Showing 276 - 300 of 618 results
Targeting protein function: the expanding toolkit for conditional disruption.
A major objective in biological research is to understand spatial and temporal requirements for any given gene, especially in dynamic processes acting over short periods, such as catalytically driven reactions, subcellular transport, cell division, cell rearrangement and cell migration. The interrogation of such processes requires the use of rapid and flexible methods of interfering with gene function. However, many of the most widely used interventional approaches, such as RNAi or CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 (CRISPR-associated 9), operate at the level of the gene or its transcripts, meaning that the effects of gene perturbation are exhibited over longer time frames than the process under investigation. There has been much activity over the last few years to address this fundamental problem. In the present review, we describe recent advances in disruption technologies acting at the level of the expressed protein, involving inducible methods of protein cleavage, (in)activation, protein sequestration or degradation. Drawing on examples from model organisms we illustrate the utility of fast-acting techniques and discuss how different components of the molecular toolkit can be employed to dissect previously intractable biochemical processes and cellular behaviours.
Automated optogenetic feedback control for precise and robust regulation of gene expression and cell growth.
Dynamic control of gene expression can have far-reaching implications for biotechnological applications and biological discovery. Thanks to the advantages of light, optogenetics has emerged as an ideal technology for this task. Current state-of-the-art methods for optical expression control fail to combine precision with repeatability and cannot withstand changing operating culture conditions. Here, we present a novel fully automatic experimental platform for the robust and precise long-term optogenetic regulation of protein production in liquid Escherichia coli cultures. Using a computer-controlled light-responsive two-component system, we accurately track prescribed dynamic green fluorescent protein expression profiles through the application of feedback control, and show that the system adapts to global perturbations such as nutrient and temperature changes. We demonstrate the efficacy and potential utility of our approach by placing a key metabolic enzyme under optogenetic control, thus enabling dynamic regulation of the culture growth rate with potential applications in bacterial physiology studies and biotechnology.
Unfolding of the C-Terminal Jα Helix in the LOV2 Photoreceptor Domain Observed by Time-Resolved Vibrational Spectroscopy.
Light-triggered reactions of biological photoreceptors have gained immense attention for their role as molecular switches in their native organisms and for optogenetic application. The light, oxygen, and voltage 2 (LOV2) sensing domain of plant phototropin binds a C-terminal Jα helix that is docked on a β-sheet and unfolds upon light absorption by the flavin mononucleotide (FMN) chromophore. In this work, the signal transduction pathway of LOV2 from Avena sativa was investigated using time-resolved infrared spectroscopy from picoseconds to microseconds. In D2O buffer, FMN singlet-to-triplet conversion occurs in 2 ns and formation of the covalent cysteinyl-FMN adduct in 10 μs. We observe a two-step unfolding of the Jα helix: The first phase occurs concomitantly with Cys-FMN covalent adduct formation in 10 μs, along with hydrogen-bond rupture of the FMN C4═O with Gln-513, motion of the β-sheet, and an additional helical element. The second phase occurs in approximately 240 μs. The final spectrum at 500 μs is essentially identical to the steady-state light-minus-dark Fourier transform infrared spectrum, indicating that Jα helix unfolding is complete on that time scale.
Optogenetic regulation of site-specific subtelomeric DNA methylation.
Telomere length homeostasis, critical for chromosomal integrity and genome stability, is controlled by intricate molecular regulatory machinery that includes epigenetic modifications. Here, we examine site-specific and spatiotemporal alteration of the subtelomeric methylation of CpG islands using optogenetic tools to understand the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of telomere length maintenance. Human DNA methyltransferase3A (DNMT3A) were assembled selectively at chromosome ends by fusion to cryptochrome 2 protein (CRY2) and its interacting complement, the basic helix loop helix protein-1 (CIB1). CIB1 was fused to the telomere-associated protein telomere repeat binding factor-1 (TRF1), which localized the protein complex DNMT3A-CRY2 at telomeric regions upon excitation by blue-light monitored by single-molecule fluorescence analyses. Increased methylation was achieved selectively at subtelomeric CpG sites on the six examined chromosome ends specifically after blue-light activation, which resulted in progressive increase in telomere length over three generations of HeLa cell replications. The modular design of the fusion constructs presented here allows for the selective substitution of other chromatin modifying enzymes and for loci-specific targeting to regulate the epigenetic pathways at telomeres and other selected genomic regions of interest.
Lysosome-associated miniSOG as a photosensitizer for mammalian cells.
Genetically encoded photosensitizers represent a promising optogenetic tool for the induction of light-controlled oxidative stress strictly localized to a selected intracellular compartment. Here we tested the phototoxic effects of the flavin-containing phototoxic protein miniSOG targeted to the cytoplasmic surfaces of late endosomes and lysosomes by fusion with Rab7. In HeLa Kyoto cells stably expressing miniSOG-Rab7, we demonstrated a high level of cell death upon blue-light illumination. Pepstatin A completely abolished phototoxicity of miniSOG-Rab7, showing a key role for cathepsin D in this model. Using a far-red fluorescence sensor for caspase-3, we observed caspase-3 activation during miniSOG-Rab7-mediated cell death. We conclude that upon illumination, miniSOG-Rab7 induces lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and leakage of cathepsins into the cytosol, resulting in caspase-dependent apoptosis.
Exosome engineering for efficient intracellular delivery of soluble proteins using optically reversible protein-protein interaction module.
Nanoparticle-mediated delivery of functional macromolecules is a promising method for treating a variety of human diseases. Among nanoparticles, cell-derived exosomes have recently been highlighted as a new therapeutic strategy for the in vivo delivery of nucleotides and chemical drugs. Here we describe a new tool for intracellular delivery of target proteins, named 'exosomes for protein loading via optically reversible protein-protein interactions' (EXPLORs). By integrating a reversible protein-protein interaction module controlled by blue light with the endogenous process of exosome biogenesis, we are able to successfully load cargo proteins into newly generated exosomes. Treatment with protein-loaded EXPLORs is shown to significantly increase intracellular levels of cargo proteins and their function in recipient cells in vitro and in vivo. These results clearly indicate the potential of EXPLORs as a mechanism for the efficient intracellular transfer of protein-based therapeutics into recipient cells and tissues.
LOVTRAP: an optogenetic system for photoinduced protein dissociation.
LOVTRAP is an optogenetic approach for reversible light-induced protein dissociation using protein A fragments that bind to the LOV domain only in the dark, with tunable kinetics and a >150-fold change in the dissociation constant (Kd). By reversibly sequestering proteins at mitochondria, we precisely modulated the proteins' access to the cell edge, demonstrating a naturally occurring 3-mHz cell-edge oscillation driven by interactions of Vav2, Rac1, and PI3K proteins.
Modular engineering of cellular signaling proteins and networks.
Living cells respond to their environment using networks of signaling molecules that act as sensors, information processors, and actuators. These signaling systems are highly modular at both the molecular and network scales, and much evidence suggests that evolution has harnessed this modularity to rewire and generate new physiological behaviors. Conversely, we are now finding that, following nature's example, signaling modules can be recombined to form synthetic tools for monitoring, interrogating, and controlling the behavior of cells. Here we highlight recent progress in the modular design of synthetic receptors, optogenetic switches, and phospho-regulated proteins and circuits, and discuss the expanding role of combinatorial design in the engineering of cellular signaling proteins and networks.
Optogenetic Control of Nodal Signaling Reveals a Temporal Pattern of Nodal Signaling Regulating Cell Fate Specification during Gastrulation.
During metazoan development, the temporal pattern of morphogen signaling is critical for organizing cell fates in space and time. Yet, tools for temporally controlling morphogen signaling within the embryo are still scarce. Here, we developed a photoactivatable Nodal receptor to determine how the temporal pattern of Nodal signaling affects cell fate specification during zebrafish gastrulation. By using this receptor to manipulate the duration of Nodal signaling in vivo by light, we show that extended Nodal signaling within the organizer promotes prechordal plate specification and suppresses endoderm differentiation. Endoderm differentiation is suppressed by extended Nodal signaling inducing expression of the transcriptional repressor goosecoid (gsc) in prechordal plate progenitors, which in turn restrains Nodal signaling from upregulating the endoderm differentiation gene sox17 within these cells. Thus, optogenetic manipulation of Nodal signaling identifies a critical role of Nodal signaling duration for organizer cell fate specification during gastrulation.
Engineering and Application of LOV2-Based Photoswitches.
Cellular optogenetic switches, a novel class of biological tools, have improved our understanding of biological phenomena that were previously intractable. While the design and engineering of these proteins has historically varied, they are all based on borrowed elements from plant and bacterial photoreceptors. In general terms, each of the optogenetic switches designed to date exploits the endogenous light-induced change in photoreceptor conformation while repurposing its effect to target a different biological phenomenon. We focus on the well-characterized light-oxygen-voltage 2 (LOV2) domain from Avena sativa phototropin 1 as our cornerstone for design. While the function of the LOV2 domain in the context of the phototropin protein is not fully elucidated, its thorough biophysical characterization as an isolated domain has created a strong foundation for engineering of photoswitches. In this chapter, we examine the biophysical characteristics of the LOV2 domain that may be exploited to produce an optogenetic switch and summarize previous design efforts to provide guidelines for an effective design. Furthermore, we provide protocols for assays including fluorescence polarization, phage display, and microscopy that are optimized for validating, improving, and using newly designed photoswitches.
Synthetic strategies for plant signalling studies: molecular toolbox and orthogonal platforms.
Plants deploy a wide array of signalling networks integrating environmental cues with growth, defence and developmental responses. The high level of complexity, redundancy and connection between several pathways hampers a comprehensive understanding of involved functional and regulatory mechanisms. The implementation of synthetic biology approaches is revolutionizing experimental biology in prokaryotes, yeasts and animal systems and can likewise contribute to a new era in plant biology. This review gives an overview on synthetic biology approaches for the development and implementation of synthetic molecular tools and techniques to interrogate, understand and control signalling events in plants, ranging from strategies for the targeted manipulation of plant genomes up to the spatiotemporally resolved control of gene expression using optogenetic approaches. We also describe strategies based on the partial reconstruction of signalling pathways in orthogonal platforms, like yeast, animal and in vitro systems. This allows a targeted analysis of individual signalling hubs devoid of interconnectivity with endogenous interacting components. Implementation of the interdisciplinary synthetic biology tools and strategies is not exempt of challenges and hardships but simultaneously most rewarding in terms of the advances in basic and applied research. As witnessed in other areas, these original theoretical-experimental avenues will lead to a breakthrough in the ability to study and comprehend plant signalling networks.
Go in! Go out! Inducible control of nuclear localization.
Cells have evolved a variety of mechanisms to regulate the enormous complexity of processes taking place inside them. One mechanism consists in tightly controlling the localization of macromolecules, keeping them away from their place of action until needed. Since a large fraction of the cellular response to external stimuli is mediated by gene expression, it is not surprising that transcriptional regulators are often subject to stimulus-induced nuclear import or export. Here we review recent methods in chemical biology and optogenetics for controlling the nuclear localization of proteins of interest inside living cells. These methods allow researchers to regulate protein activity with exquisite spatiotemporal control, and open up new possibilities for studying the roles of proteins in a broad array of cellular processes and biological functions.
Blue light-mediated transcriptional activation and repression of gene expression in bacteria.
Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behavior in precise spatial and temporal resolution. The availability of such tools may dramatically accelerate the progression of synthetic biology applications. Nonetheless, current optogenetic toolbox of prokaryotes has potential issues such as lack of rapid and switchable control, less portable, low dynamic expression and limited parts. To address these shortcomings, we have engineered a novel bidirectional promoter system for Escherichia coli that can be induced or repressed rapidly and reversibly using the blue light dependent DNA-binding protein EL222. We demonstrated that by modulating the dosage of light pulses or intensity we could control the level of gene expression precisely. We show that both light-inducible and repressible system can function in parallel with high spatial precision in a single cell and can be switched stably between ON- and OFF-states by repetitive pulses of blue light. In addition, the light-inducible and repressible expression kinetics were quantitatively analysed using a mathematical model. We further apply the system, for the first time, to optogenetically synchronize two receiver cells performing different logic behaviors over time using blue light as a molecular clock signal. Overall, our modular approach layers a transformative platform for next-generation light-controllable synthetic biology systems in prokaryotes.
Using HEK293T Expression System to Study Photoactive Plant Cryptochromes.
Cryptochromes are photolyase-like blue light receptors that are conserved in plants and animals. Although the light-dependent catalytic mechanism of photolyase is well studied, the photochemical mechanism of cryptochromes remains largely unknown. Lack of an appropriate protein expression system to obtain photochemically active cryptochrome holoproteins is a technical obstacle for the study of plant cryptochromes. We report here an easy-to-use method to express and study Arabidopsis cryptochrome in HEK293T cells. Our results indicate that Arabidopsis cryptochromes expressed in HEK293T are photochemically active. We envision a broad use of this method in the functional investigation of plant proteins, especially in the large-scale analyses of photochemical activities of cryptochromes such as blue light-dependent protein-protein interactions.
Positioning the cleavage furrow: All you need is Rho.
RhoA controls cleavage furrow formation during cell division, but whether RhoA suffices to orchestrate spatiotemporal dynamics of furrow formation is unknown. In this issue, Wagner and Goltzer (2016. J. Cell Biol http://dx.doi.org/10.1083/jcb.201603025) show that RhoA activity can induce furrow formation in all cell cortex positions and cell cycle phases.
An extraordinary stringent and sensitive light-switchable gene expression system for bacterial cells.
Light-switchable gene expression systems provide transient, non-invasive and reversible means to control biological processes with high tunability and spatiotemporal resolution. In bacterial cells, a few light-regulated gene expression systems based on photoreceptors and two-component regulatory systems (TCSs) have been reported, which respond to blue, green or red light.
Optogenetic Control of Nuclear Protein Import in Living Cells Using Light-Inducible Nuclear Localization Signals (LINuS).
Many biological processes are regulated by the timely import of specific proteins into the nucleus. The ability to spatiotemporally control the nuclear import of proteins of interest therefore allows study of their role in a given biological process as well as controlling this process in space and time. The light-inducible nuclear localization signal (LINuS) was developed based on a natural plant photoreceptor that reversibly triggers the import of proteins of interest into the nucleus with blue light. Each LINuS is a small, genetically encoded domain that is fused to the protein of interest at the N or C terminus. These protocols describe how to carry out initial microscopy-based screening to assess which LINuS variant works best with a protein of interest. © 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Structural insight into photoactivation of an adenylate cyclase from a photosynthetic cyanobacterium.
Cyclic-AMP is one of the most important second messengers, regulating many crucial cellular events in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and precise spatial and temporal control of cAMP levels by light shows great promise as a simple means of manipulating and studying numerous cell pathways and processes. The photoactivated adenylate cyclase (PAC) from the photosynthetic cyanobacterium Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) is a small homodimer eminently suitable for this task, requiring only a simple flavin chromophore within a blue light using flavin (BLUF) domain. These domains, one of the most studied types of biological photoreceptor, respond to blue light and either regulate the activity of an attached enzyme domain or change its affinity for a repressor protein. BLUF domains were discovered through studies of photo-induced movements of Euglena gracilis, a unicellular flagellate, and gene expression in the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides, but the precise details of light activation remain unknown. Here, we describe crystal structures and the light regulation mechanism of the previously undescribed OaPAC, showing a central coiled coil transmits changes from the light-sensing domains to the active sites with minimal structural rearrangement. Site-directed mutants show residues essential for signal transduction over 45 Å across the protein. The use of the protein in living human cells is demonstrated with cAMP-dependent luciferase, showing a rapid and stable response to light over many hours and activation cycles. The structures determined in this study will assist future efforts to create artificial light-regulated control modules as part of a general optogenetic toolkit.
Repurposing Synechocystis PCC6803 UirS-UirR as a UV-Violet/Green Photoreversible Transcriptional Regulatory Tool in E. coli.
We have previously engineered green/red and red/far red photoreversible E. coli phytochrome and cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) two-component systems (TCSs) and utilized them to program tailor-made gene expression signals for gene circuit characterization. Here, we transport the UV-violet/green photoreversible CBCR TCS UirS-UirR from Synechocystis PCC6803 to E. coli. We demonstrate that the promoter of the small RNA csiR1, previously shown to be activated by inorganic carbon stress, is a UirS-UirR output. Additionally, in contrast to a recently proposed sequestration model, we show that the sensor histidine kinase UirS phosphorylates the response regulator UirR to activate PcsiR1 transcription in response to UV-violet light. Finally, we measure changes in UirS-UirR output minutes after a change in light input and exploit these rapid dynamics to program a challenging gene expression signal with high predictability. UirS-UirR is the first engineered transcriptional regulatory tool activated exclusively by UV-violet light, and the most blue shifted photoreversible transcriptional regulatory tool.
A bacterial phytochrome-based optogenetic system controllable with near-infrared light.
Light-mediated control of protein-protein interactions to regulate cellular pathways is an important application of optogenetics. Here, we report an optogenetic system based on the reversible light-induced binding between the bacterial phytochrome BphP1 and its natural partner PpsR2 from Rhodopseudomonas palustris bacteria. We extensively characterized the BphP1-PpsR2 interaction both in vitro and in mammalian cells and then used this interaction to translocate target proteins to specific cellular compartments, such as the plasma membrane and the nucleus. We showed light-inducible control of cell morphology that resulted in a substantial increase of the cell area. We demonstrated light-dependent gene expression with 40-fold contrast in cultured cells, 32-fold in subcutaneous mouse tissue, and 5.7-fold in deep tissues in mice. Characteristics of the BphP1-PpsR2 optogenetic system include its sensitivity to 740- to 780-nm near-infrared light, its ability to utilize an endogenous biliverdin chromophore in eukaryotes (including mammals), and its spectral compatibility with blue-light-driven optogenetic systems.
Phytochrome and retrograde signalling pathways converge to antagonistically regulate a light-induced transcriptional network.
Plastid-to-nucleus retrograde signals emitted by dysfunctional chloroplasts impact photomorphogenic development, but the molecular link between retrograde- and photosensory-receptor signalling has remained unclear. Here, we show that the phytochrome and retrograde signalling (RS) pathways converge antagonistically to regulate the expression of the nuclear-encoded transcription factor GLK1, a key regulator of a light-induced transcriptional network central to photomorphogenesis. GLK1 gene transcription is directly repressed by PHYTOCHROME-INTERACTING FACTOR (PIF)-class bHLH transcription factors in darkness, but light-activated phytochrome reverses this activity, thereby inducing expression. Conversely, we show that retrograde signals repress this induction by a mechanism independent of PIF mediation. Collectively, our data indicate that light at moderate levels acts through the plant's nuclear-localized sensory-photoreceptor system to induce appropriate photomorphogenic development, but at excessive levels, sensed through the separate plastid-localized RS system, acts to suppress such development, thus providing a mechanism for protection against photo-oxidative damage by minimizing the tissue exposure to deleterious radiation.
A Phytochrome Sensory Domain Permits Receptor Activation by Red Light.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology enable the spatio-temporal control of cell and animal behavior by light. Although red light offers deep-tissue penetration and minimal phototoxicity, very few red-light-sensitive optogenetic methods are currently available. We have now developed a red-light-induced homodimerization domain. We first showed that an optimized sensory domain of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 can be expressed robustly and without cytotoxicity in human cells. We then applied this domain to induce the dimerization of two receptor tyrosine kinases-the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 and the neurotrophin receptor trkB. This new optogenetic method was then used to activate the MAPK/ERK pathway non-invasively in mammalian tissue and in multicolor cell-signaling experiments. The light-controlled dimerizer and red-light-activated receptor tyrosine kinases will prove useful to regulate a variety of cellular processes with light.
Light-induced nuclear export reveals rapid dynamics of epigenetic modifications.
We engineered a photoactivatable system for rapidly and reversibly exporting proteins from the nucleus by embedding a nuclear export signal in the LOV2 domain from phototropin 1. Fusing the chromatin modifier Bre1 to the photoswitch, we achieved light-dependent control of histone H2B monoubiquitylation in yeast, revealing fast turnover of the ubiquitin mark. Moreover, this inducible system allowed us to dynamically monitor the status of epigenetic modifications dependent on H2B ubiquitylation.
The Timing of Raf/ERK and AKT Activation in Protecting PC12 Cells against Oxidative Stress.
Acute brain injuries such as ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury often cause massive neural death and irreversible brain damage with grave consequences. Previous studies have established that a key participant in the events leading to neural death is the excessive production of reactive oxygen species. Protecting neuronal cells by activating their endogenous defense mechanisms is an attractive treatment strategy for acute brain injuries. In this work, we investigate how the precise timing of the Raf/ERK and the AKT pathway activation affects their protective effects against oxidative stress. For this purpose, we employed optogenetic systems that use light to precisely and reversibly activate either the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway. We find that preconditioning activation of the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway immediately before oxidant exposure provides significant protection to cells. Notably, a 15-minute transient activation of the Raf/ERK pathway is able to protect PC12 cells against oxidant strike that is applied 12 hours later, while the transient activation of the AKT pathway fails to protect PC12 cells in such a scenario. On the other hand, if the pathways are activated after the oxidative insult, i.e. postconditioning, the AKT pathway conveys greater protective effect than the Raf/ERK pathway. We find that postconditioning AKT activation has an optimal delay period of 2 hours. When the AKT pathway is activated 30min after the oxidative insult, it exhibits very little protective effect. Therefore, the precise timing of the pathway activation is crucial in determining its protective effect against oxidative injury. The optogenetic platform, with its precise temporal control and its ability to activate specific pathways, is ideal for the mechanistic dissection of intracellular pathways in protection against oxidative stress.
Illuminating Cell Signaling with Near-Infrared Light-Responsive Nanomaterials.
The regulation of cellular signaling in vivo has been a challenging task owing to the lack of effective methods for tunable control of the amplitude, location, and duration of cell-signaling events at a deep-tissue level. In this issue of ACS Nano, an intriguing paper by Ambrosone et al. demonstrates that deep-tissue-penetrating near-infrared (NIR) light can be used to control the Wnt/β-catenin-signaling pathway in a single-cell organism (Hydra) by utilizing microcapsules that contain plasmonic gold nanoparticles. In parallel, in recent work, we proposed upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as NIR-light-activatable "wireless" optogenetic tools, and we showed their ability to modulate cell signaling pathways in both mammalian cells and mice. We believe that these interesting NIR-light-responsive nanotechnologies will open new avenues for both basic research and clinical applications.