© 2004 Society for Neuroscience

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have created a transgenic mouse that will allow researchers to visualize patterns of activity directly in individual neurons in vivo.1 To create the animals, Alison Barth and colleagues coupled the c-fos promoter, which is typically activated during neural activity, to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) marker. "By coupling c-fos activation to the expression of GFP, I could now see cells that were specifically implicated by particular stimuli, and specifically stimuli in vivo," Barth explains.

Barth was interested in locating individual neurons engaged in a behavior (such as learning) or affected by a drug. Previously, studying these cells required fixing the tissue and using a fos-specific antibody to identify cells that have been activated. But these experiments provided limited knowledge about cellular behavior simply because the cells being studied were dead, Barth explains. "By that time you can't...

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