Optogenetics has revolutionized the toolbox arsenal that neuroscientists now possess to investigate neuronal circuit function in intact and living animals. With a combination of light emitting ‘sensors’ and light activated ‘actuators’, we can monitor and control neuronal activity with minimal perturbation and unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Zebrafish neuronal circuits represent an ideal system to apply an optogenetic based analysis owing to its transparency, relatively small size and amenability to genetic manipulation. In this review, we describe some of the most recent advances in the development and applications of optogenetic sensors (i.e., genetically encoded calcium indicators and voltage sensors) and actuators (i.e., light activated ion channels and ion pumps). We focus mostly on the tools that have already been successfully applied in zebrafish and on those that show the greatest potential for the future. We also describe crucial technical aspects to implement optogenetics in zebrafish including strategies to drive a high level of transgene expression in defined neuronal populations, and recent optical advances that allow the precise spatiotemporal control of sample illumination.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York