Ultrasensitive fluorescent proteins for imaging neuronal activity

Tsai-Wen Chen, Trevor J Wardill, Yi Sun, Stefan R Pulver, Sabine L Renninger, Amy Baohan, Eric R Schreiter, Rex A Kerr, Michael B Orger, Vivek Jayaraman, Loren L Looger, Karel Svoboda, Douglas S Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2907 Citations (Scopus)


Fluorescent calcium sensors are widely used to image neural activity. Using structure-based mutagenesis and neuron-based screening, we developed a family of ultrasensitive protein calcium sensors (GCaMP6) that outperformed other sensors in cultured neurons and in zebrafish, flies and mice in vivo. In layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of the mouse visual cortex, GCaMP6 reliably detected single action potentials in neuronal somata and orientation-tuned synaptic calcium transients in individual dendritic spines. The orientation tuning of structurally persistent spines was largely stable over timescales of weeks. Orientation tuning averaged across spine populations predicted the tuning of their parent cell. Although the somata of GABAergic neurons showed little orientation tuning, their dendrites included highly tuned dendritic segments (5-40-µm long). GCaMP6 sensors thus provide new windows into the organization and dynamics of neural circuits over multiple spatial and temporal scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
Issue number7458
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2013


  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Calcium
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Spines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • GABAergic Neurons
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Mice
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Mutagenesis
  • Protein Engineering
  • Pyramidal Cells
  • Visual Cortex


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