Optogenetics is an extremely powerful tool for selective neuronal activation/inhibition and dissection of neural circuits. However, a limitation of in vivo optogenetics is that an animal must be tethered to an optical fiber for delivery of light. Here, we describe a new method for in vivo, optogenetic inhibition of neural activity using an internal, animal-generated light source based on firefly luciferase. Two adeno-associated viruses encoding luciferase were tested and both produced concentration-dependent light after administration of the substrate, luciferin. Mice were co-infected with halorhodopsin- and luciferase-expressing viruses in the striatum, and luciferin administration significantly reduced Fos activity compared to control animals infected with halorhodopsin only. Recordings of neuronal activity in behaving animals confirmed that firing was greatly reduced after luciferin administration. Finally, amphetamine-induced locomotor activity was reduced in halorhodopsin/luciferase mice pre-injected with luciferin compared to controls. This demonstrates that virally encoded luciferase is able to generate sufficient light to activate halorhodopsin and suppress neural activity and change behavior. This approach could be used to generate inhibition in response to activation of specific molecular pathways.
Keywords: amphetamine; dopamine; luciferase; optogenetics; striatum.