Research Interests

Prof. Dr. Stefan Herlitze, Zoology and Neurobiology,
Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology

In the last years the Department of Zoology and Neurobiology has developed optogenetic tools to control G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling pathways (Li et al., 2005). We are focusing on light activated GPCRs involved in modulating emotional behavior. We demonstrated that the loss of serotonergic signaling within the mouse brain alters the emotional phenotype (Liu et al., 2010) and that the autoregulation of serotonergic neurons, which is involved in regulating 5HT network activity, can be controlled by light activated chimeric vertebrate rhodopsins coupling to the 5-HT1A signaling pathways in hind/midbrain regions of the mouse brain (Oh et al., 2010). We would like now to combine cutting edge imaging techniques, i.e. 2 Photon-FLIM and TIRF microscopy, with optogenetic techniques to control and visualize GPCRs coupling to the 5HT signaling pathways in vitro and in vivo. Our goal is to understand how 5HT pathways modulate anxiety states and how these pathways alter the underlying neuronal structure when anxiety can’t be forgotten and manifested in diseases such as depression.

Li, X.; Gutierrez, D.V.; Hanson, M.G.; Han,J.; Mark, M.D.; Chiel, H.; Hegemann, P.; Landmesser,L.T. and Herlitze, S. (2005) Fast noninvasive activation and inhibition of neural and network activity by vertebrate rhodopsin and green algae channelrhodopsin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 102:17816-21.
Liu, C., Maejima, T.; Wyler, S.C.; Casadesus, G.; Herlitze, S. and Deneris, E.S. (2010) Pet-1 is required across different stages of life to regulate serotonergic function. Nat Neurosci. 13:1190-8.
Oh, E.; Maejima, T.; Liu, C.; Deneris, E. and Herlitze, S. (2010) Substitution of 5-HT1A Receptor Signaling by a Light-activated G Protein-coupled Receptor. J Biol Chem. 285:30825-30836.