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    Neuronal computation is achieved through connections of individual neurons into a larger network. To expand the repertoire of endogenous cellular communication, we developed a synthetic, photon-assisted synaptic transmission (PhAST) system. PhAST is based on luciferases and channelrhodopsins that enable the transmission of a neuronal state across space, using photons as neurotransmitters. PhAST overcomes synaptic barriers and rescues the behavioral deficit of a glutamate mutant with conditional, calcium-triggered photon emission between two neurons of the Caenorhabditis elegans nociceptive avoidance circuit. To demonstrate versatility and flexibility, we generated de novo synaptic transmission between two unconnected cells in a sexually dimorphic neuronal circuit, suppressed endogenous nocifensive response through activation of an anion channelrhodopsin and switched attractive to aversive behavior in an olfactory circuit. Finally, we applied PhAST to dissect the calcium dynamics of the temporal pattern generator in a motor circuit for ovipositioning. In summary, we established photon-based synaptic transmission that facilitates the modification of animal behavior. © 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.


    Montserrat Porta-de-la-Riva, Adriana Carolina Gonzalez, Neus Sanfeliu-Cerdán, Shadi Karimi, Nawaphat Malaiwong, Aleksandra Pidde, Luis-Felipe Morales-Curiel, Pablo Fernandez, Sara González-Bolívar, Cedric Hurth, Michael Krieg. Neural engineering with photons as synaptic transmitters. Nature methods. 2023 May;20(5):761-769

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    PMID: 37024651

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