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Methods for optical measurement of voltage dynamics in living cells are attractive because they provide spatial resolution surpassing traditional electrode-based measurements and temporal resolution exceeding that of widely used Ca imaging. Chemically synthesized voltage-sensitive dyes that use photoinduced electron transfer as a voltage-sensing trigger offer high voltage sensitivity and fast-response kinetics, but targeting chemical indicators to specific cells remains an outstanding challenge. Here, we present a new family of readily functionalizable, fluorescein-based voltage-sensitive fluorescent dyes (sarcosine-VoltageFluors) that can be covalently attached to a genetically encoded cell surface receptor to achieve voltage imaging from genetically defined neurons. We synthesized four new VoltageFluor derivatives that possess carboxylic acid functionality for simple conjugation to flexible tethers. The best of this new group of dyes was conjugated via a polyethylene glycol (PEG) linker to a small peptide (SpyTag, 13 amino acids) that directs binding and formation of a covalent bond with its binding partner, SpyCatcher (15 kDa). The new VoltageSpy dyes effectively label cells expressing cell-surface SpyCatcher, display good voltage sensitivity, and maintain fast-response kinetics. In cultured neurons, VoltageSpy dyes enable robust, single-trial optical detection of action potentials at neuronal soma with sensitivity exceeding genetically encoded voltage indicators. Importantly, genetic targeting of chemically synthesized dyes enables VoltageSpy to report on action potentials in axons and dendrites in single trials, tens to hundreds of micrometers away from the cell body. Genetic targeting of synthetic voltage indicators with VoltageSpy enables voltage imaging with low nanomolar dye concentration and offers a promising method for allying the speed and sensitivity of synthetic indicators with the enhanced cellular resolution of genetically encoded probes.
PMID: 30628785 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]