Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 210355
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

A new tool for studying neurons

A set of molecular tools known as optical switches is revolutionising the way scientists study cellular processes and chemical reactions in cells. EU researchers have created a new optical switch to study how neurons work.
A new tool for studying neurons
To develop effective pharmaceutical treatments, we need to understand the basic processes and functioning of cells. Among the tools used to do that are compounds that scientists can control with light, called optical switches.

Optical switches can be used to remotely target and control particular proteins, parts of cells and even, entire organisms.

Researchers of the EU-funded OPTICALBULLET (Studies of neurosecretion by remote control of exocytosis and endocytosis with light) project developed new optical switches to investigate the processes of secretion and uptake in neurons.

To do this, they used a light-gated glutamate receptor (LiGluR) and developed a new type of optical switch called traffic light peptides. These light-controlled peptides can move across cell membranes, making them useable in living cells.

Traffic light peptides can send 'stop' and 'go' signals across the cell membrane to control the trafficking of vesicles. Vesicles are small, fluid-filled sacs in cells that are involved in moving compounds into and out of cells.

Using LiGluR, the scientists could change the rate at which a neuron fired by shining different colours of light on it.

Other researchers could use these new optical switches to investigate a variety of interactions between proteins and to research therapeutic applications. Because of its specificity in time and space, the method could also be used to remotely control action sites and dosages for drug treatments.

Related information


Neurons, optical switches, OPTICALBULLET, neurosecretion, synapses, traffic light peptides
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