Comparison of GCaMP3 and GCaMP6f for studying astrocyte Ca2+ dynamics in the awake mouse brain

Liang Ye, Mateen A. Haroon, Angelica Salinas, Martin Paukert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In recent years it has become increasingly clear that astrocytes play a much more active role in neural processes than the traditional view of them as supporting cells suggests. Although not electrically excitable, astrocytes exhibit diverse Ca2+ dynamics across spatial and temporal scales, more or less dependent on the animal’s behavioral state. Ca2+ dynamics range from global elevations lasting multiple seconds encompassing the soma up to the finest processes, to short elevations restricted to so-called microdomains within fine processes. Investigations of astrocyte Ca2+ dynamics have particularly benefitted from the development of Genetically-Encoded Calcium Indicators (GECIs). GECI expression can be achieved non-invasively in a cell type-specific manner and it can be genetically targeted to subcellular domains. The GCaMP family, a group of GECIs derived from the green fluorescent protein, has experienced some of the fastest advancements during the past decade. As a consequence we are now facing the challenge of needing to compare published data obtained with different versions of GECIs. With the intention to provide some guidance, here we compared Ca2+ dynamics across scales in awake transgenic mice expressing either the well-established GCaMP3, or the increasingly popular GCaMP6f, specifically in astrocytes. We found that locomotion-induced global Ca2+ elevations in cortical astrocytes displayed only minor kinetic differences and their apparent dynamic ranges for Ca2+ sensing were not different. In contrast, Ca2+ waves in processes and microdomain Ca2+ transients were much more readily detectable with GCaMP6f. Our findings suggest that behavioral state-dependent global astrocyte Ca2+ responses can be studied with either GCaMP3 or GCaMP6f whereas the latter is more appropriate for studies of spatially restricted weak and fast Ca2+ dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0181113
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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