Designing a norepinephrine optical tracer for imaging individual noradrenergic synapses and their activity in vivo

Dunn, Matthew R.; Henke, Adam; Clark, Samuel; Kovalyova, Yekaterina; Kempadoo, Kimberly; Karpowicz, Richard; Kandel, Eric; Sulzer, David L.; Sames, Dalibor

Norepinephrine is a monoamine neurotransmitter with a wide repertoire of physiological roles in the peripheral and central nervous systems. There are, however, no experimental means to study functional properties of individual noradrenergic synapses in the brain. Development of new approaches for imaging synaptic neurotransmission is of fundamental importance to study specific synaptic changes that occur during learning, behavior, and pathological processes. Here, we introduce fluorescent false neurotransmitter 270 (FFN270), a fluorescent tracer of norepinephrine. As a fluorescent substrate of the norepinephrine and vesicular monoamine transporters, FFN270 labels noradrenergic neurons and their synaptic vesicles, and enables imaging synaptic vesicle content release from specific axonal sites in living rodents. Combining FFN270 imaging and optogenetic stimulation, we find heterogeneous release properties of noradrenergic synapses in the somatosensory cortex, including low and high releasing populations. Through systemic amphetamine administration, we observe rapid release of cortical noradrenergic vesicular content, providing insight into the drug’s effect.


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Nature Communications

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October 25, 2018