Channelrhodopsins (ChRs) are light-gated ion channels of microalgae that are serving as the most dominant tools to activate non-invasively selected cells or cell types of large neuronal networks in brain slices or living animals, a technology that has been named Optogenetics. A large variety ChRs with altered absorption kinetics and ion selectivity has been discovered over the years and are employed in conjunction with light driven pumps, voltage- and ion sensors and – recently – light-activated enzymes as actuators and reporters for cell activation and inactivation. The molecular bases of operation of these light sensors on time scales from femtoseconds to minutes will be discussed in conjunction with selected applications.
Peter Hegemann studied Chemistry in Münster and Munich, did his PhD at the MPI for Biochemistry about the light-driven chloride pump Halorhodopsin. He spent a year at the physics Department, Syracuse University NY before he got his own research group at the MPI for Biochemistry, where he studies the behavior of microalgae. In 1993 he became a Professor for Biochemistry at Regensburg University, where he identified Channelrhodopsin, and in 2004 he became a Professor for Biophysics at the Humboldt-University Berlin in 2004. Since 2015 he is Hertie Professor for Neuroscience at the Humboldt-University Berlin.
Moderation: Professor Dr. Bärbel Friedrich