Silk Fibroin Films Facilitate Single-Step Targeted Expression of Optogenetic Proteins

Skyler L. Jackman, Christopher H. Chen, Selmaan N. Chettih, Shay Q. Neufeld, Iain R. Drew, Chimuanya K. Agba, Isabella Flaquer, Alexis N. Stefano, Thomas J. Kennedy, Justine E. Belinsky, Keiramarie Roberston, Celia C. Beron, Bernardo L. Sabatini, Christopher D. Harvey, Wade G. Regehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Optical methods of interrogating neural circuits have emerged as powerful tools for understanding how the brain drives behaviors. Optogenetic proteins are widely used to control neuronal activity, while genetically encoded fluorescent reporters are used to monitor activity. These proteins are often expressed by injecting viruses, which frequently leads to inconsistent experiments due to misalignment of expression and optical components. Here, we describe how silk fibroin films simplify optogenetic experiments by providing targeted delivery of viruses. Films composed of silk fibroin and virus are applied to the surface of implantable optical components. After surgery, silk releases the virus to transduce nearby cells and provide localized expression around optical fibers and endoscopes. Silk films can also be used to express genetically encoded sensors in large cortical regions by using cranial windows coated with a silk/virus mixture. The ease of use and improved performance provided by silk make this a promising approach for optogenetic studies. Jackman et al. show that coating optical implants with silk fibroin mixed with AAV allows single-step implantation and expression of optogenetic proteins like channelrhodopsin and GCaMP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3351-3361
Number of pages11
JournalCell Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 20 2018


  • 2-photon calcium imaging
  • biomaterials
  • cranial windows
  • in vivo imaging
  • optical fiber implants
  • optogenetics
  • silk
  • stereotaxic injections
  • tapered optical fibers
  • viral vectors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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