Chemical synapses are tiny and overcrowded environments, deeply embedded inside brain tissue and enriched with thousands of protein species. Many efforts have been devoted to developing custom approaches for evaluating and modifying synaptic activity. Most of these methods are based on the engineering of one or more synaptic protein scaffolds used to target active moieties to the synaptic compartment or to manipulate synaptic functioning. In this review, we summarize the most recent methodological advances and provide a description of the involved proteins as well as the operation principle. Furthermore, we highlight their advantages and limitations in relation to studies of synaptic transmission in vitro and in vivo. Concerning the labelling methods, the most important challenge is how to extend the available approaches to the in vivo setting. On the other hand, for those methods that allow manipulation of synaptic function, this limit has been overcome using optogenetic approaches that can be more easily applied to the living brain. Finally, future applications of these methods to neuroscience, as well as new potential routes for development, are discussed.
doi: 10.1111/ejn.15848. PMID: 3623903016