Genetic labeling of neurons with a specific response feature is an emerging technology for precise dissection of brain circuits that are functionally heterogeneous at the single-cell level. While immediate early gene mapping has been widely used for decades to identify brain regions which are activated by external stimuli, recent characterization of the promoter and enhancer elements responsible for neuronal activity-dependent transcription have opened new avenues for live imaging of active neurons. Indeed, these advancements provided the basis for a growing repertoire of novel experiments to address the role of active neuronal networks in cognitive behaviors. In this review, we summarize the current literature on the usage and development of activity-dependent promoters and discuss the future directions of this expanding new field.
Keywords: Arc; E-SARE; activity-dependent gene expression; c-fos; live imaging; neuronal ensemble.