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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 16;3(4):e2005. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002005.

High-resolution labeling and functional manipulation of specific neuron types in mouse brain by Cre-activated viral gene expression.

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  • 1Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States of America.

Abstract

We describe a method that combines Cre-recombinase knockin mice and viral-mediated gene transfer to genetically label and functionally manipulate specific neuron types in the mouse brain. We engineered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) that express GFP, dsRedExpress, or channelrhodopsin (ChR2) upon Cre/loxP recombination-mediated removal of a transcription-translation STOP cassette. Fluorescent labeling was sufficient to visualize neuronal structures with synaptic resolution in vivo, and ChR2 expression allowed light activation of neuronal spiking. The structural dynamics of a specific class of neocortical neuron, the parvalbumin-containing (Pv) fast-spiking GABAergic interneuron, was monitored over the course of a week. We found that although the majority of Pv axonal boutons were stable in young adults, bouton additions and subtractions on axonal shafts were readily observed at a rate of 10.10% and 9.47%, respectively, over 7 days. Our results indicate that Pv inhibitory circuits maintain the potential for structural re-wiring in post-adolescent cortex. With the generation of an increasing number of Cre knockin mice and because viral transfection can be delivered to defined brain regions at defined developmental stages, this strategy represents a general method to systematically visualize the structure and manipulate the function of different cell types in the mouse brain.

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