Thermogenetic neurostimulation with single-cell resolution

Nat Commun. 2017 May 22;8:15362. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15362.


Thermogenetics is a promising innovative neurostimulation technique, which enables robust activation of neurons using thermosensitive transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels. Broader application of this approach in neuroscience is, however, hindered by a limited variety of suitable ion channels, and by low spatial and temporal resolution of neuronal activation when TRP channels are activated by ambient temperature variations or chemical agonists. Here, we demonstrate rapid, robust and reproducible repeated activation of snake TRPA1 channels heterologously expressed in non-neuronal cells, mouse neurons and zebrafish neurons in vivo by infrared (IR) laser radiation. A fibre-optic probe that integrates a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) diamond quantum sensor with optical and microwave waveguide delivery enables thermometry with single-cell resolution, allowing neurons to be activated by exceptionally mild heating, thus preventing the damaging effects of excessive heat. The neuronal responses to the activation by IR laser radiation are fully characterized using Ca2+ imaging and electrophysiology, providing, for the first time, a complete framework for a thermogenetic manipulation of individual neurons using IR light.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Ions
  • Lasers
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microwaves
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Snakes
  • Thermogenesis*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / physiology*
  • Zebrafish


  • Ions
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • Calcium