Optical Spike Detection and Connectivity Analysis With a Far-Red Voltage-Sensitive Fluorophore Reveals Changes to Network Connectivity in Development and Disease

Alison S Walker, Benjamin K Raliski, Kaveh Karbasi, Patrick Zhang, Kate Sanders, Evan W Miller

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2021.



The ability to optically record dynamics of neuronal membrane potential promises to revolutionize our understanding of neurobiology. In this study, we show that the far-red voltage sensitive fluorophore, Berkeley Red Sensor of Transmembrane potential −1, or BeRST 1, can be used to monitor neuronal membrane potential changes across dozens of neurons at a sampling rate of 500 Hz. Notably, voltage imaging with BeRST 1 can be implemented with affordable, commercially available illumination sources, optics, and detectors. BeRST 1 is well-tolerated in cultures of rat hippocampal neurons and provides exceptional optical recording fidelity, as judged by dual fluorescence imaging and patch-clamp electrophysiology. We developed a semi-automated spike-picking program to reduce user bias when calling action potentials and used this in conjunction with BeRST 1 to develop an optical spike and connectivity analysis workflow (OSCA) for high-throughput dissection of neuronal activity dynamics in development and disease. The high temporal resolution of BeRST 1 enables dissection of firing rate changes in response to acute, pharmacological interventions with commonly used inhibitors like gabazine and picrotoxin. Over longer periods of time, BeRST 1 also tracks chronic perturbations to neurons exposed to amyloid beta (Aβ1-42), revealing modest changes to spiking frequency but profound changes to overall network connectivity. Finally, we use OSCA to track changes in neuronal connectivity during development, providing a functional readout of network assembly. We envision that use of BeRST 1 and OSCA described here will be of use to the broad neuroscience community.