Oxygen imaging of hypoxic pockets in the mouse cerebral cortex

Science. 2024 Mar 29;383(6690):1471-1478. doi: 10.1126/science.adn1011. Epub 2024 Mar 28.


Consciousness is lost within seconds upon cessation of cerebral blood flow. The brain cannot store oxygen, and interruption of oxidative phosphorylation is fatal within minutes. Yet only rudimentary knowledge exists regarding cortical partial oxygen tension (Po2) dynamics under physiological conditions. Here we introduce Green enhanced Nano-lantern (GeNL), a genetically encoded bioluminescent oxygen indicator for Po2 imaging. In awake behaving mice, we uncover the existence of spontaneous, spatially defined "hypoxic pockets" and demonstrate their linkage to the abrogation of local capillary flow. Exercise reduced the burden of hypoxic pockets by 52% compared with rest. The study provides insight into cortical oxygen dynamics in awake behaving animals and concurrently establishes a tool to delineate the importance of oxygen tension in physiological processes and neurological diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex* / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex* / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hypercapnia / blood
  • Hypercapnia / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypercapnia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia, Brain* / blood
  • Hypoxia, Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypoxia, Brain* / metabolism
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Luminescent Measurements* / methods
  • Mice
  • Oxygen Saturation*
  • Oxygen* / blood
  • Oxygen* / metabolism
  • Partial Pressure
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Vasodilation


  • Oxygen
  • Luciferases
  • nanoluc
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins