Our understanding of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in the central nervous system (CNS) has been hampered by the limited availability of tools allowing for the study of their signaling with precise temporal control. To overcome this, we tested the utility of the bistable mammalian opsin melanopsin to examine G protein signaling in CNS neurons. Specifically, we used biolistic (gene gun) approaches to transfect melanopsin into cortical pyramidal cells maintained in organotypic slice culture. Whole cell recordings from transfected neurons indicated that application of blue light effectively activated the transfected melanopsin to elicit the canonical biphasic modulation of membrane excitability previously associated with the activation of GPCRs coupling to Gαq-11. Remarkably, full mimicry of exogenous agonist concentration could be obtained with pulses as short as a few milliseconds, suggesting that their triggering required a single melanopsin activation-deactivation cycle. The resulting temporal control over melanopsin activation allowed us to compare the activation kinetics of different components of the electrophysiological response. We also replaced the intracellular loops of melanopsin with those of the 5-HT2A receptor to create a light-activated GPCR capable of interacting with the 5-HT2A receptor interacting proteins. The resulting chimera expressed weak activity but validated the potential usefulness of melanopsin as a tool for the study of G protein signaling in CNS neurons.
- Gαq-11 signaling
- pyramidal neuron
- 5-HT2A receptor
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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