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Review Article

Exp Neurobiol 2016; 25(5): 205-221

Published online October 31, 2016

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Optogenetic and Chemogenetic Approaches for Studying Astrocytes and Gliotransmitters

Juwon Bang, Hak Yeong Kim and Hyosang Lee*

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, DGIST, Daegu 42988, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 82-53-785-6147, FAX: 82-53-785-6109

Received: August 11, 2016; Revised: August 19, 2016; Accepted: August 19, 2016


The brain consists of heterogeneous populations of neuronal and non-neuronal cells. The revelation of their connections and interactions is fundamental to understanding normal brain functions as well as abnormal changes in pathological conditions. Optogenetics and chemogenetics have been developed to allow functional manipulations both in vitro and in vivo to examine causal relationships between cellular changes and functional outcomes. These techniques are based on genetically encoded effector molecules that respond exclusively to exogenous stimuli, such as a certain wavelength of light or a synthetic ligand. Activation of effector molecules provokes diverse intracellular changes, such as an influx or efflux of ions, depolarization or hyperpolarization of membranes, and activation of intracellular signaling cascades. Optogenetics and chemogenetics have been applied mainly to the study of neuronal circuits, but their use in studying non-neuronal cells has been gradually increasing. Here we introduce recent studies that have employed optogenetics and chemogenetics to reveal the function of astrocytes and gliotransmitters.

Keywords: optogenetics, chemogenetics, astrocytes, channelrhodopsin, DREADD, gliotransmitter