Identifying the neuronal ensembles that respond to specific stimuli and mapping their projection patterns in living animals are fundamental challenges in neuroscience. To this end, we engineered a synthetic promoter, the enhanced synaptic activity-responsive element (E-SARE), that drives neuronal activity-dependent gene expression more potently than other existing immediate-early gene promoters. Expression of a drug-inducible Cre recombinase downstream of E-SARE enabled imaging of neuronal populations that respond to monocular visual stimulation and tracking of their long-distance thalamocortical projections in living mice. Targeted cell-attached recordings and calcium imaging of neurons in sensory cortices revealed that E-SARE reporter expression correlates with sensory-evoked neuronal activity at the single-cell level and is highly specific to the type of stimuli presented to the animals. This activity-dependent promoter can expand the repertoire of genetic approaches for high-resolution anatomical and functional analysis of neural circuits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology