Basic Medicine, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neuroscience

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Shedding Light in the Blackbox of Neuroscience

Medical Sciences Course

  • Master / Doctoral Degree

Faculty

*Concurrent Position

Research Theme

  • Understanding the mechanisms which govern synapse formation and reconstruction
  • Manipulating cellular function using optogenetics
  • Understanding the neural interpretation of tactile patterns
Research Keywords:

optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, synapse, tactile pattern, network reorganization

Technical Keywords:

optogenetics, Ca<SUP>2+</SUP> imaging, molecular biology, electrophysiology, patch clamp

Laboratory Introduction

We developed the first technology in the world able to control the activity of nerve cells using light by genetically engineering the nerve cells to express channelrhodopsin, an algal photoreceptive molecule from Chlamydomonas (patent application no. 2005-34529: submitted Feb. 10, 2005). We are researching the structure of channelrhodopsin and elucidated the structure which are involved in membrane expression, absorption wavelength, and channel characteristics (J Biol Chem 2009; Photochem Photobiol Sci, 2009; PLoS ONE, 2010; Neurosci Res, 2012; PLoS ONE, 2015; Nature, 2015). We created transgenic rats able to perceive light hitting their skin as a tactile sensation (PLoS ONE, 2009; 2012). We improved a method of electroporation and established a technique for expressing a combination of various gene products in the calyx presynaptic terminals in chicken embryos (PLoS ONE, 2013).
We are elucidating at the molecular level the mechanisms underlying nerve cell network changes caused by the environment and experience during development and adulthood of organisms. In addition, we are striving to understand the neural expression of tactile patterns using transgenic rats able to perceive light hitting their skin as a tactile sensation. By applying the results of such fundamental research, we will be able to produce Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) technology which can communicate information directly with the brain using light. Let us challenge this uncharted and stimulating world!

Figure 1. ChR2-expressing neurons (green) in dorsal root ganglion (DRG)

Figure 1. ChR2-expressing neurons (green) in dorsal root ganglion (DRG)

Figure 2. Brainbow imaging of presynaptic axons in the developing ciliary ganglion

Figure 2. Brainbow imaging of presynaptic axons in the developing ciliary ganglion

Recent Publications

  • Yawo, H., Asano, T., Sakai, S., Ishizuka, T. (2013) Optogenetic manipulation of neural and non-neural functions. Dev Growth Differ. 55(4):474-490. doi: 10.1111/dgd.12053
  • Kato, H. E., Inoue, K., Abe-Yoshizumi, R., Kato, Y., Ono, H., Konno, M., Ishizuka, T., Hoque, M. R., Hososhima, S., Kunitomo, H., Ito, J., Yoshizawa, S.,Kato, HE., et al. (2015) Structural basis for Na+ transport mechanism by a light-driven Na+ pump. Nature 521, 45-53. doi: 10. 1038/nature 14322.
  • Asano, T., et al. (2015) Optogenetic induction of contractile ability in immature C2C12 myotubes. Sci Reports 5:8317 doi: 10.1038/srep08317
  • Honjoh, T., et al. (2014) Optogenetic patterning of whisker-barrel cortical system in transgenic rat expressing channelrhodopsin-2. PLoS One 9(4), e93706. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093706
  • Egawa, R., et al. (2013) Optogenetic probing and manipulation of the calyx-type presynaptic terminal in the embryonic chick ciliary ganglion. PLoS One 8(3), e59179. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059179