Showing 501 - 525 of 678 results
Real-time optogenetic control of intracellular protein concentration in microbial cell cultures.
Perturbations in the concentration of a specific protein are often used to study and control biological networks. The ability to "dial-in" and programmatically control the concentration of a desired protein in cultures of cells would be transformative for applications in research and biotechnology. We developed a culturing apparatus and feedback control scheme which, in combination with an optogenetic system, allows us to generate defined perturbations in the intracellular concentration of a specific protein in microbial cell culture. As light can be easily added and removed, we can control protein concentration in culture more dynamically than would be possible with long-lived chemical inducers. Control of protein concentration is achieved by sampling individual cells from the culture apparatus, imaging and quantifying protein concentration, and adjusting the inducing light appropriately. The culturing apparatus can be operated as a chemostat, allowing us to precisely control microbial growth and providing cell material for downstream assays. We illustrate the potential for this technology by generating fixed and time-varying concentrations of a specific protein in continuous steady-state cultures of the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We anticipate that this technology will allow for quantitative studies of biological networks as well as external tuning of synthetic gene circuits and bioprocesses.
The UV-B photoreceptor UVR8: from structure to physiology.
Low doses of UV-B light (280 to 315 nm) elicit photomorphogenic responses in plants that modify biochemical composition, photosynthetic competence, morphogenesis, and defense. UV RESISTANCE LOCUS8 (UVR8) mediates photomorphogenic responses to UV-B by regulating transcription of a set of target genes. UVR8 differs from other known photoreceptors in that it uses specific Trp amino acids instead of a prosthetic chromophore for light absorption during UV-B photoreception. Absorption of UV-B dissociates the UVR8 dimer into monomers, initiating signal transduction through interaction with CONSTITUTIVELY PHOTOMORPHOGENIC1. However, much remains to be learned about the physiological role of UVR8 and its interaction with other signaling pathways, the molecular mechanism of UVR8 photoreception, how the UVR8 protein initiates signaling, how it is regulated, and how UVR8 regulates transcription of its target genes.
Near-infrared light responsive synthetic c-di-GMP module for optogenetic applications.
Enormous potential of cell-based therapeutics is hindered by the lack of effective means to control genetically engineered cells in mammalian tissues. Here, we describe a synthetic module for remote photocontrol of engineered cells that can be adapted for such applications. The module involves photoactivated synthesis of cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP), a stable small molecule that is not produced by higher eukaryotes and therefore is suitable for orthogonal regulation. The key component of the photocontrol module is an engineered bacteriophytochrome diguanylate cyclase, which synthesizes c-di-GMP from GTP in a light-dependent manner. Bacteriophytochromes are particularly attractive photoreceptors because they respond to light in the near-infrared window of the spectrum, where absorption by mammalian tissues is minimal, and also because their chromophore, biliverdin IXα, is naturally available in mammalian cells. The second component of the photocontrol module, a c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase, maintains near-zero background levels of c-di-GMP in the absence of light, which enhances the photodynamic range of c-di-GMP concentrations. In the E. coli model used in this study, the intracellular c-di-GMP levels could be upregulated by light by >50-fold. Various c-di-GMP-responsive proteins and riboswitches identified in bacteria can be linked downstream of the c-di-GMP-mediated photocontrol module for orthogonal regulation of biological activities in mammals as well as in other organisms lacking c-di-GMP signaling. Here, we linked the photocontrol module to a gene expression output via a c-di-GMP-responsive transcription factor and achieved a 40-fold photoactivation of gene expression.
Factors that control the chemistry of the LOV domain photocycle.
Algae, plants, bacteria and fungi contain Light-Oxygen-Voltage (LOV) domains that function as blue light sensors to control cellular responses to light. All LOV domains contain a bound flavin chromophore that is reduced upon photon absorption and forms a reversible, metastable covalent bond with a nearby cysteine residue. In Avena sativa LOV2 (AsLOV2), the photocycle is accompanied by an allosteric conformational change that activates the attached phototropin kinase in the full-length protein. Both the conformational change and formation of the cysteinyl-flavin adduct are stabilized by the reduction of the N5 atom in the flavin's isoalloxazine ring. In this study, we perform a mutational analysis to investigate the requirements for LOV2 to photocycle. We mutated all the residues that interact with the chromophore isoalloxazine ring to inert functional groups but none could fully inhibit the photocycle except those to the active-site cysteine. However, electronegative side chains in the vicinity of the chromophore accelerate the N5 deprotonation and the return to the dark state. Mutations to the N414 and Q513 residues identify a potential water gate and H₂O coordination sites. These residues affect the electronic nature of the chromophore and photocycle time by helping catalyze the N5 reduction leading to the completion of the photocycle. In addition, we demonstrate that dehydration leads to drastically slower photocycle times. Finally, to investigate the requirements of an active-site cysteine for photocycling, we moved the nearby cysteine to alternative locations and found that some variants can still photocycle. We propose a new model of the LOV domain photocycle that involves all of these components.
A red light-controlled synthetic gene expression switch for plant systems.
On command control of gene expression in time and space is required for the comprehensive analysis of key plant cellular processes. Even though some chemical inducible systems showing satisfactory induction features have been developed, they are inherently limited in terms of spatiotemporal resolution and may be associated with toxic effects. We describe here the first synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants. For this purpose, we applied an interdisciplinary synthetic biology approach comprising mammalian and plant cell systems to customize and optimize a split transcription factor based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). Implementation of the system in transient assays in tobacco protoplasts resulted in strong (95-fold) induction in red light (660 nm) and could be instantaneously returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (740 nm). Capitalizing on this toggle switch-like characteristic, we demonstrate that the system can be kept in the OFF state in the presence of 740 nm-supplemented white light, opening up perspectives for future application of the system in whole plants. Finally we demonstrate the system's applicability in basic research, by the light-controlled tuning of auxin signalling networks in N. tabacum protoplasts, as well as its biotechnological potential for the chemical-inducer free production of therapeutic proteins in the moss P. patens.
Genetically engineered photoinducible homodimerization system with improved dimer-forming efficiency.
Vivid (VVD) is a photoreceptor derived from Neurospora Crassa that rapidly forms a homodimer in response to blue light. Although VVD has several advantages over other photoreceptors as photoinducible homodimerization system, VVD has a critical limitation in its low dimer-forming efficiency. To overcome this limitation of wild-type VVD, here we conduct site-directed saturation mutagenesis in the homodimer interface of VVD. We have found that the Ile52Cys mutation of VVD (VVD-52C) substantially improves its homodimer-forming efficiency up to 180%. We have demonstrated the utility of VVD-52C for making a light-inducible gene expression system more robust. In addition, using VVD-52C, we have developed photoactivatable caspase-9, which enables optical control of apoptosis of mammalian cells. The present genetically engineered photoinducible homodimerization system can provide a powerful tool to optically control a broad range of molecular processes in the cell.
An optogenetic gene expression system with rapid activation and deactivation kinetics.
Optogenetic gene expression systems can control transcription with spatial and temporal detail unequaled with traditional inducible promoter systems. However, current eukaryotic light-gated transcription systems are limited by toxicity, dynamic range or slow activation and deactivation. Here we present an optogenetic gene expression system that addresses these shortcomings and demonstrate its broad utility. Our approach uses an engineered version of EL222, a bacterial light-oxygen-voltage protein that binds DNA when illuminated with blue light. The system has a large (>100-fold) dynamic range of protein expression, rapid activation (<10 s) and deactivation kinetics (<50 s) and a highly linear response to light. With this system, we achieve light-gated transcription in several mammalian cell lines and intact zebrafish embryos with minimal basal gene activation and toxicity. Our approach provides a powerful new tool for optogenetic control of gene expression in space and time.
A fully genetically encoded protein architecture for optical control of peptide ligand concentration.
Ion channels are among the most important proteins in biology, regulating the activity of excitable cells and changing in diseases. Ideally it would be possible to actuate endogenous ion channels, in a temporally precise and reversible manner, and without requiring chemical cofactors. Here we present a modular protein architecture for fully genetically encoded, light-modulated control of ligands that modulate ion channels of a targeted cell. Our reagent, which we call a lumitoxin, combines a photoswitch and an ion channel-blocking peptide toxin. Illumination causes the photoswitch to unfold, lowering the toxin's local concentration near the cell surface, and enabling the ion channel to function. We explore lumitoxin modularity by showing operation with peptide toxins that target different voltage-dependent K(+) channels. The lumitoxin architecture may represent a new kind of modular protein-engineering strategy for designing light-activated proteins, and thus may enable development of novel tools for modulating cellular physiology.
Fluorescence imaging-based high-throughput screening of fast- and slow-cycling LOV proteins.
Light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domains function as blue light-inducible molecular switches. The photosensory LOV domains derived from plants and fungi have provided an indispensable tool for optogenetics. Here we develop a high-throughput screening system to efficiently improve switch-off kinetics of LOV domains. The present system is based on fluorescence imaging of thermal reversion of a flavin cofactor bound to LOV domains. We conducted multi site-directed random mutagenesis of seven amino acid residues surrounding the flavin cofactor of the second LOV domain derived from Avena sativa phototropin 1 (AsLOV2). The gene library was introduced into Escherichia coli cells. Then thermal reversion of AsLOV2 variants, respectively expressed in different bacterial colonies on agar plate, was imaged with a stereoscopic fluorescence microscope. Based on the mutagenesis and imaging-based screening, we isolated 12 different variants showing substantially faster thermal reversion kinetics than wild-type AsLOV2. Among them, AsLOV2-V416T exhibited thermal reversion with a time constant of 2.6 s, 21-fold faster than wild-type AsLOV2. With a slight modification of the present approach, we also have efficiently isolated 8 different decelerated variants, represented by AsLOV2-V416L that exhibited thermal reversion with a time constant of 4.3 × 10(3) s (78-fold slower than wild-type AsLOV2). The present approach based on fluorescence imaging of the thermal reversion of the flavin cofactor is generally applicable to a variety of blue light-inducible molecular switches and may provide a new opportunity for the development of molecular tools for emerging optogenetics.
Optogenetic brain interfaces.
The brain is a large network of interconnected neurons where each cell functions as a nonlinear processing element. Unraveling the mysteries of information processing in the complex networks of the brain requires versatile neurostimulation and imaging techniques. Optogenetics is a new stimulation method which allows the activity of neurons to be modulated by light. For this purpose, the cell-types of interest are genetically targeted to produce light-sensitive proteins. Once these proteins are expressed, neural activity can be controlled by exposing the cells to light of appropriate wavelengths. Optogenetics provides a unique combination of features, including multimodal control over neural function and genetic targeting of specific cell-types. Together, these versatile features combine to a powerful experimental approach, suitable for the study of the circuitry of psychiatric and neurological disorders. The advent of optogenetics was followed by extensive research aimed to produce new lines of light-sensitive proteins and to develop new technologies: for example, to control the distribution of light inside the brain tissue or to combine optogenetics with other modalities including electrophysiology, electrocorticography, nonlinear microscopy, and functional magnetic resonance imaging. In this paper, the authors review some of the recent advances in the field of optogenetics and related technologies and provide their vision for the future of the field.
Engineering of a green-light inducible gene expression system in Synechocystis sp. PCC6803.
In order to construct a green-light-regulated gene expression system for cyanobacteria, we characterized a green-light sensing system derived from Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, consisting of the green-light sensing histidine kinase CcaS, the cognate response regulator CcaR, and the promoter of cpcG2 (PcpcG 2 ). CcaS and CcaR act as a genetic controller and activate gene expression from PcpcG 2 with green-light illumination. The green-light induction level of the native PcpcG 2 was investigated using GFPuv as a reporter gene inserted in a broad-host-range vector. A clear induction of protein expression from native PcpcG 2 under green-light illumination was observed; however, the expression level was very low compared with Ptrc , which was reported to act as a constitutive promoter in cyanobacteria. Therefore, a Shine-Dalgarno-like sequence derived from the cpcB gene was inserted in the 5' untranslated region of the cpcG2 gene, and the expression level of CcaR was increased. Thus, constructed engineered green-light sensing system resulted in about 40-fold higher protein expression than with the wild-type promoter with a high ON/OFF ratio under green-light illumination. The engineered green-light gene expression system would be a useful genetic tool for controlling gene expression in the emergent cyanobacterial bioprocesses.
Using optogenetics to interrogate the dynamic control of signal transmission by the Ras/Erk module.
The complex, interconnected architecture of cell-signaling networks makes it challenging to disentangle how cells process extracellular information to make decisions. We have developed an optogenetic approach to selectively activate isolated intracellular signaling nodes with light and use this method to follow the flow of information from the signaling protein Ras. By measuring dose and frequency responses in single cells, we characterize the precision, timing, and efficiency with which signals are transmitted from Ras to Erk. Moreover, we elucidate how a single pathway can specify distinct physiological outcomes: by combining distinct temporal patterns of stimulation with proteomic profiling, we identify signaling programs that differentially respond to Ras dynamics, including a paracrine circuit that activates STAT3 only after persistent (>1 hr) Ras activation. Optogenetic stimulation provides a powerful tool for analyzing the intrinsic transmission properties of pathway modules and identifying how they dynamically encode distinct outcomes.
LOV takes a pick: thermodynamic and structural aspects of the flavin-LOV-interaction of the blue-light sensitive photoreceptor YtvA from Bacillus subtilis.
LOV domains act as versatile photochromic switches servicing multiple effector domains in a variety of blue light sensing photoreceptors abundant in a multitude of organisms from all kingdoms of life. The perception of light is realized by a flavin chromophore that upon illumination reversibly switches from the non-covalently bound dark-state to a covalently linked flavin-LOV adduct. It is usually assumed that most LOV domains preferably bind FMN, but heterologous expression frequently results in the incorporation of all natural occurring flavins, i.e. riboflavin, FMN and FAD. Over recent years, the structures, photochemical properties, activation mechanisms and physiological functions of a multitude of LOV proteins have been studied intensively, but little is known about its affinities to physiologically relevant flavins or the thermodynamics of the flavin-LOV interaction. We have investigated the interaction of the LOV domain of the well characterized bacterial photoreceptor YtvA with riboflavin, FMN and FAD by ITC experiments providing binding constants and thermodynamic profiles of these interactions. For this purpose, we have developed a protocol for the production of the apo forms of YtvA and its isolated LOV domain and we demonstrate that the latter can be used as a molecular probe for free flavins in cell lysates. Furthermore, we show here using NMR spectroscopic techniques and Analytical Ultracentrifugation that the flavin moiety stabilizes the conformation of the LOV domain and that dimerization of YtvA is caused not only by intermolecular LOV-LOV but also by STAS-STAS contacts.
General method for regulating protein stability with light.
Post-translational regulation of protein abundance in cells is a powerful tool for studying protein function. Here, we describe a novel genetically encoded protein domain that is degraded upon exposure to nontoxic blue light. We demonstrate that fusion proteins containing this domain are rapidly degraded in cultured cells and in zebrafish upon illumination.
A LOV-domain-mediated blue-light-activated adenylate (adenylyl) cyclase from the cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes PCC 7420.
Genome screening of the cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes PCC 7420 identified a gene encoding a protein (483 amino acids, 54.2 kDa in size) characteristic of a BL (blue light)-regulated adenylate (adenylyl) cyclase function. The photoreceptive part showed signatures of a LOV (light, oxygen, voltage) domain. The gene product, mPAC (Microcoleus photoactivated adenylate cyclase), exhibited the LOV-specific three-peaked absorption band (λmax=450 nm) and underwent conversion into the photoadduct form (λmax=390 nm) upon BL-irradiation. The lifetime for thermal recovery into the parent state was determined as 16 s at 20°C (25 s at 11°C). The adenylate cyclase function showed a constitutive activity (in the dark) that was in-vitro-amplified by a factor of 30 under BL-irradiation. Turnover of the purified protein at saturating light and pH 8 is estimated to 1 cAMP/mPAC per s at 25°C (2 cAMP/mPAC per s at 35°C). The lifetime of light-activated cAMP production after a BL flash was ~14 s at 20°C. The temperature optimum was determined to 35°C and the pH optimum to 8.0. The value for half-maximal activating light intensity is 6 W/m2 (at 35°C). A comparison of mPAC and the BLUF (BL using FAD) protein bPAC (Beggiatoa PAC), as purified proteins and expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes, yielded higher constitutive activity for mPAC in the dark, but also when illuminated with BL.
Proteins in action: femtosecond to millisecond structural dynamics of a photoactive flavoprotein.
Living systems are fundamentally dependent on the ability of proteins to respond to external stimuli. The mechanism, the underlying structural dynamics, and the time scales for regulation of this response are central questions in biochemistry. Here we probe the structural dynamics of the BLUF domain found in several photoactive flavoproteins, which is responsible for light activated functions as diverse as phototaxis and gene regulation. Measurements have been made over 10 decades of time (from 100 fs to 1 ms) using transient vibrational spectroscopy. Chromophore (flavin ring) localized dynamics occur on the pico- to nanosecond time scale, while subsequent protein structural reorganization is observed over microseconds. Multiple time scales are observed for the dynamics associated with different vibrations of the protein, suggesting an underlying hierarchical relaxation pathway. Structural evolution in residues directly H-bonded to the chromophore takes place more slowly than changes in more remote residues. However, a point mutation which suppresses biological function is shown to 'short circuit' this structural relaxation pathway, suppressing the changes which occur further away from the chromophore while accelerating dynamics close to it.
Stochastic ERK activation induced by noise and cell-to-cell propagation regulates cell density-dependent proliferation.
The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) plays a central role in the signaling cascades of cell growth. Here, we show that stochastic ERK activity pulses regulate cell proliferation rates in a cell density-dependent manner. A fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) biosensor revealed that stochastic ERK activity pulses fired spontaneously or propagated from adjacent cells. Frequency, but not amplitude, of ERK activity pulses exhibited a bell-shaped response to the cell density and correlated with cell proliferation rates. Consistently, synthetic ERK activity pulses generated by a light-switchable CRaf protein accelerated cell proliferation. A mathematical model clarified that 80% and 20% of ERK activity pulses are generated by the noise and cell-to-cell propagation, respectively. Finally, RNA sequencing analysis of cells subjected to the synthetic ERK activity pulses suggested the involvement of serum responsive factor (SRF) transcription factors in the gene expression driven by the ERK activity pulses.
Synthesis of phycocyanobilin in mammalian cells.
The chromophore 3-Z phycocyanobilin (PCB, (2R,3Z)-8,12-bis(2-carboxyethyl)-18-ethyl-3-ethylidene-2,7,13,17-tetramethyl-2,3-dihydrobilin-1,19(21H,24H)-dione) mediates red and far-red light perception in natural and synthetic biological systems. Here we describe a PCB synthesis strategy in mammalian cells. We optimize the production by co-localizing the biocatalysts to the substrate source, by coordinating the availability of the biocatalysts and by reducing the degradation of the reaction product. We show that the resulting PCB levels of 2 μM are sufficient to sustain the functionality of red light-responsive optogenetic tools suitable for the light-inducible control of gene expression in mammalian cells.
Multiple bHLH proteins form heterodimers to mediate CRY2-dependent regulation of flowering-time in Arabidopsis.
Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) mediates light control of flowering time. CIB1 (CRY2-interacting bHLH 1) specifically interacts with CRY2 in response to blue light to activate the transcription of FT (Flowering Locus T). In vitro, CIB1 binds to the canonical E-box (CACGTG, also referred to as G-box) with much higher affinity than its interaction with non-canonical E-box (CANNTG) DNA sequences. However, in vivo, CIB1 binds to the chromatin region of the FT promoter, which only contains the non-canonical E-box sequences. Here, we show that CRY2 also interacts with at least CIB5, in response to blue light, but not in darkness or in response to other wavelengths of light. Our genetic analysis demonstrates that CIB1, CIB2, CIB4, and CIB5 act redundantly to activate the transcription of FT and that they are positive regulators of CRY2 mediated flowering. More importantly, CIB1 and other CIBs proteins form heterodimers, and some of the heterodimers have a higher binding affinity than the CIB homodimers to the non-canonical E-box in the in vitro DNA-binding assays. This result explains why in vitro CIB1 and other CIBs bind to the canonical E-box (G-box) with a higher affinity, whereas they are all associated with the non-canonical E-boxes at the FT promoter in vivo. Consistent with the hypothesis that different CIB proteins play similar roles in the CRY2-midiated blue light signaling, the expression of CIB proteins is regulated specifically by blue light. Our study demonstrates that CIBs function redundantly in regulating CRY2-dependent flowering, and that different CIBs form heterodimers to interact with the non-canonical E-box DNA in vivo.
Arabidopsis CRY2 and ZTL mediate blue-light regulation of the transcription factor CIB1 by distinct mechanisms.
Plants possess multiple photoreceptors to mediate light regulation of growth and development, but it is not well understood how different photoreceptors coordinate their actions to jointly regulate developmental responses, such as flowering time. In Arabidopsis, the photoexcited cryptochrome 2 interacts with the transcription factor CRYPTOCHROME-INTERACTING basic helix-loop-helix 1 (CIB1) to activate transcription and floral initiation. We show that the CIB1 protein expression is regulated by blue light; CIB1 is highly expressed in plants exposed to blue light, but levels of the CIB1 protein decreases in the absence of blue light. We demonstrate that CIB1 is degraded by the 26S proteasome and that blue light suppresses CIB1 degradation. Surprisingly, although cryptochrome 2 physically interacts with CIB1 in response to blue light, it is not the photoreceptor mediating blue-light suppression of CIB1 degradation. Instead, two of the three light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-domain photoreceptors, ZEITLUPE and LOV KELCH PROTEIN 2, but not FLAVIN-BINDING KELCH REPEAT 1, are required for the function and blue-light suppression of degradation of CIB1. These results support the hypothesis that the evolutionarily unrelated blue-light receptors, cryptochrome and LOV-domain F-box proteins, mediate blue-light regulation of the same transcription factor by distinct mechanisms.
Optogenetic control of protein kinase activity in mammalian cells.
Light-dependent dimerization is the basis for recently developed noninvasive optogenetic tools. Here we present a novel tool combining optogenetics with the control of protein kinase activity to investigate signal transduction pathways. Mediated by Arabidopsis thaliana photoreceptor cryptochrome 2, we activated the protein kinase C-RAF by blue light-dependent dimerization, allowing for decoupling from upstream signaling events induced by surface receptors. The activation by light is fast, reversible, and not only time but also dose dependent as monitored by phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Additionally, light-activated C-RAF controls serum response factor-mediated gene expression. Light-induced heterodimerization of C-RAF with a kinase-dead mutant of B-RAF demonstrates the enhancing role of B-RAF as a scaffold for C-RAF activity, which leads to the paradoxical activation of C-RAF found in human cancers. This optogenetic tool enables reversible control of protein kinase activity in signal duration and strength. These properties can help to shed light onto downstream signaling processes of protein kinases in living cells.
Fine tuning the LightOn light-switchable transgene expression system.
Spatiotemporal control of transgene expression in living cells provides new opportunities for the characterization of gene function in complex biological processes. We previously reported a synthetic, light-switchable transgene expression system called LightOn that can be used to control gene expression using blue light. In the present study, we modified the different promoter segments of the light switchable transcription factor GAVPO and the target gene, and assayed their effects on protein expression under dark or light conditions. The results showed that the LightOn system maintained its high on/off ratio under most modifications, but its induction efficiency and background gene expression level can be fine-tuned by modifying the core promoter, the UASG sequence number, the length of the spacer between UASG and the core promoter of the target protein, and the expression level of the GAVPO transcription factor. Thus, the LightOn gene expression system can be adapted to a large range of applications according to the requirements of the background and the induced gene expression.
Light-inducible activation of target mRNA translation in mammalian cells.
A genetically encoded optogenetic system was constructed that activates mRNA translation in mammalian cells in response to light. Blue light induces the reconstitution of an RNA binding domain and a translation initiation domain, thereby activating target mRNA translation downstream of the binding sites.
Optobiology: optical control of biological processes via protein engineering.
Enabling optical control over biological processes is a defining goal of the new field of optogenetics. Control of membrane voltage by natural rhodopsin family ion channels has found widespread acceptance in neuroscience, due to the fact that these natural proteins control membrane voltage without further engineering. In contrast, optical control of intracellular biological processes has been a fragmented effort, with various laboratories engineering light-responsive properties into proteins in different manners. In the present article, we review the various systems that have been developed for controlling protein functions with light based on vertebrate rhodopsins, plant photoregulatory proteins and, most recently, the photoswitchable fluorescent protein Dronpa. By allowing biology to be controlled with spatiotemporal specificity and tunable dynamics, light-controllable proteins will find applications in the understanding of cellular and organismal biology and in synthetic biology.
Blue light-induced dimerization of a bacterial LOV-HTH DNA-binding protein.
With their utilization of light-driven allostery to control biochemical activities, photosensory proteins are of great interest as model systems and novel reagents for use by the basic science and engineering communities. One such protein, the light-activated EL222 transcription factor, from the marine bacterium Erythrobacter litoralis HTCC2594, is appealing for such studies, as it harnesses blue light to drive the reorientation of light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) sensory and helix-turn-helix (HTH) effector domains to allow photoactivation of gene transcription in natural and artificial systems. The protein conformational changes required for this process are not well understood, in part because of the relatively short lifetime of the EL222 photoexcited state (τ ∼ 29 s), which complicates its characterization via certain biophysical methods. Here we report how we have circumvented this limitation by creating an EL222 variant harboring V41I, L52I, A79Q, and V121I point mutations (AQTrip) that stabilizes the photoactivated state. Using the wild-type and AQTrip EL222 proteins, we have probed EL222 activation using a combination of solution scattering, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and electromobility shift assays. Size-exclusion chromatography and light scattering indicate that AQTrip oligomerizes in the absence of DNA and selects for an EL222 dimer-DNA complex in the presence of DNA substrates. These results are confirmed in wild-type EL222 with a high-affinity DNA-binding site that stabilizes the complex. NMR analyses of the EL222-DNA complex confirm a 2:1 stoichiometry in the presence of a previously characterized DNA substrate. Combined, these novel approaches have validated a key mechanistic step, whereby blue light induces EL222 dimerization through LOV and HTH interfaces.