Showing 276 - 300 of 1087 results
Dynamic organelle distribution initiates actin-based spindle migration in mouse oocytes.
Migration of meiosis-I (MI) spindle from the cell center to a sub-cortical location is a critical step for mouse oocytes to undergo asymmetric meiotic cell division. In this study, we investigate the mechanism by which formin-2 (FMN2) orchestrates the initial movement of MI spindle. By defining protein domains responsible for targeting FMN2, we show that spindle-periphery localized FMN2 is required for spindle migration. The spindle-peripheral FMN2 nucleates short actin bundles from vesicles derived likely from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and concentrated in a layer outside the spindle. This layer is in turn surrounded by mitochondria. A model based on polymerizing actin filaments pushing against mitochondria, thus generating a counter force on the spindle, demonstrated an inherent ability of this system to break symmetry and evolve directional spindle motion. The model is further supported through experiments involving spatially biasing actin nucleation via optogenetics and disruption of mitochondrial distribution and dynamics.
Ras acts as a molecular switch between two forms of consolidated memory in Drosophila.
Long-lasting, consolidated memories require not only positive biological processes that facilitate long-term memories (LTM) but also the suppression of inhibitory processes that prevent them. The mushroom body neurons (MBn) in Drosophila melanogaster store protein synthesis-dependent LTM (PSD-LTM) as well as protein synthesis-independent, anesthesia-resistant memory (ARM). The formation of ARM inhibits PSD-LTM but the underlying molecular processes that mediate this interaction remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the Ras→Raf→rho kinase (ROCK) pathway in MBn suppresses ARM consolidation, allowing the formation of PSD-LTM. Our initial results revealed that the effects of Ras on memory are due to postacquisition processes. Ras knockdown enhanced memory expression but had no effect on acquisition. Additionally, increasing Ras activity optogenetically after, but not before, acquisition impaired memory performance. The elevated memory produced by Ras knockdown is a result of increased ARM. While Ras knockdown enhanced the consolidation of ARM, it eliminated PSD-LTM. We found that these effects are mediated by the downstream kinase Raf. Similar to Ras, knockdown of Raf enhanced ARM consolidation and impaired PSD-LTM. Surprisingly, knockdown of the canonical downstream extracellular signal-regulated kinase did not reproduce the phenotypes observed with Ras and Raf knockdown. Rather, Ras/Raf inhibition of ROCK was found to be responsible for suppressing ARM. Constitutively active ROCK enhanced ARM and impaired PSD-LTM, while decreasing ROCK activity rescued the enhanced ARM produced by Ras knockdown. We conclude that MBn Ras/Raf inhibition of ROCK suppresses the consolidation of ARM, which permits the formation of PSD-LTM.
Non-invasive optical control of endogenous Ca2+ channels in awake mice.
Optogenetic approaches for controlling Ca2+ channels provide powerful means for modulating diverse Ca2+-specific biological events in space and time. However, blue light-responsive photoreceptors are, in principle, considered inadequate for deep tissue stimulation unless accompanied by optic fiber insertion. Here, we present an ultra-light-sensitive optogenetic Ca2+ modulator, named monSTIM1 encompassing engineered cryptochrome2 for manipulating Ca2+ signaling in the brain of awake mice through non-invasive light delivery. Activation of monSTIM1 in either excitatory neurons or astrocytes of mice brain is able to induce Ca2+-dependent gene expression without any mechanical damage in the brain. Furthermore, we demonstrate that non-invasive Ca2+ modulation in neurons can be sufficiently and effectively translated into changes in behavioral phenotypes of awake mice.
Coupling delay controls synchronized oscillation in the segmentation clock.
Individual cellular activities fluctuate but are constantly coordinated at the population level via cell-cell coupling. A notable example is the somite segmentation clock, in which the expression of clock genes (such as Hes7) oscillates in synchrony between the cells that comprise the presomitic mesoderm (PSM)1,2. This synchronization depends on the Notch signalling pathway; inhibiting this pathway desynchronizes oscillations, leading to somite fusion3-7. However, how Notch signalling regulates the synchronicity of HES7 oscillations is unknown. Here we establish a live-imaging system using a new fluorescent reporter (Achilles), which we fuse with HES7 to monitor synchronous oscillations in HES7 expression in the mouse PSM at a single-cell resolution. Wild-type cells can rapidly correct for phase fluctuations in HES7 oscillations, whereas the absence of the Notch modulator gene lunatic fringe (Lfng) leads to a loss of synchrony between PSM cells. Furthermore, HES7 oscillations are severely dampened in individual cells of Lfng-null PSM. However, when Lfng-null PSM cells were completely dissociated, the amplitude and periodicity of HES7 oscillations were almost normal, which suggests that LFNG is involved mostly in cell-cell coupling. Mixed cultures of control and Lfng-null PSM cells, and an optogenetic Notch signalling reporter assay, revealed that LFNG delays the signal-sending process of intercellular Notch signalling transmission. These results-together with mathematical modelling-raised the possibility that Lfng-null PSM cells shorten the coupling delay, thereby approaching a condition known as the oscillation or amplitude death of coupled oscillators8. Indeed, a small compound that lengthens the coupling delay partially rescues the amplitude and synchrony of HES7 oscillations in Lfng-null PSM cells. Our study reveals a delay control mechanism of the oscillatory networks involved in somite segmentation, and indicates that intercellular coupling with the correct delay is essential for synchronized oscillation.
Light-mediated control of Gene expression in mammalian cells.
Taking advantage of the recent development of genetically-defined photo-activatable actuator molecules, cellular functions, including gene expression, can be controlled by exposure to light. Such optogenetic strategies enable precise temporal and spatial manipulation of targeted single cells or groups of cells at a level hitherto impossible. In this review, we introduce light-controllable gene expression systems exploiting blue or red/far-red wavelengths and discuss their inherent properties potentially affecting induced downstream gene expression patterns. We also discuss recent advances in optical devices that will extend the application of optical gene expression control technologies into many different areas of biology and medicine.
Functional Modulation of Receptor Proteins on Cellular Interface with Optogenetic System.
In multicellular organisms, living cells cooperate with each other to exert coordinated complex functions by responding to extracellular chemical or physical stimuli via proteins on the plasma membrane. Conventionally, chemical signal transduction or mechano-transduction has been investigated by chemical, genetic, or physical perturbation; however, these methods cannot manipulate biomolecular reactions at high spatiotemporal resolution. In contrast, recent advances in optogenetic perturbation approaches have succeeded in controlling signal transduction with external light. The methods have enabled spatiotemporal perturbation of the signaling, providing functional roles of the specific proteins. In this chapter, we summarize recent advances in the optogenetic tools that modulate the function of a receptor protein. While most optogenetic systems have been devised for controlling ion channel conductivities, the present review focuses on the other membrane proteins involved in chemical transduction or mechano-transduction. We describe the properties of natural or artificial photoreceptor proteins used in optogenetic systems. Then, we discuss the strategies for controlling the receptor protein functions by external light. Future prospects of optogenetic tool development are discussed.
Phytochromes and Cyanobacteriochromes: Photoreceptor Molecules Incorporating a Linear Tetrapyrrole Chromophore.
In this chapter, we summarize the molecular mechanisms of the linear tetrapyrrole-binding photoreceptors, phytochromes, and cyanobacteriochromes. We especially focus on the color-tuning mechanisms and conformational changes during the photoconversion process. Furthermore, we introduce current status of development of the optogenetic tools based on these molecules. Huge repertoire of these photoreceptors with diverse spectral properties would contribute to development of multiplex optogenetic regulation. Among them, the photoreceptors incorporating the biliverdin IXα chromophore is advantageous for in vivo optogenetics because this is intrinsic in the mammalian cells, and absorbs far-red light penetrating into deep mammalian tissues.
Light Control of Gene Expression Dynamics.
The progress in live-cell imaging technologies has revealed diverse dynamic patterns of transcriptional activity in various contexts. The discovery raised a next question of whether the gene expression patterns play causative roles in triggering specific biological events or not. Here, we introduce optogenetic methods that realize optical control of gene expression dynamics in mammalian cells and would be utilized for answering the question, by referring the past, the present, and the future.
Visualization and Manipulation of Intracellular Signaling.
Cells respond to a wide range of extracellular stimuli, and process the input information through an intracellular signaling system comprised of biochemical and biophysical reactions, including enzymatic and protein-protein interactions. It is essential to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying intracellular signal transduction in order to clarify not only physiological cellular functions but also pathological processes such as tumorigenesis. Fluorescent proteins have revolutionized the field of life science, and brought the study of intracellular signaling to the single-cell and subcellular levels. Much effort has been devoted to developing genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors based on fluorescent proteins, which enable us to visualize the spatiotemporal dynamics of cell signaling. In addition, optogenetic techniques for controlling intracellular signal transduction systems have been developed and applied in recent years by regulating intracellular signaling in a light-dependent manner. Here, we outline the principles of biosensors for probing intracellular signaling and the optogenetic tools for manipulating them.
Photoreaction Mechanisms of Flavoprotein Photoreceptors and Their Applications.
Three classes of flavoprotein photoreceptors, cryptochromes (CRYs), light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-domain proteins, and blue light using FAD (BLUF)-domain proteins, have been identified that control various physiological processes in multiple organisms. Accordingly, signaling activities of photoreceptors have been intensively studied and the related mechanisms have been exploited in numerous optogenetic tools. Herein, we summarize the current understanding of photoactivation mechanisms of the flavoprotein photoreceptors and review their applications.
Stick-slip dynamics of cell adhesion triggers spontaneous symmetry breaking and directional migration of mesenchymal cells on one-dimensional lines.
Directional cell motility relies on the ability of single cells to establish a front-rear polarity and can occur in the absence of external cues. The initiation of migration has often been attributed to the spontaneous polarization of cytoskeleton components, while the spatiotemporal evolution of cell-substrate interaction forces has yet to be resolved. Here, we establish a one-dimensional microfabricated migration assay that mimics the complex in vivo fibrillar environment while being compatible with high-resolution force measurements, quantitative microscopy, and optogenetics. Quantification of morphometric and mechanical parameters of NIH-3T3 fibroblasts and RPE1 epithelial cells reveals a generic stick-slip behavior initiated by contractility-dependent stochastic detachment of adhesive contacts at one side of the cell, which is sufficient to trigger cell motility in 1D in the absence of pre-established polarity. A theoretical model validates the crucial role of adhesion dynamics, proposing that front-rear polarity can emerge independently of a complex self-polarizing system.
The C-terminal region affects the activity of photoactivated adenylyl cyclase from Oscillatoria acuminata.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) is a unique protein that, upon blue light exposure, catalyzes cAMP production. The crystal structures of two PACs, from Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) and Beggiatoa sp. (bPAC), have been solved, and they show a high degree of similarity. However, the photoactivity of OaPAC is much lower than that of bPAC, and the regulatory mechanism of PAC photoactivity, which induces the difference in activity between OaPAC and bPAC, has not yet been clarified. Here, we investigated the role of the C-terminal region in OaPAC, the length of which is the only notable difference from bPAC. We found that the photoactivity of OaPAC was inversely proportional to the C-terminal length. However, the deletion of more than nine amino acids did not further increase the activity, indicating that the nine amino acids at the C-terminal critically affect the photoactivity. Besides, absorption spectral features of light-sensing domains (BLUF domains) of the C-terminal deletion mutants showed similar light-dependent spectral shifts as in WT, indicating that the C-terminal region influences the activity without interacting with the BLUF domain. The study characterizes new PAC mutants with modified photoactivities, which could be useful as optogenetics tools.
A Computational Protocol for Regulating Protein Binding Reactions with a Light-Sensitive Protein Dimer.
Light-sensitive proteins can be used to perturb signaling networks in living cells and animals with high spatiotemporal resolution. We recently engineered a protein heterodimer that dissociates when irradiated with blue light and demonstrated that by fusing each half of the dimer to termini of a protein that it is possible to selectively block binding surfaces on the protein when in the dark. On activation with light, the dimer dissociates and exposes the binding surface, allowing the protein to bind its partner. Critical to the success of this system, called Z-lock, is that the linkers connecting the dimer components to the termini are engineered so that the dimer forms over the appropriate binding surface. Here, we develop and test a protocol in the Rosetta molecular modeling program for designing linkers for Z-lock. We show that the protocol can predict the most effective linker sets for three different light-sensitive switches, including a newly designed switch that binds the Rho-family GTPase Cdc42 on stimulation with blue light. This protocol represents a generalized computational approach to placing a wide variety of proteins under optogenetic control with Z-lock.
Optogenetic Control of Microtubule Dynamics.
Light can be controlled with high spatial and temporal accuracy. Therefore, optogenetics is an attractive experimental approach to modulate intracellular cytoskeleton dynamics at much faster timescales than by genetic modification. For example, in mammalian cells, microtubules (MTs) grow tens of micrometers per minute and many intracellular MT functions are mediated by a complex of +TIP proteins that dynamically associate with growing MT plus ends. EB1 is a central component of this +TIP protein network, and we recently developed a photo-inactivated π-EB1 by inserting a blue light-sensitive LOV2/Zdk1 module between the EB1 MT-binding domain and the +TIP adaptor domain. Blue light-induced π-EB1 photodissociation results in disassembly of the +TIP complex and strongly attenuates MT growth in mammalian cells.In this chapter, we discuss theoretical and practical aspects of how to perform high-resolution live-cell microscopy in combination with π-EB1 photodissociation. However, these techniques are broadly applicable to other LOV2-based and likely other blue light-sensitive optogenetics. In addition to being a tool to investigate +TIP functions acutely and with subcellular resolution, because of its dramatic and rapid change in intracellular localization, π-EB1 can serve as a powerful tool to test and characterize optogenetic illumination setups. We describe protocols on how to achieve micrometer-scale intracellular control of π-EB1 activity using patterned illumination, and we introduce a do-it-yourself LED cube design compatible with transmitted light microscopy in multiwell plates.
ERK-mediated mechanochemical waves direct collective cell polarization.
During collective migration of epithelial cells, the migration direction is aligned over a large, tissue-scale expanse. Although the collective cell migration is known to be directed by mechanical forces transmitted via cell-cell junctions, it remains elusive how the intercellular force transmission is coordinated with intracellular biochemical signaling to achieve collective movements. Here we show that intercellular coupling of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated mechanochemical feedback in individual cells yields long-distance transmission of guidance cues. Mechanical stretch activates ERK through epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation, and the ERK activation triggers cell contraction. In addition, the contraction of the activated cell pulls neighboring cells via cell-cell junctions, evoking another round of ERK activation and contraction in the neighbors. Furthermore, anisotropic contraction based on front-rear cell polarization guarantees unidirectional propagation of ERK activation waves, and in turn, the ERK activation waves direct multicellular alignment of the polarity, leading to long-range ordered migration. Our findings reveal that mechanical forces mediate intercellular signaling underlying sustained transmission of guidance cues for collective cell migration.
RhoA Mediates Epithelial Cell Shape Changes via Mechanosensitive Endocytosis.
Epithelial remodeling involves ratcheting behavior whereby periodic contractility produces transient changes in cell-cell contact lengths, which stabilize to produce lasting morphogenetic changes. Pulsatile RhoA activity is thought to underlie morphogenetic ratchets, but how RhoA governs transient changes in junction length, and how these changes are rectified to produce irreversible deformation, remains poorly understood. Here, we use optogenetics to characterize responses to pulsatile RhoA in model epithelium. Short RhoA pulses drive reversible junction contractions, while longer pulses produce irreversible junction length changes that saturate with prolonged pulse durations. Using an enhanced vertex model, we show this is explained by two effects: thresholded tension remodeling and continuous strain relaxation. Our model predicts that structuring RhoA into multiple pulses overcomes the saturation of contractility and confirms this experimentally. Junction remodeling also requires formin-mediated E-cadherin clustering and dynamin-dependent endocytosis. Thus, irreversible junction deformations are regulated by RhoA-mediated contractility, membrane trafficking, and adhesion receptor remodeling.
Mapping the proximity interaction network of the Rho-family GTPases reveals signalling pathways and regulatory mechanisms.
Guanine nucleotide exchange factors (RhoGEFs) and GTPase-activating proteins (RhoGAPs) coordinate the activation state of the Rho family of GTPases for binding to effectors. Here, we exploited proximity-dependent biotinylation to systematically define the Rho family proximity interaction network from 28 baits to produce 9,939 high-confidence proximity interactions in two cell lines. Exploiting the nucleotide states of Rho GTPases, we revealed the landscape of interactions with RhoGEFs and RhoGAPs. We systematically defined effectors of Rho proteins to reveal candidates for classical and atypical Rho proteins. We used optogenetics to demonstrate that KIAA0355 (termed GARRE here) is a RAC1 interactor. A functional screen of RHOG candidate effectors identified PLEKHG3 as a promoter of Rac-mediated membrane ruffling downstream of RHOG. We identified that active RHOA binds the kinase SLK in Drosophila and mammalian cells to promote Ezrin-Radixin-Moesin phosphorylation. Our proximity interactions data pave the way for dissecting additional Rho signalling pathways, and the approaches described here are applicable to the Ras family.
Strategies for Engineering and Rewiring Kinase Regulation.
Eukaryotic protein kinases (EPKs) catalyze the transfer of a phosphate group onto another protein in response to appropriate regulatory cues. In doing so, they provide a primary means for cellular information transfer. Consequently, EPKs play crucial roles in cell differentiation and cell-cycle progression, and kinase dysregulation is associated with numerous disease phenotypes including cancer. Nonnative cues for synthetically regulating kinases are thus much sought after, both for dissecting cell signaling pathways and for pharmaceutical development. In recent years advances in protein engineering and sequence analysis have led to new approaches for manipulating kinase activity, localization, and in some instances specificity. These tools have revealed fundamental principles of intracellular signaling and suggest paths forward for the design of therapeutic allosteric kinase regulators.
Optogenetic approaches to investigate spatiotemporal signaling during development.
Embryogenesis is coordinated by signaling pathways that pattern the developing organism. Many aspects of this process are not fully understood, including how signaling molecules spread through embryonic tissues, how signaling amplitude and dynamics are decoded, and how multiple signaling pathways cooperate to pattern the body plan. Optogenetic approaches can be used to address these questions by providing precise experimental control over a variety of biological processes. Here, we review how these strategies have provided new insights into developmental signaling and discuss how they could contribute to future investigations.
SapTrap Assembly of Caenorhabditis elegans MosSCI Transgene Vectors.
The Mos1-mediated Single-Copy Insertion (MosSCI) method is widely used to establish stable Caenorhabditis elegans transgenic strains. Cloning MosSCI targeting plasmids can be cumbersome because it requires assembling multiple genetic elements including a promoter, a 3'UTR and gene fragments. Recently, Schwartz and Jorgensen developed the SapTrap method for the one-step assembly of plasmids containing components of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for C. elegans Here, we report on the adaptation of the SapTrap method for the efficient and modular assembly of a promoter, 3'UTR and either 2 or 3 gene fragments in a MosSCI targeting vector in a single reaction. We generated a toolkit that includes several fluorescent tags, components of the ePDZ/LOV optogenetic system and regulatory elements that control gene expression in the C. elegans germline. As a proof of principle, we generated a collection of strains that fluorescently label the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria in the hermaphrodite germline and that enable the light-stimulated recruitment of mitochondria to centrosomes in the one-cell worm embryo. The method described here offers a flexible and efficient method for assembly of custom MosSCI targeting vectors.
Engineered BRET-Based Biologic Light Sources Enable Spatiotemporal Control over Diverse Optogenetic Systems.
Light-inducible optogenetic systems offer precise spatiotemporal control over a myriad of biologic processes. Unfortunately, current systems are inherently limited by their dependence on external light sources for their activation. Further, the utility of laser/LED-based illumination strategies are often constrained by the need for invasive surgical procedures to deliver such devices and local heat production, photobleaching and phototoxicity that compromises cell and tissue viability. To overcome these limitations, we developed a novel BRET-activated optogenetics (BEACON) system that employs biologic light to control optogenetic tools. BEACON is driven by self-illuminating bioluminescent-fluorescent proteins that generate "spectrally tuned" biologic light via bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET). Notably, BEACON robustly activates a variety of commonly used optogenetic systems in a spatially restricted fashion, and at physiologically relevant time scales, to levels that are achieved by conventional laser/LED light sources.
Primary Cilia Signaling Promotes Axonal Tract Development and Is Disrupted in Joubert Syndrome-Related Disorders Models.
Appropriate axonal growth and connectivity are essential for functional wiring of the brain. Joubert syndrome-related disorders (JSRD), a group of ciliopathies in which mutations disrupt primary cilia function, are characterized by axonal tract malformations. However, little is known about how cilia-driven signaling regulates axonal growth and connectivity. We demonstrate that the deletion of related JSRD genes, Arl13b and Inpp5e, in projection neurons leads to de-fasciculated and misoriented axonal tracts. Arl13b deletion disrupts the function of its downstream effector, Inpp5e, and deregulates ciliary-PI3K/AKT signaling. Chemogenetic activation of ciliary GPCR signaling and cilia-specific optogenetic modulation of downstream second messenger cascades (PI3K, AKT, and AC3) commonly regulated by ciliary signaling receptors induce rapid changes in axonal dynamics. Further, Arl13b deletion leads to changes in transcriptional landscape associated with dysregulated PI3K/AKT signaling. These data suggest that ciliary signaling acts to modulate axonal connectivity and that impaired primary cilia signaling underlies axonal tract defects in JSRD.
Optical activation of TrkB receptors.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), via activation of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), plays a critical role in neuronal proliferation, differentiation, survival, and death. Dysregulation of TrkB signaling is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Precise activation of TrkB receptors with spatial and temporal resolution is greatly desired to study the dynamic nature of TrkB signaling and its role in related diseases. Here we develop different optogenetic approaches that use light to activate TrkB receptors. Utilizing the photosensitive protein Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), the light-inducible homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkB (iTrkB) in the cytosol or on the plasma membrane is able to induce the activation of downstream MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt signaling as well as the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells. Moreover, we prove that such strategies are generalizable to other optical homo-dimerizers by demonstrating the optical TrkB activation based on the light-oxygen-voltage domain of aureochrome 1 from Vaucheria frigida. The results open up new possibilities of many other optical platforms to activate TrkB receptors to fulfill customized needs. By comparing all the different strategies, we find that the CRY2-integrated approach to achieve light-induced cell membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of iTrkB is most efficient in activating TrkB receptors. The optogenetic strategies presented are promising tools to investigate BDNF/TrkB signaling with tight spatial and temporal control.
A time-dependent role for the transcription factor CREB in neuronal allocation to an engram underlying a fear memory revealed using a novel in vivo optogenetic tool to modulate CREB function.
The internal representation of an experience is thought to be encoded by long-lasting physical changes to the brain ("engrams") (Josselyn et al. Nat Rev Neurosci 16:521-534, 2015; Josselyn et al. J Neurosci 37:4647-4657, 2017; Schacter. 2001; Tonegawa et al. Neuron 87:918-931, 2015). Previously, we (Han et al. Science 316:457-460, 2007) and others (Zhou et al. Nat Neurosci 12:1438-1443, 2009) showed within the lateral amygdala (LA), a region critical for auditory conditioned fear, eligible neurons compete against one other for allocation to an engram. Neurons with relatively higher function of the transcription factor CREB were more likely to be allocated to the engram. In these studies, though, CREB function was artificially increased for several days before training. Precisely when increased CREB function is important for allocation remains an unanswered question. Here, we took advantage of a novel optogenetic tool (opto-DN-CREB) (Ali et al. Chem Biol 22:1531-1539, 2015) to gain spatial and temporal control of CREB function in freely behaving mice. We found increasing CREB function in a small, random population of LA principal neurons in the minutes-hours, but not 24 h, before training was sufficient to enhance memory, likely because these neurons were preferentially allocated to the underlying engram. However, similarly increasing CREB activity in a small population of random LA neurons immediately after training disrupted subsequent memory retrieval, likely by disrupting the precise spatial and temporal patterns of offline post-training neuronal activity and/or function required for consolidation. These findings reveal the importance of the timing of CREB activity in regulating allocation and subsequent memory retrieval, and further, highlight the potential of optogenetic approaches to control protein function with temporal specificity in behaving animals.
Directed evolution improves the catalytic efficiency of TEV protease.
Tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) is one of the most widely used proteases in biotechnology because of its exquisite sequence specificity. A limitation, however, is its slow catalytic rate. We developed a generalizable yeast-based platform for directed evolution of protease catalytic properties. Protease activity is read out via proteolytic release of a membrane-anchored transcription factor, and we temporally regulate access to TEV's cleavage substrate using a photosensory LOV domain. By gradually decreasing light exposure time, we enriched faster variants of TEV over multiple rounds of selection. Our TEV-S153N mutant (uTEV1Δ), when incorporated into the calcium integrator FLARE, improved the signal/background ratio by 27-fold, and enabled recording of neuronal activity in culture with 60-s temporal resolution. Given the widespread use of TEV in biotechnology, both our evolved TEV mutants and the directed-evolution platform used to generate them could be beneficial across a wide range of applications.