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ERIC Number: EJ919752
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 34
ISSN: ISSN-1043-4046
Optogenetics in the Teaching Laboratory: Using Channelrhodopsin-2 to Study the Neural Basis of Behavior and Synaptic Physiology in "Drosophila"
Pulver, Stefan R.; Hornstein, Nicholas J.; Land, Bruce L.; Johnson, Bruce R.
Advances in Physiology Education, v35 n1 p82-91 Mar 2011
Here we incorporate recent advances in "Drosophila" neurogenetics and "optogenetics" into neuroscience laboratory exercises. We used the light-activated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) and tissue-specific genetic expression techniques to study the neural basis of behavior in "Drosophila" larvae. We designed and implemented exercises using inexpensive, easy-to-use systems for delivering blue light pulses with fine temporal control. Students first examined the behavioral effects of activating glutamatergic neurons in "Drosophila" larvae and then recorded excitatory junctional potentials (EJPs) mediated by ChR2 activation at the larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Comparison of electrically and light-evoked EJPs demonstrates that the amplitudes and time courses of light-evoked EJPs are not significantly different from those generated by electrical nerve stimulation. These exercises introduce students to new genetic technology for remotely manipulating neural activity, and they simplify the process of recording EJPs at the "Drosophila" larval NMJ. Relatively little research work has been done using ChR2 in "Drosophila," so students have opportunities to test novel hypotheses and make tangible contributions to the scientific record. Qualitative and quantitative assessment of student experiences suggest that these exercises help convey principles of synaptic transmission while also promoting integrative and inquiry-based studies of genetics, cellular physiology, and animal behavior. (Contains 7 figures, 1 table, and 1 footnote.)
American Physiological Society. 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20814-3991. Tel: 301-634-7164; Fax: 301-634-7241; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A