Optogenetics has emerged as an important tool in neuroscience, especially in central nervous system research. It allows for the study of the brain's highly complex network with high temporal and spatial resolution. The enteric nervous system (ENS), the brain in the gut, plays critical roles for life. Although advanced progress has been made, the neural circuits of the ENS remain only partly understood because the appropriate research tools are lacking. In this review, I highlight the potential application of optogenetics in ENS research. Firstly, I describe the development of optogenetics with focusing on its three main components. I discuss the applications in vitro and in vivo, and summarize current findings in the ENS research field obtained by optogenetics. Finally, the challenges for the application of optogenetics to the ENS research will be discussed.Graphical abstract:
Optogenetic manipulation of enteric neurons: By viral vector or transgenic animal line, optogenetic actuator could be expressed into enteric neurons of GI tract. The activity of enteric neurons could be controlled by light. For example, yellow light illumination could inhibit the activity of the NpHR-expressing, enteric neuron. Symbol: NpHR.