The proof of concept for bioluminescence monitoring of neural activity in zebrafish with the genetically encoded calcium indicator GFP-aequorin has been previously described (Naumann et al., 2010) but challenges remain. First, bioluminescence signals originating from a single muscle fiber can constitute a major pitfall. Second, bioluminescence signals emanating from neurons only are very small. To improve signals while verifying specificity, we provide an optimized 4 steps protocol achieving: 1) selective expression of a zebrafish codon-optimized GFP-aequorin, 2) efficient soaking of larvae in GFP-aequorin substrate coelenterazine, 3) bioluminescence monitoring of neural activity from motor neurons in free-tailed moving animals performing acoustic escapes and 4) verification of the absence of muscle expression using immunohistochemistry.
Keywords: Bioluminescence; Coelenterazine; Escape response; GFP-aequorin-opt; Zebrafish.