Development and application of inhibitory luminopsins for the treatment of epilepsy
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Optogenetics has shown great promise as a direct neuromodulatory tool for halting seizure activity in various animal models of epilepsy. However, light delivery into the brain is still a major practical challenge that needs to be addressed before future clinical translation is feasible. Not only does light delivery into the brain require surgically implanted hardware that can be both invasive and restrictive, but it is also difficult to illuminate large or complicated structures in the brain due to light scatter and attenuation. We have bypassed the challenges of external light delivery by directly coupling a bioluminescent light source (a genetically encoded Renilla luciferase) to an inhibitory opsin (Natronomonas halorhodopsin) as a single fusion protein, which we term an inhibitory luminopsin (iLMO). iLMOs were developed and characterized in vitro and in vivo using intracellular recordings, multielectrode arrays, and behavioral testing. iLMO2 was shown to generate hyperpolarizing outward currents in response to both external light and luciferase substrate, which was sufficient to suppress action potential firing and synchronous bursting activity in vitro. iLMO2 was further shown to suppress single-unit firing rate and local field potentials in the hippocampus of anesthetized and awake animals. Finally, expression of iLMO was scaled up to multiple structures of the basal ganglia to modulate rotational behavior of freely moving animals in a hardware-independent fashion. iLMO2 was further utilized to acutely suppress focal epileptic discharges induced by intracerebral injection of bicuculline and generalized seizures resulting from systemic administration of pentylenetetrazol. Inhibitory luminopsins have enabled the possibility of optogenetic inhibition of neural activity in a non-invasive and hardware-independent fashion. This work increases the versatility, scalability, and practicality of utilizing optogenetic approaches for halting seizure activity in vivo.