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Design and characterization of a DNA-encoded, voltage-sensitive fluorescent protein


: Dr Thomas Knöpfel, as above.


Optical imaging of electrical activity has been suggested as a promising approach to investigate the multineuronal representation of information processing in brain tissue. While considerable progress has been made in the development of instrumentation suitable for high-speed imaging, intrinsic or extrinsic dye-mediated optical signals are often of limited use due to their slow response dynamics, low effective sensitivity, toxicity or undefined cellular origin. Protein-based and DNA-encoded voltage sensors could overcome these limitations. Here we report the design and generation of a voltage-sensitive fluorescent protein (VSFP) consisting of a voltage sensing domain of a potassium channel and a pair of cyan and yellow emitting mutants of green fluorescent protein (GFP). In response to a change in transmembrane voltage, the voltage sensor alters the amount of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between the pair of GFP mutants. The optical signals respond in the millisecond time-scale of fast electrical signalling and are large enough to allow monitoring of voltage changes at the single cell level.