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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e41434. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041434. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Two-photon compatibility and single-voxel, single-trial detection of subthreshold neuronal activity by a two-component optical voltage sensor.

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  • 1Unit of Dynamic Neuronal Imaging, Department of Neuroscience, Paris, France.


Minimally invasive measurements of neuronal activity are essential for understanding how signal processing is performed by neuronal networks. While optical strategies for making such measurements hold great promise, optical sensors generally lack the speed and sensitivity necessary to record neuronal activity on a single-trial, single-neuron basis. Here we present additional biophysical characterization and practical improvements of a two-component optical voltage sensor (2cVoS), comprised of the neuronal tracer dye, DiO, and dipicrylamine (DiO/DPA). Using laser spot illumination we demonstrate that membrane potential-dependent fluorescence changes can be obtained in a wide variety of cell types within brain slices. We show a correlation between membrane labeling and the sensitivity of the magnitude of fluorescence signal, such that neurons with the brightest membrane labeling yield the largest ΔF/F values per action potential (AP; ∼40%). By substituting a blue-shifted donor for DiO we confirm that DiO/DPA works, at least in part, via a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) mechanism. We also describe a straightforward iontophoretic method for labeling multiple neurons with DiO and show that DiO/DPA is compatible with two-photon (2P) imaging. Finally, exploiting the high sensitivity of DiO/DPA, we demonstrate AP-induced fluorescence transients (fAPs) recorded from single spines of hippocampal pyramidal neurons and single-trial measurements of subthreshold synaptic inputs to granule cell dendrites. Our findings suggest that the 2cVoS, DiO/DPA, enables optical measurements of trial-to-trial voltage fluctuations with very high spatial and temporal resolution, properties well suited for monitoring electrical signals from multiple neurons within intact neuronal networks.

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