Transgenic mouse models enabling photolabeling of individual neurons in vivo

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 23;8(4):e62132. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062132. Print 2013.


One of the biggest tasks in neuroscience is to explain activity patterns of individual neurons during behavior by their cellular characteristics and their connectivity within the neuronal network. To greatly facilitate linking in vivo experiments with a more detailed molecular or physiological analysis in vitro, we have generated and characterized genetically modified mice expressing photoactivatable GFP (PA-GFP) that allow conditional photolabeling of individual neurons. Repeated photolabeling at the soma reveals basic morphological features due to diffusion of activated PA-GFP into the dendrites. Neurons photolabeled in vivo can be re-identified in acute brain slices and targeted for electrophysiological recordings. We demonstrate the advantages of PA-GFP expressing mice by the correlation of in vivo firing rates of individual neurons with their expression levels of the immediate early gene c-fos. Generally, the mouse models described in this study enable the combination of various analytical approaches to characterize living cells, also beyond the neurosciences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Order
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins

Grant support

This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): P21930-B09 (M.P.), HFSP long-term fellowship (B.B.), GABBA PhD program (B.F.) and the Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.