Showing 101 - 125 of 647 results
An Optogenetic approach to control protein localization during embryogenesis of the sea urchin.
Light inducible protein-protein interactions have been used to manipulate protein localization and function in the cell with utmost spatial and temporal precision. In this technical report, we use a recently developed optogenetic approach to manipulate protein localization in the developing sea urchin embryo. A photosensitive LOV domain from Avena sativa phototropin1 cages a small peptide that binds the engineered PDZ domain (ePDZ) upon blue light irradiation. Using this system, mCherry tagged proteins fused with the LOV domain were recruited to ectopic sub-cellular regions such as the membrane, microtubules, or actin by GFP tagged proteins fused with the ePDZ domain upon blue light irradiation within 1~3 minutes in the sea urchin embryo. The efficiency and speed of recruitment of each protein to its respective subcellular region appeared to be dependent on the power and duration of laser irradiation, as well as the respective level of affinity to the tagged location. Controlled laser irradiation allowed partial recruitment of the spindle to the membrane, and resulted in cell blebbing. Vasa, a cell cycle and germline factor that localizes on the spindle and enriches in the micromeres at 8-16 cell stage was recruited to ectopic sites, preventing normal enrichment. Continuous blue light activation with a regular blue aquarium light over two days of culture successfully induced LOV-ePDZ binding in the developing embryos, resulting in continued ectopic recruitment of Vasa and failure in gastrulation at Day 2. Although some cytotoxicity was observed with prolonged blue light irradiation, this optogenetic system provides a promising approach to test the sub-cellular activities of developmental factors, as well as to alter protein localization and development during embryogenesis.
Membrane Flow Drives an Adhesion-Independent Amoeboid Cell Migration Mode.
Cells migrate by applying rearward forces against extracellular media. It is unclear how this is achieved in amoeboid migration, which lacks adhesions typical of lamellipodia-driven mesenchymal migration. To address this question, we developed optogenetically controlled models of lamellipodia-driven and amoeboid migration. On a two-dimensional surface, migration speeds in both modes were similar. However, when suspended in liquid, only amoeboid cells exhibited rapid migration accompanied by rearward membrane flow. These cells exhibited increased endocytosis at the back and membrane trafficking from back to front. Genetic or pharmacological perturbation of this polarized trafficking inhibited migration. The ratio of cell migration and membrane flow speeds matched the predicted value from a model where viscous forces tangential to the cell-liquid interface propel the cell forward. Since this mechanism does not require specific molecular interactions with the surrounding medium, it can facilitate amoeboid migration observed in diverse microenvironments during immune function and cancer metastasis.
Reversible Social Self-Sorting of Colloidal Cell-Mimics with Blue Light Switchable Proteins.
Towards the bottom-up assembly of synthetic cells from molecular building blocks it is an ongoing challenge to assemble micrometer sized compartments that host different processes into precise multicompartmental assemblies, also called prototissues. The difficulty lies in controlling interactions between different compartments dynamically both in space and time, as these interactions determine how they organize with respect to each other and how they work together. In this study, we have been able to control the self-assembly and social self-sorting of four different types of colloids, which we use as a model for synthetic cells, into two separate families with visible light. For this purpose we used two photoswitchable protein pairs (iLID/Nano and nHagHigh/pMagHigh) that both reversibly heterodimerize upon blue light exposure and dissociate from each other in the dark. These photoswitchable proteins provide non-invasive, dynamic and reversible remote control under biocompatible conditions over the self-assembly process with unprecedented spatial and temporal precision. In addition, each protein pair brings together specifically two different types of colloids. The orthogonality of the two protein pairs enables social self-sorting of a four component mixture into two distinct families of colloidal aggregates with controlled arrangements. These results will ultimately pave the way for the bottom-up assembly of multicompartment synthetic prototissues of a higher complexity, enabling us to control precisely and dynamically the organization of different compartments in space and time.
OptoBase: A web platform for molecular optogenetics.
OptoBase is an online platform for molecular optogenetics. At its core is a hand-annotated and ontology-supported database that aims to cover all existing optogenetic switches and publications, which is further complemented with a collection of convenient optogenetics-related web tools. OptoBase is meant for both expert optogeneticists, to easily keep track of the field, as well as for all researchers who find optogenetics inviting as a powerful tool to address their biological questions of interest. It is available at https://www.optobase.org. This work also presents OptoBase-based analysis of the trends in molecular optogenetics.
Guided morphogenesis through optogenetic activation of Rho signalling during early Drosophila embryogenesis.
During organismal development, cells undergo complex changes in shape whose causal relationship to individual morphogenetic processes remains unclear. The modular nature of such processes suggests that it should be possible to isolate individual modules, determine the minimum set of requirements sufficient to drive tissue remodeling, and re-construct morphogenesis. Here we use optogenetics to reconstitute epithelial folding in embryonic Drosophila tissues that otherwise would not undergo invagination. We show that precise spatial and temporal activation of Rho signaling is sufficient to trigger apical constriction and tissue folding. Induced furrows can occur at any position along the dorsal-ventral or anterior-posterior embryo axis in response to the spatial pattern and level of optogenetic activation. Thus, epithelial folding is a direct function of the spatio-temporal organization and strength of Rho signaling that on its own is sufficient to drive tissue internalization independently of any pre-determined condition or differentiation program associated with endogenous invagination processes.
LADL: Light-activated dynamic looping for endogenous gene expression control.
Mammalian genomes are folded into tens of thousands of long-range looping interactions. The cause and effect relationship between looping and genome function is poorly understood, and the extent to which chromatin loops are dynamic on short time scales remains a fundamental unanswered question. Currently available strategies for loop engineering involve synthetic transcription factors tethered to dCas9 or zinc fingers, which are constitutively expressed or induced on long time scales by the presence of a small molecule. Here we report a new class of 3-D optoepigenetic tools for the directed rearrangement of 3-D chromatin looping on short time scales using blue light. We create synthetic architectural proteins by fusing the CIBN protein subunit from Arabidopsis thaliana with enzymatically dead Cas9 (dCas9). We target our light-activated dynamic looping system (LADL) to two genomic anchors with CRISPR guide RNAs and engineer their spatial co-localization via light-induced heterodimerization of the cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) protein with dCas9-CIBN. We apply LADL to redirect a stretch enhancer (SE) away from its endogenous Klf4 target gene and to the Zfp462 promoter. Looping changes occur as early as four hours after light induction. Using single molecule RNA FISH, we observe a LADL-induced increase in the total nascent Zfp462 transcripts and the number of Zfp462 alleles expressing simultaneously per cell. Moreover, LADL also increased synchronous Sox2 expression after reinforcement of a known Sox2-SE looping interaction. LADL facilitates loop synchronization across a large population of cells without exogenous chemical cofactors and can enable future efforts to engineer reversible and oscillatory looping on short time scales.
Independent Control over Multiple Cell Types in Space and Time Using Orthogonal Blue and Red Light Switchable Cell Interactions.
Independent control over multiple cell–material interactions with high spatiotemporal resolution is a key for many biomedical applications and understanding cell biology, as different cell types can perform different tasks in a multicellular context. In this study, the binding of two different cell types to materials is orthogonally controlled with blue and red light providing independent regulation in space and time. Cells expressing the photoswitchable protein cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) on cell surface bind to N‐truncated CRY‐interacting basic helix–loop–helix protein 1 (CIBN)‐immobilized substrates under blue light and cells expressing the photoswitchable protein phytochrome B (PhyB ) on cell surface bind to phytochrome interaction factor 6 (PIF6)‐immobilized substrates under red light, respectively. These light‐switchable cell interactions provide orthogonal and noninvasive control using two wavelengths of visible light. Moreover, both cell–material interactions are dynamically switched on under light and reversible in the dark. The specificity of the CRY2/CIBN and PhyB/PIF6 interactions and their response to different wavelengths of light allow selectively activating the binding of one cell type with blue and the other cell type with red light in the presence of the other cell type.
LOV Domains in the Design of Photoresponsive Enzymes.
In nature, a multitude of mechanisms have emerged for regulating biological processes and, specifically, protein activity. Light as a natural regulatory element is of outstanding interest for studying and modulating protein activity because it can be precisely applied with regard to a site of action, instant of time, or intensity. Naturally occuring photoresponsive proteins, predominantly those containing a light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain, have been characterized structurally and mechanistically and also conjugated to various proteins of interest. Immediate advantages of these new photoresponsive proteins such as genetic encoding, no requirement of chemical modification, and reversibility are paid by difficulties in predicting the envisaged activity or type and site of domain fusion. In this article, we summarize recent advances and give a survey on currently available design concepts for engineering photoswitchable proteins.
A platform of BRET-FRET hybrid biosensors for optogenetics, chemical screening, and in vivo imaging.
Genetically encoded biosensors based on the principle of Förster resonance energy transfer comprise two major classes: biosensors based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and those based on bioluminescence energy transfer (BRET). The FRET biosensors visualize signaling-molecule activity in cells or tissues with high resolution. Meanwhile, due to the low background signal, the BRET biosensors are primarily used in drug screening. Here, we report a protocol to transform intramolecular FRET biosensors to BRET-FRET hybrid biosensors called hyBRET biosensors. The hyBRET biosensors retain all properties of the prototype FRET biosensors and also work as BRET biosensors with dynamic ranges comparable to the prototype FRET biosensors. The hyBRET biosensors are compatible with optogenetics, luminescence microplate reader assays, and non-invasive whole-body imaging of xenograft and transgenic mice. This simple protocol will expand the use of FRET biosensors and enable visualization of the multiscale dynamics of cell signaling in live animals.
Light-controllable Transcription System by Nucleocytoplasmic Shuttling of a Truncated Phytochrome B.
Transcriptional regulation is a useful strategy for gene therapy and for biomedical research. Unlike chemically regulated transcriptional approaches, spatiotemporal control of transcription using optogenetic tools is a powerful technology for the analysis of single cells. For light to penetrate into tissues, it is desired to use photoreceptors absorbing red/far-red light with a low-molecular mass applicable for the use of virus vectors, and a photoswitch using the photoreceptor need to be constructed as a single expression vector. Herein, we describe an optogenetic tool based on Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome (Phy) B and its binding partner, phytochrome-interacting factor (PIF) 6. We generated a truncated PhyB, which allowed for reversible association with PIF6 by red/far-red light illumination. The red light illumination only for 5 min induced PhyB translocation from cytoplasm into the nucleus by the association with PIF6, resulting in transcriptional activation based on Gal4 DNA-binding domain and the upstream activating sequence of Gal system. The nucleocytoplasmic shuttling vector using PhyB and PIF6 might be applicable for transcriptional regulation in tissue experiments. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Engaging myosin VI tunes motility, morphology, and identity in endocytosis.
While unconventional myosins interact with different stages of the endocytic pathway, they are ascribed a transport function that is secondary to the protein complexes that control organelle identity. Endosomes are subject to a dynamic, continuous flux of proteins that control their characteristic properties, including their motility within the cell. Efforts to describe the changes in identity of this compartment have largely focused on the adaptors present on the compartment and not on the motile properties of the compartment itself. In this study, we use a combination of optogenetic and chemical-dimerization strategies to target exogenous myosin VI to early endosomes, and probe its influence on organelle motility, morphology, and identity. Our analysis across time scales suggests a model wherein the artificial engagement of myosin VI motility on early endosomes restricts microtubule-based motion, followed by morphological changes characterized by the rapid condensation and disintegration of organelles, ultimately leading to the enhanced overlap of markers that demarcate endosomal compartments. Together, our findings show that synthetic engagement of myosin VI motility is sufficient to alter organelle homeostasis in the endocytic pathway. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Dynein-Dynactin-NuMA clusters generate cortical spindle-pulling forces as a multi-arm ensemble.
To position the mitotic spindle within the cell, dynamic plus ends of astral microtubules are pulled by membrane-associated cortical force-generating machinery. However, in contrast to the chromosome-bound kinetochore structure, how the diffusion-prone cortical machinery is organized to generate large spindle-pulling forces remains poorly understood. Here, we develop a light-induced reconstitution system in human cells. We find that induced cortical targeting of NuMA, but not dynein, is sufficient for spindle pulling. This spindle-pulling activity requires dynein-dynactin recruitment by NuMA's N-terminal long arm, dynein-based astral microtubule gliding, and NuMA's direct microtubule-binding activities. Importantly, we demonstrate that cortical NuMA assembles specialized focal structures that cluster multiple force-generating modules to generate cooperative spindle-pulling forces. This clustering activity of NuMA is required for spindle positioning, but not for spindle-pole focusing. We propose that cortical Dynein-Dynactin-NuMA (DDN) clusters act as the core force-generating machinery that organizes a multi-arm ensemble reminiscent of the kinetochore.
Regulation of cell cycle progression by cell-cell and cell-matrix forces.
It has long been proposed that the cell cycle is regulated by physical forces at the cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interfaces1-12. However, the evolution of these forces during the cycle has never been measured in a tissue, and whether this evolution affects cell cycle progression is unknown. Here, we quantified cell-cell tension and cell-ECM traction throughout the complete cycle of a large cell population in a growing epithelium. These measurements unveil temporal mechanical patterns that span the entire cell cycle and regulate its duration, the G1-S transition and mitotic rounding. Cells subjected to higher intercellular tension exhibit a higher probability to transition from G1 to S, as well as shorter G1 and S-G2-M phases. Moreover, we show that tension and mechanical energy are better predictors of the duration of G1 than measured geometric properties. Tension increases during the cell cycle but decreases 3 hours before mitosis. Using optogenetic control of contractility, we show that this tension drop favours mitotic rounding. Our results establish that cell cycle progression is regulated cooperatively by forces between the dividing cell and its neighbours.
Optogenetic inhibition of Gαq protein signaling reduces calcium oscillation stochasticity.
As fast terminators of G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling, regulators of G-protein signaling (RGS) serve critical roles in fine-tuning second messenger levels and, consequently, cellular responses to external stimuli. Here, we report the creation of an optogenetic RGS2 (opto-RGS2) that suppresses agonist-evoked calcium oscillations by the inactivation of Gαq protein. In this system, cryptochrome-mediated hetero-dimerization of the catalytic RGS2-box with its N-terminal amphipathic helix reconstitutes a functional membrane-localized complex that can dynamically suppress store-operated release of calcium. Engineered opto-RGS2 cell lines were used to establish the role of RGS2 as a key inhibitory feedback regulator of the stochasticity of the Gαq-mediated calcium spike timing. RGS2 reduced the stochasticity of carbachol-stimulated calcium oscillations, and the feedback inhibition was coupled to the global calcium elevation by calmodulin/RGS2 interactions. The identification of a critical negative feedback circuit exemplifies the utility of optogenetic approaches for interrogating RGS/GPCR biology and calcium encoding principles through temporally precise molecular gain-of-function.
Protein Phase Separation Provides Long-Term Memory of Transient Spatial Stimuli.
Protein/RNA clusters arise frequently in spatially regulated biological processes, from the asymmetric distribution of P granules and PAR proteins in developing embryos to localized receptor oligomers in migratory cells. This co-occurrence suggests that protein clusters might possess intrinsic properties that make them a useful substrate for spatial regulation. Here, we demonstrate that protein droplets show a robust form of spatial memory, maintaining the spatial pattern of an inhibitor of droplet formation long after it has been removed. Despite this persistence, droplets can be highly dynamic, continuously exchanging monomers with the diffuse phase. We investigate the principles of biophysical spatial memory in three contexts: a computational model of phase separation; a novel optogenetic system where light can drive rapid, localized dissociation of liquid-like protein droplets; and membrane-localized signal transduction from clusters of receptor tyrosine kinases. Our results suggest that the persistent polarization underlying many cellular and developmental processes could arise through a simple biophysical process, without any additional biochemical feedback loops.
L-SCRaMbLE as a tool for light-controlled Cre-mediated recombination in yeast.
The synthetic yeast genome constructed by the International Synthetic Yeast Sc2.0 consortium adds thousands of loxPsym recombination sites to all 16 redesigned chromosomes, allowing the shuffling of Sc2.0 chromosome parts by the Cre-loxP recombination system thereby enabling genome evolution experiments. Here, we present L-SCRaMbLE, a light-controlled Cre recombinase for use in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. L-SCRaMbLE allows tight regulation of recombinase activity with up to 179-fold induction upon exposure to red light. The extent of recombination depends on induction time and concentration of the chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which can be easily adjusted. The tool presented here provides improved recombination control over the previously reported estradiol-dependent SCRaMbLE induction system, mediating a larger variety of possible recombination events in SCRaMbLE-ing a reporter plasmid. Thereby, L-SCRaMbLE boosts the potential for further customization and provides a facile application for use in the S. cerevisiae genome re-engineering project Sc2.0 or in other recombination-based systems.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
Activation of EphB2 Forward Signaling Enhances Memory Consolidation.
EphB2 is involved in enhancing synaptic transmission and gene expression. To explore the roles of EphB2 in memory formation and enhancement, we used a photoactivatable EphB2 (optoEphB2) to activate EphB2 forward signaling in pyramidal neurons in lateral amygdala (LA). Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning, but not minutes afterward, enhanced long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning. Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning led to activation of the cAMP/Ca2+ responsive element binding (CREB) protein. Application of light to a kinase-dead optoEphB2 in LA did not lead to enhancement of long-term fear conditioning memory or to activation of CREB. Long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning memory was impaired in mice lacking EphB2 forward signaling (EphB2lacZ/lacZ). Activation of optoEphB2 in LA of EphB2lacZ/lacZ mice enhanced long-term fear conditioning memory. The present findings show that the level of EphB2 forward signaling activity during learning determines the strength of long-term memory consolidation.
A light-controlled cell lysis system in bacteria.
Intracellular products (e.g., insulin), which are obtained through cell lysis, take up a big share of the biotech industry. It is often time-consuming, laborious, and environment-unfriendly to disrupt bacterial cells with traditional methods. In this study, we developed a molecular device for controlling cell lysis with light. We showed that intracellular expression of a single lysin protein was sufficient for efficient bacterial cell lysis. By placing the lysin-encoding gene under the control of an improved light-controlled system, we successfully controlled cell lysis by switching on/off light: OD600 of the Escherichia coli cell culture was decreased by twofold when the light-controlled system was activated under dark condition. We anticipate that our work would not only pave the way for cell lysis through a convenient biological way in fermentation industry, but also provide a paradigm for applying the light-controlled system in other fields of biotech industry.
Filopodia Conduct Target Selection in Cortical Neurons Using Differences in Signal Kinetics of a Single Kinase.
Dendritic filopodia select synaptic partner axons by interviewing the cell surface of potential targets, but how filopodia decipher the complex pattern of adhesive and repulsive molecular cues to find appropriate contacts is unknown. Here, we demonstrate in cortical neurons that a single cue is sufficient for dendritic filopodia to reject or select specific axonal contacts for elaboration as synaptic sites. Super-resolution and live-cell imaging reveals that EphB2 is located in the tips of filopodia and at nascent synaptic sites. Surprisingly, a genetically encoded indicator of EphB kinase activity, unbiased classification, and a photoactivatable EphB2 reveal that simple differences in the kinetics of EphB kinase signaling at the tips of filopodia mediate the choice between retraction and synaptogenesis. This may enable individual filopodia to choose targets based on differences in the activation rate of a single tyrosine kinase, greatly simplifying the process of partner selection and suggesting a general principle.
Near-infrared light-controlled systems for gene transcription regulation, protein targeting and spectral multiplexing.
Near-infrared (NIR, 740-780 nm) optogenetic systems are well-suited to spectral multiplexing with blue-light-controlled tools. Here, we present two protocols, one for regulation of gene transcription and another for control of protein localization, that use a NIR-responsive bacterial phytochrome BphP1-QPAS1 optogenetic pair. In the first protocol, cells are transfected with the optogenetic constructs for independently controlling gene transcription by NIR (BphP1-QPAS1) and blue (LightOn) light. The NIR and blue-light-controlled gene transcription systems show minimal spectral crosstalk and induce a 35- to 40-fold increase in reporter gene expression. In the second protocol, the BphP1-QPAS1 pair is combined with a light-oxygen-voltage-sensing (LOV) domain-based construct into a single optogenetic tool, termed iRIS. This dual-light-controllable protein localization tool allows tridirectional protein translocation among the cytoplasm, nucleus and plasma membrane. Both procedures can be performed within 3-5 d. Use of NIR light-controlled optogenetic systems should advance basic and biomedical research.
Optogenetic reversible knocksideways, laser ablation, and photoactivation on the mitotic spindle in human cells.
At the onset of mitosis, cells assemble the mitotic spindle, a dynamic micromachine made of microtubules and associated proteins. Although most of these proteins have been identified, it is still unknown how their collective behavior drives spindle formation and function. Over the last decade, RNA interference has been the main tool for revealing the role of spindle proteins. However, the effects of this method are evident only after a longer time period, leading to difficulties in the interpretation of phenotypes. Optogenetics is a novel technology that enables fast, reversible, and precise control of protein activity by utilization of light. In this chapter, we present an optogenetic knocksideways method for rapid and reversible translocation of proteins from the mitotic spindle to mitochondria using blue light. Furthermore, we discuss other optical approaches, such as laser ablation of microtubule bundles in the spindle and creation of reference marks on the bundles by photoactivation of photoactivatable GFP. Finally, we show how different optical perturbations can be combined in order to acquire deeper understanding of the mechanics of mitosis.
Rapid Integration of Multi-copy Transgenes Using Optogenetic Mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Stably transmitted transgenes are indispensable for labeling cellular components and manipulating cellular functions. In Caenorhabditis elegans, transgenes are generally generated as inheritable multi-copy extrachromosomal arrays, which can be stabilized in the genome through a mutagenesis-mediated integration process. Standard methods to integrate extrachromosomal arrays primarily use protocols involving ultraviolet light plus trimethylpsoralen or gamma- or X-ray irradiation, which are laborious and time-consuming. Here, we describe a one-step integration method, following germline-mutagenesis induced by mini Singlet Oxygen Generator (miniSOG). Upon blue light treatment, miniSOG tagged to histone (Histone-miniSOG) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) and induces heritable mutations, including DNA double-stranded breaks. We demonstrate that we can bypass the need to first establish extrachromosomal transgenic lines by coupling microinjection of desired plasmids with blue light illumination on Histone-miniSOG worms to obtain integrants in the F3 progeny. We consistently obtained more than one integrant from 12 injected animals in two weeks. This optogenetic approach significantly reduces the amount of time and labor for transgene integration. Moreover, it enables to generate stably expressed transgenes that cause toxicity in animal growth.
Direct multiplex imaging and optogenetics of Rho GTPases enabled by near-infrared FRET.
Direct visualization and light control of several cellular processes is a challenge, owing to the spectral overlap of available genetically encoded probes. Here we report the most red-shifted monomeric near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent protein, miRFP720, and the fully NIR Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) pair miRFP670-miRFP720, which together enabled design of biosensors compatible with CFP-YFP imaging and blue-green optogenetic tools. We developed a NIR biosensor for Rac1 GTPase and demonstrated its use in multiplexed imaging and light control of Rho GTPase signaling pathways. Specifically, we combined the Rac1 biosensor with CFP-YFP FRET biosensors for RhoA and for Rac1-GDI binding, and concurrently used the LOV-TRAP tool for upstream Rac1 activation. We directly observed and quantified antagonism between RhoA and Rac1 dependent on the RhoA-downstream effector ROCK; showed that Rac1 activity and GDI binding closely depend on the spatiotemporal coordination between these two molecules; and simultaneously observed Rac1 activity during optogenetic manipulation of Rac1.
Descending pathway facilitates undulatory wave propagation in Caenorhabditis elegans through gap junctions.
Descending signals from the brain play critical roles in controlling and modulating locomotion kinematics. In the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system, descending AVB premotor interneurons exclusively form gap junctions with the B-type motor neurons that execute forward locomotion. We combined genetic analysis, optogenetic manipulation, calcium imaging, and computational modeling to elucidate the function of AVB-B gap junctions during forward locomotion. First, we found that some B-type motor neurons generate rhythmic activity, constituting distributed oscillators. Second, AVB premotor interneurons use their electric inputs to drive bifurcation of B-type motor neuron dynamics, triggering their transition from stationary to oscillatory activity. Third, proprioceptive couplings between neighboring B-type motor neurons entrain the frequency of body oscillators, forcing coherent bending wave propagation. Despite substantial anatomical differences between the motor circuits of C. elegans and higher model organisms, converging principles govern coordinated locomotion.