Abcam’s Caged Neurotransmitters for Neural Circuitry


Abcam’s range of caged neurotransmitters puts neural circuitry in the spotlight. With Abcam’s guide, users can find the right caged compound for their specific research needs.

What are Caged Compounds?

Caged compounds are basically molecules whose activity is regulated by light. When bound to a chemical group (the “cage” moiety), these molecules are momentarily inactivated but can be “uncaged” and activated by breaking the bond with infrared or visible light. For Neuroscientists, caged neurotransmitters are indispensable tools because the light activation enables complete control over the amplitude, location and timing of neurotransmitter release.

RuBi-Glutamate (ab120408)

The novel caged-glutamate compound, RuBi-Glutamate is based on ruthenium photochemistry, which enables rapid and clean photorelease and thus higher specificity when compared to earlier caged glutamate compounds. RuBi-Glutamate enables the activation of neuronal circuits and dendrites with two-photon or visible light sources, attaining precision at the level of dendritic spines and single cells1.

Figure 1. RuBI-Glutamate structure and its specificity for glutamate receptors in coronal slices from C57BL/6 mice. (A) The structure of RuBi-Glutamate showing how it uncages after light activation. (B) Depolarization caused by RuBi-Glutamate uncaging can be effectively and reversibly blocked by glutamate receptor antagonists AP5 (40 µM) and CNQX (20 µM). (C) A representative current–voltage (I-V) curve showing the uncaging response of RuBi-Glutamate. Note how it reverses at +10 mV indicating that the responses are mediated by glutamate receptors. (Figure adapted from Fino et al., 2009).

RuBi-GABA (ab120409)

The novel caged-GABA compound, RuBi-GABA employs a ruthenium complex as photosensor and can be activated with visible wavelengths, thus providing the benefits of faster photo-release kinetics, less photo-toxicity and better tissue penetration than other caged compounds that are sensitive to UV light. RuBi-GABA is perfect for GABA receptor mapping as well as optical silencing of neuronal firing2.

Figure 2. RuBi-GABA structure induction of GABA receptor-mediated currents in mouse pyramidal neurons (A) Structure of Rubi-GABA showing light-induced uncaging. (B) Uncaging responses of RuBi-GABA recorded at different holding potentials (every 10 mV from 0 to -60 mV) showing reversal close to the expected chloride reversal (-43 mV). The black bar indicates the laser pulse. (C) Current-voltage (I-V) curve with a linear fit. (D) Average RuBi-GABA uncaging response before (top), during 20 µM gabazine application (center) and after drug wash-out (bottom). Responses were collected at -70 mV of holding potential in K+-based internal solution with -40 mV chloride reversal. The black bar indicates the laser pulse. Scale bars: 10 pA, 50 ms. (Figure adapted from Verde et al., 2008).

Other available caged compounds include:

  • Dopamine
  • 5-HT
  • MK801
  • 4AP
  • Nicotine
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Luciferin


  1. Fino E, Araya R, Peterka DS, Salierno M, Etchenique R, Yuste R. RuBi-Glutamate: Two-Photon and Visible-Light Photoactivation of Neurons and Dendritic spines. Front Neural Circuits. 2009 May 27;3:2.
  2. Rial Verde EM, Zayat L, Etchenique R, Yuste R. Photorelease of GABA with Visible Light Using an Inorganic Caging Group. Front Neural Circuits. 2008 Aug 13;2:2.

About Abcam

Abcam is a global life sciences company providing highly validated antibodies and other binders and assays to the research and clinical communities to help advance the understanding of biology and causes of disease.

Abcam’s mission is to serve life scientists to help them achieve their mission faster by listening to their needs, continuously innovating and improving and by giving them the tools, data and experience they want. Abcam’s ambition is to become the most influential life science company for researchers worldwide.

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Last updated: Jul 14, 2018 at 6:29 PM

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