Melanopsin (OPN4) is a photosensitive pigment originally found in a subtype of retinal ganglion cells and is a 7-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). Several previous reports showed that ectopic expression of OPN4 can be used as an optogenetic tool to control neural and cellular activities in various tissues. Compared with other optogenetic pigments, OPN4 is more sensitive to light, shows long-lasting activation, and can also control intracellular Ca2+ dynamics. Here, we review how the ectopic expression of OPN4 enables the control of neural and cellular activities in vivo. In the retina, the ectopic expression of melanopsin in retinal ganglion cells successfully restored the vision of blind mice. It has also been reported that ectopic expression of melanopsin in orexin/hypocretin neurons enabled control of wakefulness in mice by blue light. In addition to neural activity, the ectopic expression of OPN4 has been reported to enable circuit control of the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) to enhance blood-glucose homeostasis in mice. We discuss the possibility of optogenetic control of other systems through the ectopic expression of OPN4.
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