In the field of neuroscience, the study of neurotransmitters plays a pivotal role in understanding brain function and unraveling the complexities of neurological disorders. Neurotransmitters are crucial chemical messengers that facilitate communication between neurons. To gain insights into their dynamics and elucidate their roles, researchers rely on a diverse range of tools for monitoring neurotransmitters and neuromodulations.
Here, Creative Biolabs explores the advancements and applications of these tools, highlighting their significance in unraveling the mysteries of the brain.
Common Methods for Monitoring Neurotransmitters
Electrochemical methods: Electrochemical sensors, such as microelectrodes, have enabled real-time detection of neurotransmitter release. These sensors can measure concentrations of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate with high sensitivity.
Optical imaging techniques: Techniques such as fluorescence imaging, two-photon microscopy, and optogenetics have opened new avenues for studying neurotransmitter release and neuronal activity. Fluorescent dyes and indicators allow visualization of neurotransmitter concentration changes in real time.
Mass spectrometry: Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) techniques enable precise quantification and identification of neurotransmitters and their metabolites.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) allows non-invasive measurement of neurotransmitters in specific brain regions.
Nanotechnology-based approaches: Nanoparticles and nanowires functionalized with specific receptors or enzymes enable targeted neurotransmitter monitoring, facilitating the study of synaptic communication and neurochemical signaling.
Biosensors and microfluidic devices: These devices integrate sensing elements with microfluidic channels, enabling continuous monitoring of neurotransmitter release in a controlled environment.
Use of Neurotransmitter Probes
Compared to conventional methods, fluorescence imaging methods typically have higher spatial and temporal resolutions and are less invasive, making them more suitable for measuring dynamic changes in neurotransmitters. Genetically encoded fluorescent probes can not only be expressed specifically in specific cell types but can also be used for long-time-range imaging.
The genetically encoded neurotransmitter fluorescent probes that have been developed fall into two main categories:
Bacterial periplasmic binding protein (PBP) as a backbone. Probes developed with PBP as a backbone include the glutamate probe iGluSnFR, etc.
G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) as a backbone. Probes developed with GPCR as a backbone include dopamine probes GRABDA and dLight, etc.
The two types of probes are complementary in terms of affinity, selectivity, kinetics and pharmacological properties, and provide powerful tools for fine tuning the dynamic regulation of neurotransmitters.
Future of Neurotransmitter Probes
For probe tool development, the next generation of probes will move toward greater sensitivity, specificity, speed, and multicolor.
For probe tool applications, new gene-encoded neurotransmitter fluorescent probes will enable researchers to characterize the dynamic properties of neurotransmitters at multiple levels of cellular, tissue and model animal levels in unprecedented detail, opening new windows for deeper understanding of highly complex neural activity.
Remarkable advancements in tools for monitoring neurotransmitters have propelled our understanding of the brain's intricate chemistry. More innovative tools developed through the collaborative efforts of researchers and Creative Biolabs hold immense potential for uncovering the underlying mechanisms of brain function and paving the way for novel therapeutic interventions targeting neurotransmitter systems.
Please contact us to uncover the cutting-edge tools revolutionizing our understanding of neurotransmission.
Wu Z, et al. Pushing the frontiers: tools for monitoring neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2022, 23(5): 257-274.