This e-learning course will guide you through the essentials of optogenetics - an emerging field of research that provides novel resources to control a target protein’s function using light with high temporal and spatial precision. We will focus on applications of non-opsin derived proteins rather than classical methods used to control electrical activity in neurons.

Target audience

This course is for anyone who is interested in learning about concepts and applications of optogenetics, as well as practical guidance for your own experiments. An undergraduate level of understanding in biology would be an advantage.

Learning objectives

• Define what optogenetics is and how it can be used
• Evaluate some of the most widely-used optogenetics systems
• Apply the fundamental principles of setting up and running optogenetics experiments in your lab

Module 1: Principles and Approaches

This video will introduce you to the general concept of optogenetics and different strategies to optically regulate a target.

Duration: 5 mins

Module 2: Exploring Different Optogenetic Systems

We will introduce you to the most-commonly used optogenetic systems, based on light-induced dimerisation and photocaging. We will explain and compare different systems including the cryptochrome, phytochrome and LOV domain-based systems to reveal their specific advantages and limitations.

Get Started (Duration: 20 mins)

This module is best viewed using Firefox or Internet Explorer on desktops or Safari or Chrome on tablets.

Module 3: Applications of Optogenetics at EMBL

We will take you through the steps and practical considerations when setting up an optogenetic experiment in your lab. As a case study, we will use the novel optogenetic system that the De Renzis lab at EMBL have developed to control cellular contractility in living fly embryos.

Get Started (Duration: 15 mins)

This module is best viewed using Firefox or Internet Explorer on desktops or Safari or Chrome on tablets.


What did you think? We hope you enjoyed our optogenetics course and we’d welcome your feedback and suggestions for future courses.

Project team

E-learning content developer and project manager: Richard Grandison

Scientific concept and graphic design: Daniel Krüger

Reviewers: Theresa Quinkler and Emiliano Izquierdo Rangel

Scientific advisor: Stefano de Renzis

Video producer and motion graphics: Claudiu Grozea


We thank Harald Janovjak (IST Austria) for critical review and the participants from the EMBO Practical Course on non-neuronal optogenetics (2017) for user testing and feedback.