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Nat Neurosci. 2007 May;10(5):663-8. Epub 2007 Apr 15.

Channelrhodopsin-2-assisted circuit mapping of long-range callosal projections.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus, 19700 Helix Drive, Ashburn, Virginia 20147, USA.


The functions of cortical areas depend on their inputs and outputs, but the detailed circuits made by long-range projections are unknown. We show that the light-gated channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) is delivered to axons in pyramidal neurons in vivo. In brain slices from ChR2-expressing mice, photostimulation of ChR2-positive axons can be transduced reliably into single action potentials. Combining photostimulation with whole-cell recordings of synaptic currents makes it possible to map circuits between presynaptic neurons, defined by ChR2 expression, and postsynaptic neurons, defined by targeted patching. We applied this technique, ChR2-assisted circuit mapping (CRACM), to map long-range callosal projections from layer (L) 2/3 of the somatosensory cortex. L2/3 axons connect with neurons in L5, L2/3 and L6, but not L4, in both ipsilateral and contralateral cortex. In both hemispheres the L2/3-to-L5 projection is stronger than the L2/3-to-L2/3 projection. Our results suggest that laminar specificity may be identical for local and long-range cortical projections.

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