Diverse and flexible cortical functions rely on the ability of neural circuits to perform multiple types of neuronal computations. GABAergic inhibitory interneurons significantly contribute to this task by regulating the balance of activity, synaptic integration, spiking, synchrony, and oscillation in a neural ensemble. GABAergic interneurons display a high degree of cellular diversity in morphology, physiology, connectivity, and gene expression. A considerable number of subtypes of GABAergic interneurons diversify modes of cortical inhibition, enabling various types of information processing in the cortex. Thus, comprehensively understanding fate specification, circuit assembly, and physiological function of GABAergic interneurons is a key to elucidate the principles of cortical wiring and function. Recent advances in genetically encoded molecular tools have made a breakthrough to systematically study cortical circuitry at the molecular, cellular, circuit, and whole animal levels. However, the biggest obstacle to fully applying the power of these to analysis of GABAergic circuits was that there were no efficient and reliable methods to express them in subtypes of GABAergic interneurons. Here, I first summarize cortical interneuron diversity and current understanding of mechanisms, by which distinct classes of GABAergic interneurons are generated. I then review recent development in genetically encoded molecular tools for neural circuit research, and genetic targeting of GABAergic interneuron subtypes, particularly focusing on our recent effort to develop and characterize Cre/CreER knockin lines. Finally, I highlight recent success in genetic targeting of chandelier cells, the most unique and distinct GABAergic interneuron subtype, and discuss what kind of questions need to be addressed to understand development and function of cortical inhibitory circuits.
Keywords: Cre drivers; GABA; chandelier cell; cortical circuit; gene targeting; genetic fate mapping; inhibitory interneurons.