary goals of modern neuroscience. Chemical transmission is the major way of communication between neurons, however, traditional methods of detection of neurotransmitter and neuromodulator transients in mammalian brain lack spatiotemporal precision. Modern fluorescent biosensors for neurotransmitters and neuromodulators allow monitoring chemical transmission in vivo with millisecond precision and single cell resolution. Changes in the fluorescent biosensor brightness occur upon neurotransmitter binding and can be detected using fiber photometry, stationary microscopy and miniaturized head-mounted microscopes. Biosensors can be expressed in the animal brain using adeno-associated viral vectors, and their cell-specific expression can be achieved with Cre-recombinase expressing animals. Although initially fluorescent biosensors for chemical transmission were represented by glutamate biosensors, nowadays biosensors for GABA, acetylcholine, glycine, norepinephrine, and dopamine are available as well. In this review, we overview functioning principles of existing intensiometric and ratiometric biosensors and provide brief insight into the variety of neurotransmitter-binding proteins from bacteria, plants, and eukaryotes including G-protein coupled receptors, which may serve as neurotransmitter-binding scaffolds. We next describe a workflow for development of neurotransmitter and neuromodulator biosensors. We then discuss advanced setups for functional imaging of neurotransmitter transients in the brain of awake freely moving animals. We conclude by providing application examples of biosensors for the studies of complex behavior with the single-neuron precision.
- neural circuit
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience