ChR2 transgenic animals in peripheral sensory system: Sensing light as various sensations

Life Sci. 2016 Apr 1;150:95-102. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2016.02.057. Epub 2016 Feb 21.


Since the introduction of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to neuroscience, optogenetics technology was developed, making it possible to activate specific neurons or circuits with spatial and temporal precision. Various ChR2 transgenic animal models have been generated and are playing important roles in revealing the mechanisms of neural activities, mapping neural circuits, controlling the behaviors of animals as well as exploring new strategy for treating the neurological diseases in both central and peripheral nervous system. An animal including humans senses environments through Aristotle's five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch). Usually, each sense is associated with a kind of sensory organ (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). Is it possible that one could hear light, smell light, taste light and touch light? When ChR2 is targeted to different peripheral sensory neurons by viral vectors or generating ChR2 transgenic animals, the animals can sense the light as various sensations such as hearing, touch, pain, smell and taste. In this review, we focus on ChR2 transgenic animals in the peripheral nervous system. Firstly the working principle of ChR2 as an optogenetic actuator is simply described. Then the current transgenic animal lines where ChR2 was expressed in peripheral sensory neurons are presented and the findings obtained by these animal models are reviewed.

Keywords: ChR2; Neurological diseases; Optogenetics; Peripheral nervous system; Sensations; Transgenic animals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Channelrhodopsins
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Optogenetics
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*
  • Sensation / genetics*
  • Sensation / physiology


  • Channelrhodopsins