Direct activation of cell-surface receptors is highly desirable for elucidating their physiological roles. A potential approach for cell-type-specific activation of a receptor subtype is chemogenetics, in which both point mutagenesis of the receptors and designed ligands are used. However, ligand-binding properties are affected in most cases. Here, we developed a chemogenetic method for direct activation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (mGlu1), which plays essential roles in cerebellar functions in the brain. Our screening identified a mGlu1 mutant, mGlu1(N264H), that was activated directly by palladium complexes. A palladium complex showing low cytotoxicity successfully activated mGlu1 in mGlu1(N264H) knock-in mice, revealing that activation of endogenous mGlu1 is sufficient to evoke the critical cellular mechanism of synaptic plasticity, a basis of motor learning in the cerebellum. Moreover, cell-type-specific activation of mGlu1 was demonstrated successfully using adeno-associated viruses in mice, which shows the potential utility of this chemogenetics for clarifying the physiological roles of mGlu1 in a cell-type-specific manner.
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