A Molecular Calcium Integrator Reveals a Striatal Cell Type Driving Aversion

Cell. 2020 Dec 23;183(7):2003-2019.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.015. Epub 2020 Dec 11.


The ability to record transient cellular events in the DNA or RNA of cells would enable precise, large-scale analysis, selection, and reprogramming of heterogeneous cell populations. Here, we report a molecular technology for stable genetic tagging of cells that exhibit activity-related increases in intracellular calcium concentration (FLiCRE). We used FLiCRE to transcriptionally label activated neural ensembles in the nucleus accumbens of the mouse brain during brief stimulation of aversive inputs. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we detected FLiCRE transcripts among the endogenous transcriptome, providing simultaneous readout of both cell-type and calcium activation history. We identified a cell type in the nucleus accumbens activated downstream of long-range excitatory projections. Taking advantage of FLiCRE's modular design, we expressed an optogenetic channel selectively in this cell type and showed that direct recruitment of this otherwise genetically inaccessible population elicits behavioral aversion. The specificity and minute resolution of FLiCRE enables molecularly informed characterization, manipulation, and reprogramming of activated cellular ensembles.

Keywords: aversion; calcium; light; neural activity; optogenetics; single-cell RNA sequencing; striatum; transcription factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Optogenetics
  • Rats
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Calcium