ATLAS: A rationally designed anterograde transsynaptic tracer

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Sep 13:2023.09.12.557425. doi: 10.1101/2023.09.12.557425.


Neural circuits, which constitute the substrate for brain processing, can be traced in the retrograde direction, from postsynaptic to presynaptic cells, using methods based on introducing modified rabies virus into genetically marked cell types. These methods have revolutionized the field of neuroscience. However, similarly reliable, transsynaptic, and non-toxic methods to trace circuits in the anterograde direction are not available. Here, we describe such a method based on an antibody-like protein selected against the extracellular N-terminus of the AMPA receptor subunit GluA1 (AMPA.FingR). ATLAS (Anterograde Transsynaptic Label based on Antibody-like Sensors) is engineered to release the AMPA.FingR and its payload, which can include Cre recombinase, from presynaptic sites into the synaptic cleft, after which it binds to GluA1, enters postsynaptic cells through endocytosis and subsequently carries its payload to the nucleus. Testing in vivo and in dissociated cultures shows that ATLAS mediates monosynaptic tracing from genetically determined cells that is strictly anterograde, synaptic, and non-toxic. Moreover, ATLAS shows activity dependence, which may make tracing active circuits that underlie specific behaviors possible.

Publication types

  • Preprint