Optogenetics: a new enlightenment age for zebrafish neurobiology

Dev Neurobiol. 2012 Mar;72(3):404-14. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20914.


Zebrafish became a model of choice for neurobiology because of the transparency of its brain and because of its amenability to genetic manipulation. In particular, at early stages of development the intact larva is an ideal system to apply optical techniques for deep imaging in the nervous system, as well as genetically encoded tools for targeting subsets of neurons and monitoring and manipulating their activity. For these applications,new genetically encoded optical tools, fluorescent sensors, and light-gated channels have been generated,creating the field of "optogenetics." It is now possible to monitor and control neuronal activity with minimal perturbation and unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution.We describe here the main achievements that have occurred in the last decade in imaging and manipulating neuronal activity in intact zebrafish larvae. We provide also examples of functional dissection of neuronal circuits achieved with the applications of these techniques in the visual and locomotor systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Techniques / trends*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Imaging / trends*
  • Nerve Net / chemistry
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Opsins / physiology
  • Optical Phenomena*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Opsins