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J Neurosci. 2004 Oct 27;24(43):9572-9.

Monitoring neural activity and [Ca2+] with genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 11724, USA.


Genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators (GECIs) based on fluorescent proteins (XFPs) and Ca2+-binding proteins [like calmodulin (CaM)] have great potential for the study of subcellular Ca2+ signaling and for monitoring activity in populations of neurons. However, interpreting GECI fluorescence in terms of neural activity and cytoplasmic-free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]) is complicated by the nonlinear interactions between Ca2+ binding and GECI fluorescence. We have characterized GECIs in pyramidal neurons in cultured hippocampal brain slices, focusing on indicators based on circularly permuted XFPs [GCaMP (Nakai et al., 2001), Camgaroo2 (Griesbeck et al., 2001), and Inverse Pericam (Nagai et al., 2001)]. Measurements of fluorescence changes evoked by trains of action potentials revealed that GECIs have little sensitivity at low action potential frequencies compared with synthetic [Ca2+] indicators with similar affinities for Ca2+. The sensitivity of GECIs improved for high-frequency trains of action potentials, indicating that GECIs are supralinear indicators of neural activity. Simultaneous measurement of GECI fluorescence and [Ca2+] revealed supralinear relationships. We compared GECI fluorescence saturation with CaM Ca2+-dependent structural transitions. Our data suggest that GCaMP and Camgaroo2 report CaM structural transitions in the presence and absence of CaM-binding peptide, respectively.

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