Maintenance of optogenetic channel rhodopsin (ChR2) function in aging mice: Implications for pharmacological studies of inhibitory synaptic transmission, quantal content, and calcium homeostasis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Disruption of synaptic function is believed to represent a common pathway contributing to cognitive decline during aging. Optogenetics is a prodigious tool for studying relationships between function and synaptic circuitry but models utilizing viral vectors present limitations. Careful characterization of the functionality of channel rhodopsin in transgenic models is crucial for determining whether they can be used across aging. This includes verifying the light sensitivity of the protein and confirming its ability to generate action potentials in response to light stimulation. We combined in vitro optogenetic methodology and a reduced synaptic preparation of acutely isolated neurons to determine if the ChR2(H134R)-eYFP vGAT mouse model is well-suited for aging studies. We used neurons from young (2-6mo), middle-aged (10-14mo) and aged (17-25mo) bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mouse line with stable expression of the channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) variant H134R in GABAergic cell populations. Cellular physiology and calcium dynamics were assessed in basal forebrain (BF) neurons using patch-clamp recording and fura-2 microfluorimetry, alongside 470nm light stimulation of the transgenic ChR2 channel to characterize a wide array of physiological functions known to decline with age. We found ChR2 expression is functionally maintained across aging, while spontaneous and optically evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents, and quantal content were decreased. Aged mice also showed an increase in intracellular calcium buffering. These results, which are on par with previous observations, demonstrate that the optogenetic vGAT BAC mouse model is well-suited for investigating age-related changes in calcium signaling and synaptic transmission.

published proceedings

  • Neuropharmacology

author list (cited authors)

  • DuBois, D. W., Murchison, D. A., Mahnke, A. H., Bang, E., Winzer-Serhan, U., Griffith, W. H., & Souza, K. A.

complete list of authors

  • DuBois, Dustin W||Murchison, David A||Mahnke, Amanda H||Bang, Eunyoung||Winzer-Serhan, Ursula||Griffith, William H||Souza, Karienn A

publication date

  • November 2023