Genetically encoded sensors for Chloride concentration

J Neurosci Methods. 2022 Feb 15;368:109455. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2021.109455. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Insights into chloride regulation in neurons have come slowly, but they are likely to be critical for our understanding of how the brain works. The reason is that the intracellular Cl- level ([Cl-]i) is the key determinant of synaptic inhibitory function, and this in turn dictates all manner of neuronal network function. The true impact on the network will only be apparent, however, if Cl- is measured at many locations at once (multiple neurons, and also across the subcellular compartments of single neurons), which realistically, can only be achieved using imaging. The development of genetically-encoded anion biosensors (GABs) brings the additional benefit that Cl- imaging may be done in identified cell-classes and hopefully in subcellular compartments. Here, we describe the historical background and motivation behind the development of these sensors and how they have been used so far. There are, however, still major limitations for their use, the most important being the fact that all GABs are sensitive to both pH and Cl-. Disambiguating the two signals has proved a major challenge, but there are potential solutions; notable among these is ClopHensor, which has now been developed for in vivo measurements of both ion species. We also speculate on how these biosensors may yet be improved, and how this could advance our understanding of Cl- regulation and its impact on brain function.

Keywords: 2-photon. Neuronal excitability. Chloride imaging. Fluorescent proteins; Functional optical imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Chlorides*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Neurons*


  • Chlorides