Showing 1 - 25 of 1085 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.
Light-regulated voltage-gated potassium channels for acute interrogation of channel function in neurons and behavior.
Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels regulate the membrane potential and conductance of excitable cells to control the firing rate and waveform of action potentials. Even though Kv channels have been intensely studied for over 70 year, surprisingly little is known about how specific channels expressed in various neurons and their functional properties impact neuronal network activity and behavior in vivo. Although many in vivo genetic manipulations of ion channels have been tried, interpretation of these results is complicated by powerful homeostatic plasticity mechanisms that act to maintain function following perturbations in excitability. To better understand how Kv channels shape network function and behavior, we have developed a novel optogenetic technology to acutely regulate Kv channel expression with light by fusing the light-sensitive LOV domain of Vaucheria frigida Aureochrome 1 to the N-terminus of the Kv1 subunit protein to make an Opto-Kv1 channel. Recording of Opto-Kv1 channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes, mammalian cells, and neurons show that blue light strongly induces the current expression of Opto-Kv1 channels in all systems tested. We also find that an Opto-Kv1 construct containing a dominant-negative pore mutation (Opto-Kv1(V400D)) can be used to down-regulate Kv1 currents in a blue light-dependent manner. Finally, to determine whether Opto-Kv1 channels can elicit light-dependent behavioral effect in vivo, we targeted Opto-Kv1 (V400D) expression to Kv1.3-expressing mitral cells of the olfactory bulb in mice. Exposure of the bulb to blue light for 2-3 hours produced a significant increase in sensitivity to novel odors after initial habituation to a similar odor, comparable to behavioral changes seen in Kv1.3 knockout animals. In summary, we have developed novel photoactivatable Kv channels that provide new ways to interrogate neural circuits in vivo and to examine the roles of normal and disease-causing mutant Kv channels in brain function and behavior.
Coupling between protrusion dynamics and polarized trafficking steers persistent cell migration.
Migrating cells present a variety of paths, from non-persistent random walks to highly directional trajectories. While random movement can be easily explained by an intrinsic basal activity of the cell, persistent movement requires the cell to be stably polarized. It remains unclear how this is achieved from the regulation of underlying subcellular processes. In the context of mesenchymal migration, the ability of cells to migrate persistently over several hours require a mechanism stabilizing their protruding activity at their front. Here, we address this mechanism using human RPE1 cell line as our model. We measure, manipulate, and quantitatively perturb cell protrusive activity of the cortex as well as intracellular organization of the endomembrane trafficking system using dynamic micropatterning, pharmacological and trafficking assays, optogenetics and live-cell imaging with tracking. First, we demonstrate that the Nucleus-Golgi axis aligns with the direction of migration and its alignment with the protrusive activity leads to efficient cell movement. Then, using low doses of Nocodazole to disrupt internal cell organization, we show that long-lived polarity breaks down and migration becomes random. Next, we indicate that a flow of vesicles is directed towards the protrusive activity with a delay of 20 min. Eventually, by applying a sustained optogenetic activation, we prove that a localized Cdc42 gradient is able to orient the Nucleus-Golgi axis over a couple of hours. Taken together, our results suggest that the internal polarity axis, provided by the polarized trafficking of vesicles, is stabilizing the protrusive activity of the cell, while the protrusive activity biases this polarity axis. Using a novel minimal physical model, we show that this feedback is sufficient by itself to recapitulate the quantitative properties of cell migration in the timescale of hours. Our work highlights the importance of the coupling between high-level cellular functions in stabilizing the direction of migration over long timescales.
Optogenetic manipulation of YAP cellular localisation and function.
YAP, an effector of the Hippo signalling pathway, promotes organ growth and regeneration. Prolonged YAP activation results in uncontrolled proliferation and cancer. Therefore, exogenous regulation of YAP activity has potential translational applications. We present a versatile optogenetic construct (optoYAP) for manipulating YAP localisation, and consequently its activity and function. We attached a LOV2 domain that photocages a nuclear localisation signal (NLS) to the N-terminus of YAP. In 488 nm light, the LOV2 domain unfolds, exposing the NLS, which shuttles optoYAP into the nucleus. Nuclear import of optoYAP is reversible and tuneable by light intensity. In cell culture, activated optoYAP promotes YAP target gene expression, cell proliferation, and anchorage-independent growth. Similarly, we can utilise optoYAP in zebrafish embryos to modulate target genes. OptoYAP is functional in both cell culture and in vivo, providing a powerful tool to address basic research questions and therapeutic applications in regeneration and disease.
Light-induced local gene expression in primary chick cell culture system.
The ability to manipulate gene expression at a specific region in a tissue or cell culture system is critical for analysis of target gene function. For chick embryos/cells, several gene introduction/induction methods have been established such as those involving retrovirus, electroporation, sonoporation, and lipofection. However, these methods have limitations in the accurate induction of localized gene expression. Here we demonstrate the effective application of a recently developed light-dependent gene expression induction system (LightOn system) using the Neurospora crassa photoreceptor Vivid fused with a Gal4 DNA binding domain and p65 activation domain (GAVPO) that alters its activity in response to light stimulus in a primary chicken cell culture system. We show that the gene expression level and induction specificity in this system are strongly dependent on the light irradiation conditions. Especially, the irradiation interval is an important parameter for modulating gene expression; for shorter time intervals, higher induction specificity can be achieved. Further, by adjusting light irradiation conditions, the expression level in primary chicken cells can be regulated in a multiple step manner, in contrast to the binary expression seen for gene disruption or introduction (i.e., null or overexpression). This result indicates that the light-dependent expression control method can be a useful technique in chick models to examine how gene funtion is affected by gradual changes in gene expression levels. We applied this light-induction system to regulate Sox9 expression in cultures of chick limb mesenchyme cells and showed that induced SOX9 protein could modulate expression of downstream genes.
Optogenetic tools for manipulation of cyclic nucleotides, functionally coupled to CNG-channels.
The cyclic nucleotides cAMP and cGMP are ubiquitous second messengers that regulate numerous biological processes. Malfunctional cNMP signalling is linked to multiple diseases and thus is an important target in pharmaceutical research. The existing optogenetic toolbox in C. elegans is restricted to soluble adenylyl cyclases, the membrane-bound Blastocladiella emersonii CyclOp and hyperpolarising rhodopsins, yet missing are membrane-bound photoactivatable adenylyl cyclases and hyperpolarisers based on K+ -currents.
Structural Determinants for Light-Dependent Membrane Binding of a Photoswitchable Polybasic Domain.
OptoPB is an optogenetic tool engineered by fusion of the phosphoinositide (PI)-binding polybasic domain of Rit1 (Rit-PB) to a photoreactive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain. OptoPB selectively and reversibly binds the plasma membrane (PM) under blue light excitation, and in the dark, it releases back to the cytoplasm. However, the molecular mechanism of optical regulation and lipid recognition is still unclear. Here using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, liposome pulldown assay, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), we find that OptoPB binds to membrane mimetics containing di- or triphosphorylated phosphatidylinositols, particularly phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2), an acidic phospholipid predominantly located in the eukaryotic PM. In the dark, steric hindrance prevented this protein-membrane interaction, while 470 nm blue light illumination activated it. NMR titration and site-directed mutagenesis revealed that both cationic and hydrophobic Rit-PB residues are essential to the membrane interaction, indicating that OptoPB binds the membrane via a specific PI(4,5)P2-dependent mechanism.
Light-Induced Change of Arginine Conformation Modulates the Rate of Adenosine Triphosphate to Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate Conversion in the Optogenetic System Containing Photoactivated Adenylyl Cyclase.
We report the first computational characterization of an optogenetic system composed of two photosensing BLUF (blue light sensor using flavin adenine dinucleotide) domains and two catalytic adenylyl cyclase (AC) domains. Conversion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to the reaction products, cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and pyrophosphate (PPi), catalyzed by ACs initiated by excitation in photosensing domains has emerged in the focus of modern optogenetic applications because of the request in photoregulated enzymes that modulate cellular concentrations of signaling messengers. The photoactivated AC from the soil bacterium Beggiatoa sp. (bPAC) is an important model showing a considerable increase in the ATP to cAMP conversion rate in the catalytic domain after the illumination of the BLUF domain. The 1 μs classical molecular dynamics simulations reveal that the activation of the BLUF domain leading to tautomerization of Gln49 in the chromophore-binding pocket results in switching of the position of the side chain of Arg278 in the active site of AC. Allosteric signal transmission pathways between Gln49 from BLUF and Arg278 from AC were revealed by the dynamical network analysis. The Gibbs energy profiles of the ATP → cAMP + PPi reaction computed using QM(DFT(ωB97X-D3/6-31G**))/MM(CHARMM) molecular dynamics simulations for both Arg278 conformations in AC clarify the reaction mechanism. In the light-activated system, the corresponding arginine conformation stabilizes the pentacoordinated phosphorus of the α-phosphate group in the transition state, thus lowering the activation energy. Simulations of the bPAC system with the Tyr7Phe replacement in the BLUF demonstrate occurrence of both arginine conformations in an equal ratio, explaining the experimentally observed intermediate catalytic activity of the bPAC-Y7F variant as compared with the dark and light states of the wild-type bPAC.
Optogenetic Modification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Enables Controllable Twitching Motility and Host Infection.
Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is an important secondary messenger that controls carbon metabolism, type IVa pili biogenesis, and virulence in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Precise manipulation of bacterial intracellular cAMP levels may enable tunable control of twitching motility or virulence, and optogenetic tools are attractive because they afford excellent spatiotemporal resolution and are easy to operate. Here, we developed an engineered P. aeruginosa strain (termed pactm) with light-dependent intracellular cAMP levels through introducing a photoactivated adenylate cyclase gene (bPAC) into bacteria. On blue light illumination, pactm displayed a 15-fold increase in the expression of the cAMP responsive promoter and an 8-fold increase in its twitching activity. The skin lesion area of nude mouse in a subcutaneous infection model after 2-day pactm inoculation was increased 14-fold by blue light, making pactm suitable for applications in controllable bacterial host infection. In addition, we achieved directional twitching motility of pactm colonies through localized light illumination, which will facilitate the studies of contact-dependent interactions between microbial species.
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.
Optogenetic Tools for Manipulating Protein Subcellular Localization and Intracellular Signaling at Organelle Contact Sites.
Intracellular signaling processes are frequently based on direct interactions between proteins and organelles. A fundamental strategy to elucidate the physiological significance of such interactions is to utilize optical dimerization tools. These tools are based on the use of small proteins or domains that interact with each other upon light illumination. Optical dimerizers are particularly suitable for reproducing and interrogating a given protein-protein interaction and for investigating a protein's intracellular role in a spatially and temporally precise manner. Described in this article are genetic engineering strategies for the generation of modular light-activatable protein dimerization units and instructions for the preparation of optogenetic applications in mammalian cells. Detailed protocols are provided for the use of light-tunable switches to regulate protein recruitment to intracellular compartments, induce intracellular organellar membrane tethering, and reconstitute protein function using enhanced Magnets (eMags), a recently engineered optical dimerization system. © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC. Basic Protocol 1: Genetic engineering strategy for the generation of modular light-activated protein dimerization units Support Protocol 1: Molecular cloning Basic Protocol 2: Cell culture and transfection Support Protocol 2: Production of dark containers for optogenetic samples Basic Protocol 3: Confocal microscopy and light-dependent activation of the dimerization system Alternate Protocol 1: Protein recruitment to intracellular compartments Alternate Protocol 2: Induction of organelles' membrane tethering Alternate Protocol 3: Optogenetic reconstitution of protein function Basic Protocol 4: Image analysis Support Protocol 3: Analysis of apparent on- and off-kinetics Support Protocol 4: Analysis of changes in organelle overlap over time.
Biophysical and biochemical properties of Deup1 self-assemblies: a potential driver for deuterosome formation during multiciliogenesis.
The deuterosome is a non-membranous organelle involved in large-scale centriole amplification during multiciliogenesis. Deuterosomes are specifically assembled during the process of multiciliogenesis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying deuterosome formation are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the molecular properties of deuterosome protein 1 (Deup1), an essential protein involved in deuterosome assembly. We found that Deup1 has the ability to self-assemble into macromolecular condensates both in vitro and in cells. The Deup1-containing structures formed in multiciliogenesis and the Deup1 condensates self-assembled in vitro showed low turnover of Deup1, suggesting that Deup1 forms highly stable structures. Our biochemical analyses revealed that an increase of the concentration of Deup1 and a crowded molecular environment both facilitate Deup1 self-assembly. The self-assembly of Deup1 relies on its N-terminal region, which contains multiple coiled coil domains. Using an optogenetic approach, we demonstrated that self-assembly and the C-terminal half of Deup1 were sufficient to spatially compartmentalize centrosomal protein 152 (Cep152) and polo like kinase 4 (Plk4), master components for centriole biogenesis, in the cytoplasm. Collectively, the present data suggest that Deup1 forms the structural core of the deuterosome through self-assembly into stable macromolecular condensates.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
T cells selectively filter oscillatory signals on the minutes timescale.
T cells experience complex temporal patterns of stimulus via receptor-ligand-binding interactions with surrounding cells. From these temporal patterns, T cells are able to pick out antigenic signals while establishing self-tolerance. Although features such as duration of antigen binding have been examined, our understanding of how T cells interpret signals with different frequencies or temporal stimulation patterns is relatively unexplored. We engineered T cells to respond to light as a stimulus by building an optogenetically controlled chimeric antigen receptor (optoCAR). We discovered that T cells respond to minute-scale oscillations of activation signal by stimulating optoCAR T cells with tunable pulse trains of light. Systematically scanning signal oscillation period from 1 to 150 min revealed that expression of CD69, a T cell activation marker, reached a local minimum at a period of ∼25 min (corresponding to 5 to 15 min pulse widths). A combination of inhibitors and genetic knockouts suggest that this frequency filtering mechanism lies downstream of the Erk signaling branch of the T cell response network and may involve a negative feedback loop that diminishes Erk activity. The timescale of CD69 filtering corresponds with the duration of T cell encounters with self-peptide-presenting APCs observed via intravital imaging in mice, indicating a potential functional role for temporal filtering in vivo. This study illustrates that the T cell signaling machinery is tuned to temporally filter and interpret time-variant input signals in discriminatory ways.
Asymmetric Contraction of Adherens Junctions arises through RhoA and E-cadherin feedback.
Tissue morphogenesis often arises from the culmination of discrete changes in cell-cell junction behaviors, namely ratcheted junction contractions that lead to collective cellular rearrangements. Mechanochemical signaling in the form of RhoA underlies these ratcheted contractions, which occur asymmetrically as one highly motile vertex contracts toward a relatively less motile tricellular vertex. The underlying mechanisms driving asymmetric vertex movement remains unknown. Here, we use optogenetically controlled RhoA in model epithelia together with biophysical modeling to uncover the mechanism lending to asymmetric vertex motion. We find that both local and global RhoA activation leads to increases in junctional tension, thereby facilitating vertex motion. RhoA activation occurs in discrete regions along the junction and is skewed towards the less-motile vertex. At these less-motile vertices, E-cadherin acts as an opposing factor to limit vertex motion through increased frictional drag. Surprisingly, we uncover a feedback loop between RhoA and E-cadherin, as regional optogenetic activation of specified junctional zones pools E-cadherin to the location of RhoA activation. Incorporating this circuit into a mathematical model, we find that a positive feedback between RhoA-mediated tension and E-cadherin-induced frictional drag on tricellular vertices recapitulates experimental data. As such, the location of RhoA determines which vertex is under high tension, pooling E-cadherin and increasing the frictional load at the tricellular vertex to limit its motion. This feedback drives a tension-dependent intercellular “clutch” at tricellular vertices which stabilizes vertex motion upon tensional load.
A single-chain and fast-responding light-inducible Cre recombinase as a novel optogenetic switch.
Optogenetics enables genome manipulations with high spatiotemporal resolution, opening exciting possibilities for fundamental and applied biological research. Here, we report the development of LiCre, a novel light-inducible Cre recombinase. LiCre is made of a single flavin-containing protein comprising the AsLOV2 photoreceptor domain of Avena sativa fused to a Cre variant carrying destabilizing mutations in its N-terminal and C-terminal domains. LiCre can be activated within minutes of illumination with blue light, without the need of additional chemicals. When compared to existing photoactivatable Cre recombinases based on two split units, LiCre displayed faster and stronger activation by light as well as a lower residual activity in the dark. LiCre was efficient both in yeast, where it allowed us to control the production of β-carotene with light, and in human cells. Given its simplicity and performances, LiCre is particularly suited for fundamental and biomedical research, as well as for controlling industrial bioprocesses.
Photo-dependent membrane-less organelles formed from plant phyB and PIF6 proteins in mammalian cells.
Plant photobodies are the membrane-less organelles (MLOs) that can be generated by protein-protein interactions between active form of phytochrome B (phyB) and phytochrome-interacting factors (PIFs). These organelles regulate plant photomorphogenesis. In this study, we developed two chimeric proteins with fluorescent proteins, phyB fused to EGFP and PIF6 fused to mCherry, and investigated their exogenous expression in mammalian cells by confocal fluorescence microscopy. Results showed that irradiation with diffused 630-nm light induced formation and subsequent increase in sizes of the MLOs. The assembly and disassembly of the photo-inducible MLOs in the mammalian cell cytoplasm obeyed the laws inherent in the concentration-dependent phase separation of biopolymers. The sizes of MLOs formed from phyB and PIF6 in mammalian cells corresponded to the sizes of the so-called "early" photobodies in plant cells. These results suggested that the first step for the formation of plant photobodies might be based on the light-dependent liquid-liquid phase separation of PIFs and other proteins that can specifically interact with the active form of phyB. The developed chimeric proteins in principle can be used to control the assembly and disassembly of photo-inducible MLOs, and thereby to regulate various intracellular processes in mammalian cells.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
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.
Optogenetic Control of Myocardin‐Related Transcription Factor A Subcellular Localization and Transcriptional Activity Steers Membrane Blebbing and Invasive Cancer Cell Motility.
The myocardin‐related transcription factor A (MRTF‐A) controls the transcriptional activity of the serum response factor (SRF) in a tightly controlled actin‐dependent manner. In turn, MRTF‐A is crucial for many actin‐dependent processes including adhesion, migration, and contractility and has emerged as novel targets for anti‐tumor strategies. MRTF‐A rapidly shuttles between cytoplasmic and nuclear compartment via dynamic actin interactions within its N‐terminal RPEL domain. Here, optogenetics is used to spatiotemporally control MRTF‐A nuclear localization by blue light using the light‐oxygen‐voltage‐sensing domain 2‐domain based system LEXY (light‐inducible nuclear export system). It is found that light‐regulated nuclear export of MRTF‐A occurs within 10–20 min. Importantly, MRTF‐A‐LEXY shuttling is independent of perturbations of actin dynamics. Furthermore, light‐regulation of MRTF‐A‐LEXY is reversible and repeatable for several cycles of illumination and its subcellular localization correlates with SRF transcriptional activity. As a consequence, optogenetic control of MRTF‐A subcellular localization determines subsequent cytoskeletal dynamics such as non‐apoptotic plasma membrane blebbing as well as invasive tumor‐cell migration through 3D collagen matrix. This data demonstrate robust optogenetic regulation of MRTF as a powerful tool to control SRF‐dependent transcription as well as cell motile behavior.
TAEL 2.0: An Improved Optogenetic Expression System for Zebrafish.
Inducible gene expression systems are valuable tools for studying biological processes. We previously developed an optogenetic gene expression system called TAEL that is optimized for use in zebrafish. When illuminated with blue light, TAEL transcription factors dimerize and activate gene expression downstream of the TAEL-responsive C120 promoter. By using light as the inducing agent, the TAEL/C120 system overcomes limitations of traditional inducible expression systems by enabling fine spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression. In this study, we describe ongoing efforts to improve the TAEL/C120 system. We made modifications to both the TAEL transcriptional activator and the C120 regulatory element, collectively referred to as TAEL 2.0. We demonstrate that TAEL 2.0 consistently induces higher levels of reporter gene expression and at a faster rate, but with comparable background and toxicity as the original TAEL system. With these improvements, we were able to create functional stable transgenic lines to express the TAEL 2.0 transcription factor either ubiquitously or with a tissue-specific promoter. We demonstrate that the ubiquitous line in particular can be used to induce expression at late embryonic and larval stages, addressing a major deficiency of the original TAEL system. This improved optogenetic expression system will be a broadly useful resource for the zebrafish community.
Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals switching of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
Precise control of the timing and amplitude of protein activity in living cells can explain how cells compute responses to complex biochemical stimuli. The small GTPase RhoA can promote either focal adhesion (FA) growth or cell edge retraction, but how a cell chooses between these opposite outcomes is poorly understood. Here, we developed a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor (psRhoGEF) to obtain precise optical control of endogenous RhoA activity. We find that low levels of RhoA activation by psRhoGEF induces edge retraction and FA disassembly, while high levels of RhoA activation induces both FA growth and disassembly. We observed that mDia-induced Src activation at FAs occurs preferentially at lower levels of RhoA activation. Strikingly, inhibition of Src causes a switch from FA disassembly to growth. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation reveals how cells use signal amplitude and biochemical context to select between alternative responses to a single biochemical signal.
Real-Time Optogenetics System for Controlling Gene Expression Using a Model-Based Design.
Optimization of engineered biological systems requires precise control over the rates and timing of gene expression. Optogenetics is used to dynamically control gene expression as an alternative to conventional chemical-based methods since it provides a more convenient interface between digital control software and microbial culture. Here, we describe the construction of a real-time optogenetics platform, which performs closed-loop control over the CcaR-CcaS two-plasmid system in Escherichia coli. We showed the first model-based design approach by constructing a nonlinear representation of the CcaR-CcaS system, tuned the model through open-loop experimentation to capture the experimental behavior, and applied the model in silico to inform the necessary changes to build a closed-loop optogenetic control system. Our system periodically induces and represses the CcaR-CcaS system while recording optical density and fluorescence using image processing techniques. We highlight the facile nature of constructing our system and how our model-based design approach will potentially be used to model other systems requiring closed-loop optogenetic control.
Transient light-activated gene expression in Chinese hamster ovary cells.
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are widely used for industrial production of biopharmaceuticals. Many genetic, chemical, and environmental approaches have been developed to modulate cellular pathways to improve titers. However, these methods are often irreversible or have off-target effects. Development of techniques which are precise, tunable, and reversible will facilitate temporal regulation of target pathways to maximize titers. In this study, we investigate the use of optogenetics in CHO cells. The light-activated CRISPR-dCas9 effector (LACE) system was first transiently transfected to express eGFP in a light-inducible manner. Then, a stable system was tested using lentiviral transduction.
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.
Single-component optogenetic tools for inducible RhoA GTPase signaling.
We created optogenetic tools to control RhoA GTPase, a central regulator of actin organization and actomyosin contractility. RhoA GTPase, or its upstream activating GEF effectors, were fused to BcLOV4, a photoreceptor that can be dynamically recruited to the plasma membrane by a light-regulated protein-lipid electrostatic interaction with the inner leaflet. Direct membrane recruitment of these effectors induced potent contractile signaling sufficient to separate adherens junctions in response to as little as one pulse of blue light. Cytoskeletal morphology changes were dependent on the alignment of the spatially patterned stimulation with the underlying cell polarization. RhoA-mediated cytoskeletal activation induced YAP nuclear localization within minutes and subsequent mechanotransduction, verified by YAP-TEAD transcriptional activity. These single-component tools, which do not require protein binding partners, offer spatiotemporally precise control over RhoA signaling that will advance the study of its diverse regulatory roles in cell migration, morphogenesis, and cell cycle maintenance.