Remote and reversible inhibition of neurons and circuits by small molecule induced potassium channel stabilization
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 19293, doi:10.1038/srep19293
Manipulating the function of neurons and circuits that translate electrical and chemical signals into behavior represents a major challenges in neuroscience. In addition to optogenetic methods using light-activatable channels, pharmacogenetic methods with ligand induced modulation of cell signaling and excitability have been developed. However, they are largely based on ectopic expression of exogenous or chimera proteins. Now, we describe the remote and reversible expression of a Kir2.1 type potassium channel using the chemogenetic technique of small molecule induced protein stabilization. Based on shield1-mediated shedding of a destabilizing domain fused to a protein of interest and inhibition of protein degradation, this principle has been adopted for biomedicine, but not in neuroscience so far. Here, we apply this chemogenetic approach in brain research for the first time in order to control a potassium channel in a remote and reversible manner. We could show that shield1-mediated ectopic Kir2.1 stabilization induces neuronal silencing in vitro and in vivo in the mouse brain. We also validated this novel pharmacogenetic method in different neurobehavioral paradigms.The DD-Kir2.1 may complement the existing portfolio of pharmaco- and optogenetic techniques for specific neuron manipulation, but it may also provide an example for future applications of this principle in neuroscience research.