Showing 276 - 300 of 647 results
The Spatiotemporal Limits of Developmental Erk Signaling.
Animal development is characterized by signaling events that occur at precise locations and times within the embryo, but determining when and where such precision is needed for proper embryogenesis has been a long-standing challenge. Here we address this question for extracellular signal regulated kinase (Erk) signaling, a key developmental patterning cue. We describe an optogenetic system for activating Erk with high spatiotemporal precision in vivo. Implementing this system in Drosophila, we find that embryogenesis is remarkably robust to ectopic Erk signaling, except from 1 to 4 hr post-fertilization, when perturbing the spatial extent of Erk pathway activation leads to dramatic disruptions of patterning and morphogenesis. Later in development, the effects of ectopic signaling are buffered, at least in part, by combinatorial mechanisms. Our approach can be used to systematically probe the differential contributions of the Ras/Erk pathway and concurrent signals, leading to a more quantitative understanding of developmental signaling.
Drive the Car(go)s-New Modalities to Control Cargo Trafficking in Live Cells.
Synaptic transmission is a fundamental molecular process underlying learning and memory. Successful synaptic transmission involves coupled interaction between electrical signals (action potentials) and chemical signals (neurotransmitters). Defective synaptic transmission has been reported in a variety of neurological disorders such as Autism and Alzheimer's disease. A large variety of macromolecules and organelles are enriched near functional synapses. Although a portion of macromolecules can be produced locally at the synapse, a large number of synaptic components especially the membrane-bound receptors and peptide neurotransmitters require active transport machinery to reach their sites of action. This spatial relocation is mediated by energy-consuming, motor protein-driven cargo trafficking. Properly regulated cargo trafficking is of fundamental importance to neuronal functions, including synaptic transmission. In this review, we discuss the molecular machinery of cargo trafficking with emphasis on new experimental strategies that enable direct modulation of cargo trafficking in live cells. These strategies promise to provide insights into a quantitative understanding of cargo trafficking, which could lead to new intervention strategies for the treatment of neurological diseases.
Transcription activator-like effector-mediated regulation of gene expression based on the inducible packaging and delivery via designed extracellular vesicles.
Transcription activator-like effector (TALE) proteins present a powerful tool for genome editing and engineering, enabling introduction of site-specific mutations, gene knockouts or regulation of the transcription levels of selected genes. TALE nucleases or TALE-based transcription regulators are introduced into mammalian cells mainly via delivery of the coding genes. Here we report an extracellular vesicle-mediated delivery of TALE transcription regulators and their ability to upregulate the reporter gene in target cells. Designed transcriptional activator TALE-VP16 fused to the appropriate dimerization domain was enriched as a cargo protein within extracellular vesicles produced by mammalian HEK293 cells stimulated by Ca-ionophore and using blue light- or rapamycin-inducible dimerization systems. Blue light illumination or rapamycin increased the amount of the TALE-VP16 activator in extracellular vesicles and their addition to the target cells resulted in an increased expression of the reporter gene upon addition of extracellular vesicles to the target cells. This technology therefore represents an efficient delivery for the TALE-based transcriptional regulators.
Optogenetic toolkit for precise control of calcium signaling.
Calcium acts as a second messenger to regulate a myriad of cell functions, ranging from short-term muscle contraction and cell motility to long-term changes in gene expression and metabolism. To study the impact of Ca2+-modulated 'ON' and 'OFF' reactions in mammalian cells, pharmacological tools and 'caged' compounds are commonly used under various experimental conditions. The use of these reagents for precise control of Ca2+ signals, nonetheless, is impeded by lack of reversibility and specificity. The recently developed optogenetic tools, particularly those built upon engineered Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels, provide exciting opportunities to remotely and non-invasively modulate Ca2+ signaling due to their superior spatiotemporal resolution and rapid reversibility. In this review, we briefly summarize the latest advances in the development of optogenetic tools (collectively termed as 'genetically encoded Ca2+ actuators', or GECAs) that are tailored for the interrogation of Ca2+ signaling, as well as their applications in remote neuromodulation and optogenetic immunomodulation. Our goal is to provide a general guide to choosing appropriate GECAs for optical control of Ca2+ signaling in cellulo, and in parallel, to stimulate further thoughts on evolving non-opsin-based optogenetics into a fully fledged technology for the study of Ca2+-dependent activities in vivo.
Precision Optogenetic Tool for Selective Single- and Multiple-Cell Ablation in a Live Animal Model System.
Cell ablation is a strategy to study cell lineage and function during development. Optogenetic methods are an important cell-ablation approach, and we have previously developed a mini singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG) tool that works in the living Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we use directed evolution to generate miniSOG2, an improved tool for cell ablation via photogenerated reactive oxygen species. We apply miniSOG2 to a far more complex model animal system, Drosophila melanogaster, and demonstrate that it can be used to kill a single neuron in a Drosophila larva. In addition, miniSOG2 is able to photoablate a small group of cells in one of the larval wing imaginal discs, resulting in an adult with one incomplete and one normal wing. We expect miniSOG2 to be a useful optogenetic tool for precision cell ablation at a desired developmental time point in live animals, thus opening a new window into cell origin, fate and function, tissue regeneration, and developmental biology.
Spatiotemporal Control of Intracellular Phase Transitions Using Light-Activated optoDroplets.
Phase transitions driven by intrinsically disordered protein regions (IDRs) have emerged as a ubiquitous mechanism for assembling liquid-like RNA/protein (RNP) bodies and other membrane-less organelles. However, a lack of tools to control intracellular phase transitions limits our ability to understand their role in cell physiology and disease. Here, we introduce an optogenetic platform that uses light to activate IDR-mediated phase transitions in living cells. We use this "optoDroplet" system to study condensed phases driven by the IDRs of various RNP body proteins, including FUS, DDX4, and HNRNPA1. Above a concentration threshold, these constructs undergo light-activated phase separation, forming spatiotemporally definable liquid optoDroplets. FUS optoDroplet assembly is fully reversible even after multiple activation cycles. However, cells driven deep within the phase boundary form solid-like gels that undergo aging into irreversible aggregates. This system can thus elucidate not only physiological phase transitions but also their link to pathological aggregates.
A Photoactivatable Innate Immune Receptor for Optogenetic Inflammation.
Although spatial and temporal elements of immune activation mediate the intensity of the immune response, few tools exist to directly examine these effects. To elucidate the spatiotemporal aspects of innate immune responses, we designed an optogenetic pattern recognition receptor that activates in response to blue light. We demonstrate direct receptor activation, leading to spatial and temporal control of downstream signaling pathways in a variety of relevant cell types. We combined our platform with Bi-molecular Fluorescence Complementation (BiFC), resulting in selective fluorescent labeling of cells in which receptor activation has occurred.
TAEL: a zebrafish-optimized optogenetic gene expression system with fine spatial and temporal control.
Here, we describe an optogenetic gene expression system optimized for use in zebrafish. This system overcomes the limitations of current inducible expression systems by enabling robust spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression in living organisms. Because existing optogenetic systems show toxicity in zebrafish, we re-engineered the blue-light-activated EL222 system for minimal toxicity while exhibiting a large range of induction, fine spatial precision and rapid kinetics. We validate several strategies to spatially restrict illumination and thus gene induction with our new TAEL (TA4-EL222) system. As a functional example, we show that TAEL is able to induce ectopic endodermal cells in the presumptive ectoderm via targeted sox32 induction. We also demonstrate that TAEL can be used to resolve multiple roles of Nodal signaling at different stages of embryonic development. Finally, we show how inducible gene editing can be achieved by combining the TAEL and CRISPR/Cas9 systems. This toolkit should be a broadly useful resource for the fish community.
Engineering extrinsic disorder to control protein activity in living cells.
Optogenetic and chemogenetic control of proteins has revealed otherwise inaccessible facets of signaling dynamics. Here, we use light- or ligand-sensitive domains to modulate the structural disorder of diverse proteins, thereby generating robust allosteric switches. Sensory domains were inserted into nonconserved, surface-exposed loops that were tight and identified computationally as allosterically coupled to active sites. Allosteric switches introduced into motility signaling proteins (kinases, guanosine triphosphatases, and guanine exchange factors) controlled conversion between conformations closely resembling natural active and inactive states, as well as modulated the morphodynamics of living cells. Our results illustrate a broadly applicable approach to design physiological protein switches.
Plasma Membrane Association but Not Midzone Recruitment of RhoGEF ECT2 Is Essential for Cytokinesis.
Cytokinesis, the final step of cell division, begins with the formation of a cleavage furrow. How the mitotic spindle specifies the furrow at the equator in animal cells remains unknown. Current models propose that the concentration of the RhoGEF ECT2 at the spindle midzone and the equatorial plasma membrane directs furrow formation. Using chemical genetic and optogenetic tools, we demonstrate that the association of ECT2 with the plasma membrane during anaphase is required and sufficient for cytokinesis. Local membrane targeting of ECT2 leads to unilateral furrowing, highlighting the importance of local ECT2 activity. ECT2 mutations that prevent centralspindlin binding compromise concentration of ECT2 at the midzone and equatorial membrane but sustain cytokinesis. While the association of ECT2 with the plasma membrane is essential for cytokinesis, our data suggest that ECT2 recruitment to the spindle midzone is insufficient to account for equatorial furrowing and may act redundantly with yet-uncharacterized signals.
LOVTRAP: A Versatile Method to Control Protein Function with Light.
We describe a detailed procedure for the use of LOVTRAP, an approach to reversibly sequester and release proteins from cellular membranes using light. In the application described here, proteins that act at the plasma membrane are held at mitochondria in the dark, and reversibly released by irradiation. The technique relies on binding of an engineered Zdk domain to a LOV2 domain, with affinity <30 nM in the dark and >500 nM upon irradiation between 400 and 500 nm. LOVTRAP can be applied to diverse proteins, as it requires attaching only one member of the Zdk/LOV2 pair to the target protein, and the other to the membrane where the target protein is to be sequestered. Light-induced protein release occurs in less than a second, and the half-life of return can be adjusted using LOV point mutations (∼2 to 500 sec). © 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Optogenetic clustering of CNK1 reveals mechanistic insights in RAF and AKT signalling controlling cell fate decisions.
Scaffold proteins such as the multidomain protein CNK1 orchestrate the signalling network by integrating and controlling the underlying pathways. Using an optogenetic approach to stimulate CNK1 uncoupled from upstream effectors, we identified selective clusters of CNK1 that either stimulate RAF-MEK-ERK or AKT signalling depending on the light intensity applied. OptoCNK1 implemented in MCF7 cells induces differentiation at low light intensity stimulating ERK activity whereas stimulation of AKT signalling by higher light intensity promotes cell proliferation. CNK1 clustering in response to increasing EGF concentrations revealed that CNK1 binds to RAF correlating with ERK activation at low EGF dose. At higher EGF dose active AKT binds to CNK1 and phosphorylates and inhibits RAF. Knockdown of CNK1 protects CNK1 from this AKT/RAF crosstalk. In C2 skeletal muscle cells CNK1 expression is induced with the onset of differentiation. Hence, AKT-bound CNK1 counteracts ERK stimulation in differentiated but not in proliferating cells. Ectopically expressed CNK1 facilitates C2 cell differentiation and knockdown of CNK1 impaired the transcriptional network underlying C2 cell differentiation. Thus, CNK1 expression, CNK1 clustering and the thereto related differential signalling processes decide on proliferation and differentiation in a cell type- and cell stage-dependent manner by orchestrating AKT and RAF signalling.
Strategies for the photo-control of endogenous protein activity.
Photo-controlled or 'optogenetic' effectors interfacing with endogenous protein machinery allow the roles of endogenous proteins to be probed. There are two main approaches being used to develop optogenetic effectors: (i) caging strategies using photo-controlled conformational changes, and (ii) protein relocalization strategies using photo-controlled protein-protein interactions. Numerous specific examples of these approaches have been reported and efforts to develop general methods for photo-control of endogenous proteins are a current focus. The development of improved screening and selection methods for photo-switchable proteins would advance the field.
Optogenetic inhibition of apical constriction during Drosophila embryonic development.
Morphogenesis of multicellular organisms is driven by changes in cell behavior, which happen at precise locations and defined developmental stages. Therefore, the studying of morphogenetic events would greatly benefit from tools that allow the perturbation of cell activity with spatial and temporal precision. We recently developed an optogenetic approach to modulate cell contractility with cellular precision and on fast (seconds) timescales during Drosophila embryogenesis. We present here a protocol to handle genetically engineered photosensitive Drosophila embryos and achieve light-mediated inhibition of apical constriction during tissue invagination. The possibility to modulate the levels of optogenetic activation at different laser powers makes this method suited also for studying how mechanical stresses are sensed and interpreted in vivo. Given the conserved function of cell contractility during animal development, the application of this method to other morphogenetic processes will facilitate our understanding of tissue mechanics and cell-cell interaction during morphogenesis.
Engineered Photoactivatable Genetic Switches Based on the Bacterium Phage T7 RNA Polymerase.
Genetic switches in which the activity of T7 RNA polymerase (RNAP) is directly regulated by external signals are obtained with an engineering strategy of splitting the protein into fragments and using regulatory domains to modulate their reconstitutions. Robust switchable systems with excellent dark-off/light-on properties are obtained with the light-activatable VVD domain and its variants as regulatory domains. For the best split position found, working switches exploit either the light-induced interactions between the VVD domains or allosteric effects. The split fragments show high modularity when they are combined with different regulatory domains such as those with chemically inducible interaction, enabling chemically controlled switches. To summarize, the T7 RNA polymerase-based switches are powerful tools to implement light-activated gene expression in different contexts. Moreover, results about the studied split positions and domain organizations may facilitate future engineering studies on this and on related proteins.
Strategies for development of optogenetic systems and their applications.
It has become clear that biological processes are highly dynamic and heterogeneous within and among cells. Conventional analytical tools and chemical or genetic manipulations are unsuitable for dissecting the role of their spatiotemporally dynamic nature. Recently, optical control of biomolecular signaling, a technology called “optogenetics,” has gained much attention. The technique has enabled spatial and temporal regulation of specific signaling pathways both in vitro and in vivo. This review presents strategies for optogenetic systems development and application for biological research. Combinations with other technologies and future perspectives are also discussed herein. Although many optogenetic approaches are designed to modulate ion channel conductivity, we mainly examine systems that target other biomolecular reactions such as gene expression, protein translocations, and kinase or receptor signaling pathways.
Optogenetics - Bringing light into the darkness of mammalian signal transduction.
Cells receive many different environmental clues to which they must adapt accordingly. Therefore, a complex signal transduction network has evolved. Cellular signal transduction is a highly dynamic process, in which the specific outcome is a result of the exact spatial and temporal resolution of single sub-events. While conventional techniques, like chemical inducer systems, have led to a sound understanding of the architecture of signal transduction pathways, the spatiotemporal aspects were often impossible to resolve. Optogenetics, based on genetically encoded light-responsive proteins, has the potential to revolutionize manipulation of signal transduction processes. Light can be easily applied with highest precision and minimal invasiveness. This review focuses on examples of optogenetic systems which were generated and applied to manipulate non-neuronal mammalian signaling processes at various stages of signal transduction, from cell membrane through cytoplasm to nucleus. Further, the future of optogenetic signaling will be discussed.
Model-guided optogenetic study of PKA signaling in budding yeast.
In eukaryotes, protein kinase A (PKA) is a master regulator of cell proliferation and survival. The activity of PKA is subject to elaborate control and exhibits complex time dynamics. To probe the quantitative attributes of PKA dynamics in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we developed an optogenetic strategy that uses a photoactivatable adenylate cyclase to achieve real-time regulation of cAMP and the PKA pathway. We capitalize on the precise and rapid control afforded by this optogenetic tool, together with quantitative computational modeling, to study the properties of feedback in the PKA signaling network and dissect the nonintuitive dynamic effects that ensue from perturbing its components. Our analyses reveal that negative feedback channeled through the Ras1/2 GTPase is delayed, pinpointing its time scale and its contribution to the dynamic features of the cAMP/PKA signaling network.
A light-switchable bidirectional expression system in filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei.
The filamentous fungi Trichoderma reesei is widely used in the production of cellulolytic enzymes and recombinant proteins. However, only moderate success has been achieved in expressing heterologous proteins in T. reesei. Light-dependent control of DNA transcription, and protein expression have been demonstrated in bacteria, fungi, and mammalian cells. In this study, light inducible transactivators, a "light-on" bidirectional promoter and a "light-off" promoter were constructed successfully in T. reesei for the first time. Our light inducible transactivators can homodimerize and bind to the upstream region of artificial promoters to activate or repress genes transcription. Additionally, we upgraded the light-inducible system to on-off system that can simultaneously control the expression of multiple heterologous proteins in T. reesei. Moreover, a native cellulase-free background for the expression of heterologous proteins was achieved by knocking out the genes involved in transcriptional regulation and encoding of cellulases: xyr1, cbh1, and cbh2. Our light-switchable system showed a very little background protein expression and robust activation in the blue light with significantly improved heterologous protein expression. We demonstrate that our light-switchable system has a potential application as an on/off "switch" that can simultaneously regulate the expression of multiple genes in T. reesei under native cellulase-free background.
An open-hardware platform for optogenetics and photobiology.
In optogenetics, researchers use light and genetically encoded photoreceptors to control biological processes with unmatched precision. However, outside of neuroscience, the impact of optogenetics has been limited by a lack of user-friendly, flexible, accessible hardware. Here, we engineer the Light Plate Apparatus (LPA), a device that can deliver two independent 310 to 1550 nm light signals to each well of a 24-well plate with intensity control over three orders of magnitude and millisecond resolution. Signals are programmed using an intuitive web tool named Iris. All components can be purchased for under $400 and the device can be assembled and calibrated by a non-expert in one day. We use the LPA to precisely control gene expression from blue, green, and red light responsive optogenetic tools in bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells and simplify the entrainment of cyanobacterial circadian rhythm. The LPA dramatically reduces the entry barrier to optogenetics and photobiology experiments.
The Growing and Glowing Toolbox of Fluorescent and Photoactive Proteins.
Over the past 20 years, protein engineering has been extensively used to improve and modify the fundamental properties of fluorescent proteins (FPs) with the goal of adapting them for a fantastic range of applications. FPs have been modified by a combination of rational design, structure-based mutagenesis, and countless cycles of directed evolution (gene diversification followed by selection of clones with desired properties) that have collectively pushed the properties to photophysical and biochemical extremes. In this review, we provide both a summary of the progress that has been made during the past two decades, and a broad overview of the current state of FP development and applications in mammalian systems.
Optical manipulation of the alpha subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins using photoswitchable dimerization systems.
Alpha subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins (Gα) are involved in a variety of cellular functions. Here we report an optogenetic strategy to spatially and temporally manipulate Gα in living cells. More specifically, we applied the blue light-induced dimerization system, known as the Magnet system, and an alternative red light-induced dimerization system consisting of Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome B (PhyB) and phytochrome-interacting factor 6 (PIF6) to optically control the activation of two different classes of Gα (Gαq and Gαs). By utilizing this strategy, we demonstrate successful regulation of Ca(2+) and cAMP using light in mammalian cells. The present strategy is generally applicable to different kinds of Gα and could contribute to expanding possibilities of spatiotemporal regulation of Gα in mammalian cells.
Engineering of temperature- and light-switchable Cas9 variants.
Sensory photoreceptors have enabled non-invasive and spatiotemporal control of numerous biological processes. Photoreceptor engineering has expanded the repertoire beyond natural receptors, but to date no generally applicable strategy exists towards constructing light-regulated protein actuators of arbitrary function. We hence explored whether the homodimeric Rhodobacter sphaeroides light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain (RsLOV) that dissociates upon blue-light exposure can confer light sensitivity onto effector proteins, via a mechanism of light-induced functional site release. We chose the RNA-guided programmable DNA endonuclease Cas9 as proof-of-principle effector, and constructed a comprehensive library of RsLOV inserted throughout the Cas9 protein. Screening with a high-throughput assay based on transcriptional repression in Escherichia coli yielded paRC9, a moderately light-activatable variant. As domain insertion can lead to protein destabilization, we also screened the library for temperature-sensitive variants and isolated tsRC9, a variant with robust activity at 29°C but negligible activity at 37°C. Biochemical assays confirmed temperature-dependent DNA cleavage and binding for tsRC9, but indicated that the light sensitivity of paRC9 is specific to the cellular setting. Using tsRC9, the first temperature-sensitive Cas9 variant, we demonstrate temperature-dependent transcriptional control over ectopic and endogenous genetic loci. Taken together, RsLOV can confer light sensitivity onto an unrelated effector; unexpectedly, the same LOV domain can also impart strong temperature sensitivity.
A photoactivatable Cre-loxP recombination system for optogenetic genome engineering.
Genome engineering techniques represented by the Cre-loxP recombination system have been used extensively for biomedical research. However, powerful and useful techniques for genome engineering that have high spatiotemporal precision remain elusive. Here we develop a highly efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) to optogenetically control genome engineering in vivo. PA-Cre is based on the reassembly of split Cre fragments by light-inducible dimerization of the Magnet system. PA-Cre enables sharp induction (up to 320-fold) of DNA recombination and is efficiently activated even by low-intensity illumination (∼0.04 W m(-2)) or short periods of pulsed illumination (∼30 s). We demonstrate that PA-Cre allows for efficient DNA recombination in an internal organ of living mice through noninvasive external illumination using a LED light source. The present PA-Cre provides a powerful tool to greatly facilitate optogenetic genome engineering in vivo.
Optogenetic Control of Protein Function: From Intracellular Processes to Tissue Morphogenesis.
Optogenetics is an emerging and powerful technique that allows the control of protein activity with light. The possibility of inhibiting or stimulating protein activity with the spatial and temporal precision of a pulse of laser light is opening new frontiers for the investigation of developmental pathways and cell biological bases underlying organismal development. With this powerful technique in hand, it will be possible to address old and novel questions about how cells, tissues, and organisms form. In this review, we focus on the applications of existing optogenetic tools for addressing issues in animal morphogenesis.