Showing 1 - 25 of 234 results
Lighting the way: Recent insights into the structure and regulation of phototropin blue light receptors.
The phototropins (phots) are light-activated kinases that are critical for plant physiology and the many diverse optogenetic tools that they have inspired. Phototropins combine two blue light sensing Light-Oxygen-Voltage (LOV) domains (LOV1 and LOV2) and a C-terminal serine/threonine kinase domain, using the LOV domains to control the catalytic activity of the kinase. While much is known about the structure and photochemistry of the light-perceiving LOV domains, particularly in how activation of the LOV2 domain triggers the unfolding of alpha helices that communicate the light signal to the kinase domain, many questions about phot structure and mechanism remain. Recent studies have made progress addressing these questions by utilizing small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and other biophysical approaches to study multidomain phots from Chlamydomonas and Arabidopsis, leading to models where the domains have an extended linear arrangement, with the activating LOV2 domain contacting the kinase domain N-lobe. We discuss this and other advances which have improved structural and mechanistic understanding of phot regulation in this review, along with the challenges that will have to be overcome to obtain high-resolution structural information on these exciting photoreceptors. Such information will be essential to advancing fundamental understanding of plant physiology while enabling engineering efforts at both the whole plant and molecular levels.
Strategies for site-specific recombination with high efficiency and precise spatiotemporal resolution.
Site-specific recombinases (SSRs) are invaluable genome engineering tools that have enormously boosted our understanding of gene functions and cell lineage relationships in developmental biology, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and multiple diseases. However, the ever-increasing complexity of biomedical research requires the development of novel site-specific genetic recombination technologies that can manipulate genomic DNA with high efficiency and fine spatiotemporal control. Here, we review the latest innovative strategies of the commonly used Cre-loxP recombination system and its combinatorial strategies with other SSR systems. We also highlight recent progress with a focus on the new generation of chemical- and light-inducible genetic systems and discuss the merits and limitations of each new and established system. Finally, we provide the future perspectives of combining various recombination systems or improving well-established site-specific genetic tools to achieve more efficient and precise spatiotemporal genetic manipulation.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
The plastic cell: mechanical deformation of cells and tissues.
Epithelial cells possess the ability to change their shape in response to mechanical stress by remodelling their junctions and their cytoskeleton. This property lies at the heart of tissue morphogenesis in embryos. A key feature of embryonic cell shape changes is that they result from repeated mechanical inputs that make them partially irreversible at each step. Past work on cell rheology has rarely addressed how changes can become irreversible in a complex tissue. Here, we review new and exciting findings dissecting some of the physical principles and molecular mechanisms accounting for irreversible cell shape changes. We discuss concepts of mechanical ratchets and tension thresholds required to induce permanent cell deformations akin to mechanical plasticity. Work in different systems has highlighted the importance of actin remodelling and of E-cadherin endocytosis. We also list some novel experimental approaches to fine-tune mechanical tension, using optogenetics, magnetic beads or stretching of suspended epithelial tissues. Finally, we discuss some mathematical models that have been used to describe the quantitative aspects of accounting for mechanical cell plasticity and offer perspectives on this rapidly evolving field.
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
Photoactivated Adenylyl Cyclases: Fundamental Properties and Applications.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) was first discovered to be a sensor for photoavoidance in the flagellate Euglena gracilis. PAC is a flavoprotein that catalyzes the production of cAMP upon illumination with blue light, which enables us to optogenetically manipulate intracellular cAMP levels in various biological systems. Recent progress in genome sequencing has revealed several related proteins in bacteria and ameboflagellates. Among them, the PACs from sulfur bacterium Beggiatoa sp. and cyanobacterium Oscillatoria acuminata have been well characterized, including their crystalline structure. Although there have not been many reported optogenetic applications of PACs so far, they have the potential to be used in various fields within bioscience.
Genetically Encoded Photosensitizer for Destruction of Protein or Cell Function.
There are several paths when excited molecules return to the ground state. In the case of fluorescent molecules, the dominant path is fluorescence emission that is greatly contributing to bioimaging. Meanwhile, photosensitizers transfer electron or energy from chromophore to the surrounding molecules, including molecular oxygen. Generated reactive oxygen species has potency to attack other molecules by oxidation. In this chapter, we introduce the chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI) method using a photosensitizer to inactivate proteins in a spatiotemporal manner and development of CALI tools, which is useful for investigation of protein functions and dynamics, by inactivation of the target molecules. Moreover, photosensitizers with high efficiency make it possible optogenetic control of cell ablation in living organisms and photodynamic therapy. Further development of photosensitizers with different excitation wavelengths will contribute to the investigation of multiple proteins or cell functions through inactivation in the different positions and timings.
Optogenetics: The Art of Illuminating Complex Signaling Pathways.
Dissection of cell signaling requires tools that can mimic spatiotemporal dynamics of individual pathways in living cells. Optogenetic methods enable manipulation of signaling processes with precise timing and local control. In this review, we describe recent optogenetic approaches for regulation of cell signaling, highlight their advantages and limitations, and discuss examples of their application.
Optical sensors of G protein signaling.
Heterotrimeric G proteins are central mediators of cellular signal transduction. They receive, process, and transduce signals from G protein-coupled receptors to downstream effectors. Since their discovery, a number of optical sensors of G protein localization and function have been developed and applied in living systems. In this minireview, we provide an overview of existing G protein-based sensors and the experimental approaches they utilize, with emphasis on live-cell imaging techniques. We outline recent advances, as well as identify current challenges and likely future directions in the field of G protein sensor development.
A light way for nuclear cell biologists.
The nucleus is a very complex organelle present in eukaryotic cells. Having the crucial task to safeguard, organize and manage the genetic information, it must tightly control its molecular constituents, its shape and its internal architecture at any given time. Despite our vast knowledge of nuclear cell biology, much is yet to be unraveled. For instance, only recently we came to appreciate the existence of a dynamic nuclear cytoskeleton made of actin filaments that regulates processes such as gene expression, DNA repair and nuclear expansion. This suggests further exciting discoveries ahead of us. Modern cell biologists embrace a new methodology relying on precise perturbations of cellular processes that require a reversible, highly spatially-confinable, rapid, inexpensive and tunable external stimulus: light. In this review, we discuss how optogenetics, the state-of-the-art technology that uses genetically-encoded light-sensitive proteins to steer biological processes, can be adopted to specifically investigate nuclear cell biology.
The Promise of Optogenetics for Bioproduction: Dynamic Control Strategies and Scale-Up Instruments.
Progress in metabolic engineering and synthetic and systems biology has made bioproduction an increasingly attractive and competitive strategy for synthesizing biomolecules, recombinant proteins and biofuels from renewable feedstocks. Yet, due to poor productivity, it remains difficult to make a bioproduction process economically viable at large scale. Achieving dynamic control of cellular processes could lead to even better yields by balancing the two characteristic phases of bioproduction, namely, growth versus production, which lie at the heart of a trade-off that substantially impacts productivity. The versatility and controllability offered by light will be a key element in attaining the level of control desired. The popularity of light-mediated control is increasing, with an expanding repertoire of optogenetic systems for novel applications, and many optogenetic devices have been designed to test optogenetic strains at various culture scales for bioproduction objectives. In this review, we aim to highlight the most important advances in this direction. We discuss how optogenetics is currently applied to control metabolism in the context of bioproduction, describe the optogenetic instruments and devices used at the laboratory scale for strain development, and explore how current industrial-scale bioproduction processes could be adapted for optogenetics or could benefit from existing photobioreactor designs. We then draw attention to the steps that must be undertaken to further optimize the control of biological systems in order to take full advantage of the potential offered by microbial factories.
The rise and shine of yeast optogenetics.
Optogenetics refers to the control of biological processes with light. The activation of cellular phenomena by defined wavelengths has several advantages compared to traditional chemically-inducible systems, such as spatiotemporal resolution, dose-response regulation, low cost and moderate toxic effects. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in yeast, a remarkable biological platform that is not only a model organism for cellular and molecular biology studies, but also a microorganism with diverse biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the main optogenetic systems implemented in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which allow orthogonal control (by light) of gene expression, protein subcellular localization, reconstitution of protein activity, or protein sequestration by oligomerization. Furthermore, we review the application of optogenetic systems in the control of metabolic pathways, heterologous protein production and flocculation. We then revise an example of a previously described yeast optogenetic switch, named FUN-LOV, which allows precise and strong activation of the target gene. Finally, we describe optogenetic systems that have not yet been implemented in yeast, which could therefore be used to expand the panel of available tools in this biological chassis. In conclusion, a wide repertoire of optogenetic systems can be used to address fundamental biological questions and broaden the biotechnological toolkit in yeast.
Enlightening Allostery: Designing Switchable Proteins by Photoreceptor Fusion.
Optogenetics harnesses natural photoreceptors to non-invasively control selected processes in cells with previously unmet spatiotemporal precision. Linking the activity of a protein of choice to the conformational state of a photosensor domain through allosteric coupling represents a powerful method for engineering light-responsive proteins. It enables the design of compact and highly potent single-component optogenetic systems with fast on- and off-switching kinetics. However, designing protein-photoreceptor chimeras, in which structural changes of the photoreceptor are effectively propagated to the fused effector protein, is a challenging engineering problem and often relies on trial and error. Here, recent advances in the design and application of optogenetic allosteric switches are reviewed. First, an overview of existing optogenetic tools based on inducible allostery is provided and their utility for cell biology applications is highlighted. Focusing on light-oxygen-voltage domains, a widely applied class of small blue light sensors, the available strategies for engineering light-dependent allostery are presented and their individual advantages and limitations are highlighted. Finally, high-throughput screening technologies based on comprehensive insertion libraries, which could accelerate the creation of stimulus-responsive receptor-protein chimeras for use in optogenetics and beyond, are discussed.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Optogenetic interrogation and control of cell signaling.
Signaling networks control the flow of information through biological systems and coordinate the chemical processes that constitute cellular life. Optogenetic actuators - genetically encoded proteins that undergo light-induced changes in activity or conformation - are useful tools for probing signaling networks over time and space. They have permitted detailed dissections of cellular proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death, and enabled the assembly of synthetic systems with applications in areas as diverse as photography, chemical synthesis, and medicine. In this review, we provide a brief introduction to optogenetic systems and describe their application to molecular-level analyses of cell signaling. Our discussion highlights important research achievements and speculates on future opportunities to exploit optogenetic systems in the study and assembly of complex biochemical networks.
Optogenetics and biosensors set the stage for metabolic cybergenetics.
Cybergenetic systems use computer interfaces to enable feed-back controls over biological processes in real time. The complex and dynamic nature of cellular metabolism makes cybergenetics attractive for controlling engineered metabolic pathways in microbial fermentations. Cybergenetics would not only create new avenues of research into cellular metabolism, it would also enable unprecedented strategies for pathway optimization and bioreactor operation and automation. Implementation of metabolic cybergenetics, however, will require new capabilities from actuators, biosensors, and control algorithms. The recent application of optogenetics in metabolic engineering, the expanding role of genetically encoded biosensors in strain development, and continued progress in control algorithms for biological processes suggest that this technology will become available in the not so distant future.
Morphogenesis: Guiding Embryonic Development with Light.
Embryonic development is controlled by dynamic signaling systems that are translated into patterns of gene expression. Optogenetics has now been used to rescue genetic loss of Drosophila terminal patterning, bringing us a step closer to reconstruct morphogenesis synthetically.
Light control of RTK activity: from technology development to translational research.
Inhibition of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) by small molecule inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies is used to treat cancer. Conversely, activation of RTKs with their ligands, including growth factors and insulin, is used to treat diabetes and neurodegeneration. However, conventional therapies that rely on injection of RTK inhibitors or activators do not provide spatiotemporal control over RTK signaling, which results in diminished efficiency and side effects. Recently, a number of optogenetic and optochemical approaches have been developed that allow RTK inhibition or activation in cells and in vivo with light. Light irradiation can control RTK signaling non-invasively, in a dosed manner, with high spatio-temporal precision, and without the side effects of conventional treatments. Here we provide an update on the current state of the art of optogenetic and optochemical RTK technologies and the prospects of their use in translational studies and therapy.
Shared signaling pathways in Alzheimer's and metabolic disease may point to new treatment approaches.
'A peculiar severe disease process of the cerebral cortex' are the exact words used by A. Alzheimer in 1906 to describe a patient's increasingly severe condition of memory loss, changes in personality, and sleep disturbance. A century later, this 'peculiar' disease has become widely known as Alzheimer's disease (AD), the world's most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting more than 35 million people globally. At the same time, its pathology remains unclear and no successful treatment exists. Several theories for AD etiology have emerged throughout the past century. In this review, we focus on the metabolic mechanisms that are similar between AD and metabolic diseases, based on the results from genome-wide association studies. We discuss signaling pathways involved in both types of disease and look into new optogenetic methods to study the in vivo mechanisms of AD.
Lights up on organelles: Optogenetic tools to control subcellular structure and organization.
Since the neurobiological inception of optogenetics, light-controlled molecular perturbations have been applied in many scientific disciplines to both manipulate and observe cellular function. Proteins exhibiting light-sensitive conformational changes provide researchers with avenues for spatiotemporal control over the cellular environment and serve as valuable alternatives to chemically inducible systems. Optogenetic approaches have been developed to target proteins to specific subcellular compartments, allowing for the manipulation of nuclear translocation and plasma membrane morphology. Additionally, these tools have been harnessed for molecular interrogation of organelle function, location, and dynamics. Optogenetic approaches offer novel ways to answer fundamental biological questions and to improve the efficiency of bioengineered cell factories by controlling the assembly of synthetic organelles. This review first provides a summary of available optogenetic systems with an emphasis on their organelle-specific utility. It then explores the strategies employed for organelle targeting and concludes by discussing our perspective on the future of optogenetics to control subcellular structure and organization. This article is categorized under: Laboratory Methods and Technologies > Genetic/Genomic Methods Physiology > Physiology of Model Organisms Biological Mechanisms > Regulatory Biology Models of Systems Properties and Processes > Cellular Models.
Syntaxin Clustering and Optogenetic Control for Synaptic Membrane Fusion.
Membrane fusion during synaptic transmission mediates the trafficking of chemical signals and neuronal communication. The fast kinetics of membrane fusion on the order of millisecond is precisely regulated by the assembly of SNAREs and accessory proteins. It is believed that the formation of the SNARE complex is a key step during membrane fusion. Little is known, however, about the molecular machinery that mediates the formation of a large pre-fusion complex, including multiple SNAREs and accessory proteins. Syntaxin, a transmembrane protein on the plasma membrane, has been observed to undergo oligomerization to form clusters. Whether this clustering plays a critical role in membrane fusion is poorly understood in live cells. Optogenetics is an emerging biotechnology armed with the capacity to precisely modulate protein-protein interaction in time and space. Here, we propose an experimental scheme that combines optogenetics with single-vesicle membrane fusion, aiming to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which the syntaxin cluster regulates membrane fusion. We envision that newly developed optogenetic tools could facilitate the mechanistic understanding of synaptic transmission in live cells and animals.
Engineering Optogenetic Protein Analogs.
This chapter provides an overview of the technologies we have developed to control proteins with light. First, we focus on the LOV domain, a versatile building block with reversible photo-response, kinetics tunable through mutagenesis, and ready expression in a broad range of cells and animals. Incorporation of LOV into proteins produced a variety of approaches: simple steric block of the active site released when irradiation lengthened a linker (PA-GTPases), reversible release from sequestration at mitochondria (LOVTRAP), and Z-lock, a method in which a light-cleavable bridge is placed where it occludes the active site. The latter two methods make use of Zdk, small engineered proteins that bind selectively to the dark state of LOV. In order to control endogenous proteins, inhibitory peptides are embedded in the LOV domain where they are exposed only upon irradiation (PKA and MLCK inhibition). Similarly, controlled exposure of a nuclear localization sequence and nuclear export sequence is used to reversibly send proteins into the nucleus. Another avenue of engineering makes use of the heterodimerization of FKBP and FRB proteins, induced by the small molecule rapamycin. We control rapamycin with light or simply add it to target cells. Incorporation of fused FKBP-FRB into kinases, guanine exchange factors, or GTPases leads to rapamycin-induced protein activation. Kinases are engineered so that they can interact with only a specific substrate upon activation. Recombination of split proteins using rapamycin-induced conformational changes minimizes spontaneous reassembly. Finally, we explore the insertion of LOV or rapamycin-responsive domains into proteins such that light-induced conformational changes exert allosteric control of the active site. We hope these design ideas will inspire new applications and broaden our reach towards dynamic biological processes that unfold when studied in vivo.
Optogenetic Techniques for Manipulating and Sensing G Protein-Coupled Receptor Signaling.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form the largest class of membrane receptors in the mammalian genome with nearly 800 human genes encoding for unique subtypes. Accordingly, GPCR signaling is implicated in nearly all physiological processes. However, GPCRs have been difficult to study due in part to the complexity of their function which can lead to a plethora of converging or diverging downstream effects over different time and length scales. Classic techniques such as pharmacological control, genetic knockout and biochemical assays often lack the precision required to probe the functions of specific GPCR subtypes. Here we describe the rapidly growing set of optogenetic tools, ranging from methods for optical control of the receptor itself to optical sensing and manipulation of downstream effectors. These tools permit the quantitative measurements of GPCRs and their downstream signaling with high specificity and spatiotemporal precision.
Optogenetics and CRISPR: A New Relationship Built to Last.
Since the breakthrough discoveries that CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases can be easily programmed and employed to induce targeted double-strand breaks in mammalian cells, the gene editing field has grown exponentially. Today, CRISPR technologies based on engineered class II CRISPR effectors facilitate targeted modification of genes and RNA transcripts. Moreover, catalytically impaired CRISPR-Cas variants can be employed as programmable DNA binding domains and used to recruit effector proteins, such as transcriptional regulators, epigenetic modifiers or base-modifying enzymes, to selected genomic loci. The juxtaposition of CRISPR and optogenetics enables spatiotemporally confined and highly dynamic genome perturbations in living cells and animals and holds unprecedented potential for biology and biomedicine.Here, we provide an overview of the state-of-the-art methods for light-control of CRISPR effectors. We will detail the plethora of exciting applications enabled by these systems, including spatially confined genome editing, timed activation of endogenous genes, as well as remote control of chromatin-chromatin interactions. Finally, we will discuss limitations of current optogenetic CRISPR tools and point out routes for future innovation in this emerging field.