Anion-conducting channelrhodopsins with tuned spectra and modified kinetics engineered for optogenetic manipulation of behavior

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 2;7(1):14957. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14330-y.


Genetic engineering of natural light-gated ion channels has proven a powerful way to generate optogenetic tools for a wide variety of applications. In recent years, blue-light activated engineered anion-conducting channelrhodopsins (eACRs) have been developed, improved, and were successfully applied in vivo. We asked whether the approaches used to create eACRs can be transferred to other well-characterized cation-conducting channelrhodopsins (CCRs) to obtain eACRs with a broad spectrum of biophysical properties. We generated 22 variants using two conversion strategies applied to 11 CCRs and screened them for membrane expression, photocurrents and anion selectivity. We obtained two novel eACRs, Phobos and Aurora, with blue- and red-shifted action spectra and photocurrents similar to existing eACRs. Furthermore, step-function mutations greatly enhanced the cellular operational light sensitivity due to a slowed-down photocycle. These bi-stable eACRs can be reversibly toggled between open and closed states with brief light pulses of different wavelengths. All new eACRs reliably inhibited action potential firing in pyramidal CA1 neurons. In Drosophila larvae, eACRs conveyed robust and specific light-dependent inhibition of locomotion and nociception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Anions / metabolism*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / metabolism
  • Channelrhodopsins / genetics*
  • Channelrhodopsins / metabolism
  • Drosophila
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Mutation
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Optogenetics / methods*
  • Protein Engineering / methods*


  • Anions
  • Channelrhodopsins