Bali B, Lopez de la Morena D, Mittring A, Mager T, Rankovic V, Huet AT, Moser T
EMBO Molecular Medicine
EMBO Mol Med. 2021 May 7:e13391.
Optogenetic stimulation of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) in the ear provides a future alternative to electrical stimulation used in current cochlear implants. Here, we employed fast and very fast variants of the red-light-activated channelrhodopsin (ChR) Chrimson (f-Chrimson and vf-Chrimson) to study their utility for optogenetic stimulation of SGNs in mice. The light requirements were higher for vf-Chrimson than for f-Chrimson, even when optimizing membrane expression of vf-Chrimson by adding potassium channel trafficking sequences. Optogenetic time and intensity coding by single putative SGNs were compared with coding of acoustic clicks. vf-Chrimson enabled putative SGNs to fire at near-physiological rates with good temporal precision up to 250 Hz of stimulation. The dynamic range of SGN spike rate coding upon optogenetic stimulation was narrower than for acoustic clicks but larger than reported for electrical stimulation. The dynamic range of spike timing, on the other hand, was more comparable for optogenetic and acoustic stimulation. In conclusion, f-Chrimson and vf-Chrimson are promising candidates for optogenetic stimulation of SGNs in auditory research and future cochlear implants.