Optogenetic long-term manipulation of behavior and animal development

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 20;6(4):e18766. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018766.


Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) is widely used for rapid photodepolarization of neurons, yet, as it requires high-intensity blue light for activation, it is not suited for long-term in vivo applications, e.g. for manipulations of behavior, or photoactivation of neurons during development. We used "slow" ChR2 variants with mutations in the C128 residue, that exhibit delayed off-kinetics and increased light sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Following a 1 s light pulse, we could photodepolarize neurons and muscles for minutes (and with repeated brief stimulation, up to days) with low-intensity light. Photoactivation of ChR2(C128S) in command interneurons elicited long-lasting alterations in locomotion. Finally, we could optically induce profound changes in animal development: Long-term photoactivation of ASJ neurons, which regulate larval growth, bypassed the constitutive entry into the "dauer" larval state in daf-11 mutants. These lack a guanylyl cyclase, which possibly renders ASJ neurons hyperpolarized. Furthermore, photostimulated ASJ neurons could acutely trigger dauer-exit. Thus, slow ChR2s can be employed to long-term photoactivate behavior and to trigger alternative animal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology*
  • Light
  • Locomotion
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rhodopsin / genetics
  • Rhodopsin / physiology*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Rhodopsin