Showing 101 - 125 of 678 results
Switchable inteins for conditional protein splicing.
Synthetic biologists aim at engineering controllable biological parts such as DNA, RNA and proteins in order to steer biological activities using external inputs. Proteins can be controlled in several ways, for instance by regulating the expression of their encoding genes with small molecules or light. However, post-translationally modifying pre-existing proteins to regulate their function or localization leads to faster responses. Conditional splicing of internal protein domains, termed inteins, is an attractive methodology for this purpose. Here we discuss methods to control intein activity with a focus on those compatible with applications in living cells.
Dynamic control of neural stem cells by bHLH factors.
During brain development, neural stem cells change their competency to give sequential rise to neurons and glial cells. We found that expression of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH)-type cell-fate determination factors Ascl1, Olig2, and Hes1 is oscillatory in neural stem cells. Conversely, sustained expression of these factors mediates cell-fate determination. Optogenetic analyses suggest that oscillatory expression regulates maintenance and proliferation of neural stem cells, and that sustained expression induces cell-fate determination. Expression of the Notch ligand Delta-like1 (Dll1), which is controlled by Hes1 and Ascl1, is also oscillatory in neural stem cells. Mathematical modeling showed that if the timing of Dll1 expression is changed, Hes1 oscillations are severely dampened, resulting in impaired maintenance and proliferation of neural stem cells and causing microcephaly. Another bHLH factor, Hes5, also shows oscillatory expression in neural stem cells. Hes5 overexpression and knock-out result in abnormal Hmga1 and Hmga2 expression, which are essential for timings the switching of neural stem-cell competency. These data indicate that oscillatory expression of bHLH factors is important for normal neural stem-cell function in the developing nervous system.
Discovering selective binders for photoswitchable proteins using phage display.
Nature provides an array of proteins that change conformation in response to light. The discovery of a complementary array of proteins that bind only the light-state or dark-state conformation of their photoactive partner proteins would allow each light-switchable protein to be used as an optogenetic tool to control protein-protein interactions. However, as many photoactive proteins have no known binding partner, the advantages of optogenetic control - precise spatial and temporal resolution - are currently restricted to a few well-defined natural systems. In addition, the affinities and kinetics of native interactions are often sub-optimal and are difficult to engineer in the absence of any structural information. We report a phage display strategy using a small scaffold protein that can be used to discover new binding partners for both light and dark states of a given light-switchable protein. We used our approach to generate binding partners that interact specifically with the light state or the dark state conformation of two light-switchable proteins: PYP, a test case for a protein with no known partners, and AsLOV2 a well-characterized protein. We show that these novel light-switchable protein-protein interactions can function in living cells to control subcellular localization processes.
Functionally asymmetric motor neurons contribute to coordinating locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Locomotion circuits developed in simple animals, and circuit motifs further evolved in higher animals. To understand locomotion circuit motifs, they must be characterized in many models. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses one of the best-studied circuits for undulatory movement. Yet, for 1/6th of the cholinergic motor neurons (MNs), the AS MNs, functional information is unavailable. Ventral nerve cord (VNC) MNs coordinate undulations, in small circuits of complementary neurons innervating opposing muscles. AS MNs differ, as they innervate muscles and other MNs asymmetrically, without complementary partners. We characterized AS MNs by optogenetic, behavioral and imaging analyses. They generate asymmetric muscle activation, enabling navigation, and contribute to coordination of dorso-ventral undulation as well as anterio-posterior bending wave propagation. AS MN activity correlated with forward and backward locomotion, and they functionally connect to premotor interneurons (PINs) for both locomotion regimes. Electrical feedback from AS MNs via gap junctions may affect only backward PINs.
Increasing spatial resolution of photoregulated GTPases through immobilized peripheral membrane proteins.
Light-induced dimerizing systems, e.g. iLID, are an increasingly utilized optogenetics tool to perturb cellular signaling. The major benefit of this technique is that it allows external spatiotemporal control over protein localization with sub-cellular specificity. However, when it comes to local recruitment of signaling components to the plasmamembrane, this precision in localization is easily lost due to rapid diffusion of the membrane anchor. In this study, we explore different approaches of countering the diffusion of peripheral membrane anchors, to the point where we detect immobilized fractions with iFRAP on a timescale of several minutes. One method involves simultaneous binding of the membrane anchor to a secondary structure, the microtubules. The other strategy utilizes clustering of the anchor into large immobile structures, which can also be interlinked by employing tandem recruitable domains. For both approaches, the anchors are peripheral membrane constructs, which also makes them suitable for in vitro use. Upon combining these slower diffusing anchors with recruitable guanine exchange factors (GEFs), we show that we can elicit much more localized morphological responses from Rac1 and Cdc42 as compared to a regular CAAX-box based membrane anchor in living cells. Thanks to these new slow diffusing anchors, more precisely defined membrane recruitment experiments are now possible.
A Single-Component Optogenetic System Allows Stringent Switch of Gene Expression in Yeast Cells.
Light is a highly attractive actuator that allows spatiotemporal control of diverse cellular activities. In this study, we developed a single-component light-switchable gene expression system for yeast cells, termed yLightOn system. The yLightOn system is independent of exogenous cofactors, and exhibits more than a 500-fold ON/OFF ratio, extremely low leakage, fast expression kinetics, and high spatial resolution. We demonstrated the usefulness of the yLightOn system in regulating cell growth and cell cycle by stringently controlling the expression of His3 and ΔN Sic1 genes, respectively. Furthermore, we engineered a bidirectional expression module that allows the simultaneous control of the expression of two genes by light. With ClpX and ClpP as the reporters, the fast, quantitative, and spatially specific degradation of ssrA-tagged protein was observed. We suggest that this single-component optogenetic system will be immensely helpful in understanding cellular gene regulatory networks and in the design of robust genetic circuits for synthetic biology.
CRAC channel-based optogenetics.
Store-operated Ca²+ entry (SOCE) constitutes a major Ca2+ influx pathway in mammals to regulate a myriad of physiological processes, including muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, gene expression, and metabolism. In non-excitable cells, the Ca²+ release-activated Ca²+ (CRAC) channel, composed of ORAI and stromal interaction molecules (STIM), constitutes a prototypical example of SOCE to mediate Ca2+ entry at specialized membrane contact sites (MCSs) between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane (PM). The key steps of SOCE activation include the oligomerization of the luminal domain of the ER-resident Ca2+ sensor STIM1 upon Ca²+ store depletion, subsequent signal propagation toward the cytoplasmic domain to trigger a conformational switch and overcome the intramolecular autoinhibition, and ultimate exposure of the minimal ORAI-activating domain to directly engage and gate ORAI channels in the plasma membrane. This exquisitely coordinated cellular event is also facilitated by the C-terminal polybasic domain of STIM1, which physically associates with negatively charged phosphoinositides embedded in the inner leaflet of the PM to enable efficient translocation of STIM1 into ER-PM MCSs. Here, we present recent progress in recapitulating STIM1-mediated SOCE activation by engineering CRAC channels with optogenetic approaches. These STIM1-based optogenetic tools make it possible to not only mechanistically recapture the key molecular steps of SOCE activation, but also remotely and reversibly control Ca²+-dependent cellular processes, inter-organellar tethering at MCSs, and transcriptional reprogramming when combined with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome-editing tools.
Cancer mutations and targeted drugs can disrupt dynamic signal encoding by the Ras-Erk pathway.
The Ras-Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) pathway encodes information in its dynamics; the duration and frequency of Erk activity can specify distinct cell fates. To enable dynamic encoding, temporal information must be accurately transmitted from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. We used optogenetic profiling to show that both oncogenic B-Raf mutations and B-Raf inhibitors can cause corruption of this transmission, so that short pulses of input Ras activity are distorted into abnormally long Erk outputs. These changes can reshape downstream transcription and cell fates, resulting in improper decisions to proliferate. These findings illustrate how altered dynamic signal transmission properties, and not just constitutively increased signaling, can contribute to cell proliferation and perhaps cancer, and how optogenetic profiling can dissect mechanisms of signaling dysfunction in disease.
Pulsatile inputs achieve tunable attenuation of gene expression variability and graded multi-gene regulation.
Many natural transcription factors are regulated in a pulsatile fashion, but it remains unknown whether synthetic gene expression systems can benefit from such dynamic regulation. Here we find, using a fast-acting, optogenetic transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that dynamic pulsatile signals reduce cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. We then show that by encoding such signals into a single input, expression mean and variability can be independently tuned. Further, we construct a light-responsive promoter library and demonstrate how pulsatile signaling also enables graded multi-gene regulation at fixed expression ratios, despite differences in promoter dose-response characteristics. Pulsatile regulation can thus lead to beneficial functional behaviors in synthetic biological systems, which previously required laborious optimization of genetic parts or the construction of synthetic gene networks.
Synergistic Ensemble of Optogenetic Actuators and Dynamic Indicators in Cell Biology.
Discovery of the naturally evolved fluorescent proteins and their genetically engineered biosensors have enormously contributed to current bio-imaging techniques. These reporters to trace dynamic changes of intracellular protein activities have continuously transformed according to the various demands in biological studies. Along with that, light-inducible optogenetic technologies have offered scientists to perturb, control and analyze the function of intracellular machineries in spatiotemporal manner. In this review, we present an overview of the molecular strategies that have been exploited for producing genetically encoded protein reporters and various optogenetic modules. Finally, in particular, we discuss the current efforts for combined use of these reporters and optogenetic modules as a powerful tactic for the control and imaging of signaling events in cells and tissues.
Generic and reversible opto-trapping of biomolecules.
Molecular traps can control activity and abundance of many biological factors. Here, we report the development of a generic opto-trap to reversibly bind and release biomolecules with high spatiotemporal control by illumination with noninvasive and cell-compatible red and far-red light. We use the Arapidopsis thaliana photoreceptor phytochrome B to regulate the release of diverse proteins from a variety of material scaffolds. Fusion of a short 100 amino acids "PIF-tag", derived from the phytochrome interacting factor 6, renders arbitrary molecules opto-trap-compatible. Reversible opto-trapping of target molecules enables novel possibilities for future developments in diagnostics, therapeutics and basic research.
Optogenetic dissection of mitotic spindle positioning in vivo.
The position of the mitotic spindle determines the plane of cell cleavage, and thereby daughter cell location, size, and content. Spindle positioning is driven by dynein-mediated pulling forces exerted on astral microtubules, which requires an evolutionarily conserved complex of Gα-GDP, GPR-1/2Pins/LGN, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA proteins. To examine individual functions of the complex components, we developed a genetic strategy for light-controlled localization of endogenous proteins in C. elegans embryos. By replacing Gα and GPR-1/2 with a light-inducible membrane anchor, we demonstrate that Gα-GDP, Gα-GTP, and GPR-1/2 are not required for pulling-force generation. In the absence of Gα and GPR-1/2, cortical recruitment of LIN-5, but not dynein itself, induced high pulling forces. The light-controlled localization of LIN-5 overruled normal cell-cycle and polarity regulation and provided experimental control over the spindle and cell-cleavage plane. Our results define Gα∙GDP-GPR-1/2 Pins/LGN as a regulatable membrane anchor, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA as a potent activator of dynein-dependent spindle-positioning forces.
Spatiotemporal control of zebrafish (Danio rerio) gene expression using a light-activated CRISPR activation system.
CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) system is the convenient tool for targeted-gene activation, it has been developed and combined with a lighting-based system that can control transcription initiation spatially and temporally by utilizing photoreceptor derived from plant Arabidopsis thaliana. A blue light photoreceptor the Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), and its binding partner CIB1 will dimerize by exposure to the blue light and it has been applied to human cells. However, the application of a combination of these two systems to zebrafish cell is still not explored. We performed zebrafish gene activation using p65 and VP64 activators in the zebrafish cells (ZF4). Our study demonstrated that we have successfully controlled the transcription level of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes using blue light-activated CRISPR activation system. The result showed that using this system, mRNA level expression of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes increased after irradiated under blue light for several hours and significantly different to those which treated in the dark.
Fungal Light-Oxygen-Voltage Domains for Optogenetic Control of Gene Expression and Flocculation in Yeast.
Optogenetic switches permit accurate control of gene expression upon light stimulation. These synthetic switches have become a powerful tool for gene regulation, allowing modulation of customized phenotypes, overcoming the obstacles of chemical inducers, and replacing their use by an inexpensive resource: light. In this work, we implemented FUN-LOV, an optogenetic switch based on the photon-regulated interaction of WC-1 and VVD, two LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) blue-light photoreceptors from the fungus Neurospora crassa When tested in yeast, FUN-LOV yields light-controlled gene expression with exquisite temporal resolution and a broad dynamic range of over 1,300-fold, as measured by a luciferase reporter. We also tested the FUN-LOV switch for heterologous protein expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, where Western blot analysis confirmed strong induction upon light stimulation, surpassing by 2.5 times the levels achieved with a classic GAL4/galactose chemical-inducible system. Additionally, we utilized FUN-LOV to control the ability of yeast cells to flocculate. Light-controlled expression of the flocculin-encoding gene FLO1, by the FUN-LOV switch, yielded flocculation in light (FIL), whereas the light-controlled expression of the corepressor TUP1 provided flocculation in darkness (FID). Altogether, the results reveal the potential of the FUN-LOV optogenetic switch to control two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes such as heterologous protein expression and flocculation, paving the road for the engineering of new yeast strains for industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV's ability to accurately manipulate gene expression, with a high temporal dynamic range, can be exploited in the analysis of diverse biological processes in various organisms.IMPORTANCE Optogenetic switches are molecular devices which allow the control of different cellular processes by light, such as gene expression, providing a versatile alternative to chemical inducers. Here, we report a novel optogenetic switch (FUN-LOV) based on the LOV domain interaction of two blue-light photoreceptors (WC-1 and VVD) from the fungus N. crassa In yeast cells, FUN-LOV allowed tight regulation of gene expression, with low background in darkness and a highly dynamic and potent control by light. We used FUN-LOV to optogenetically manipulate, in yeast, two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes, heterologous protein expression and flocculation, resulting in strains with potential industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV can be implemented in diverse biological platforms to orthogonally control a multitude of cellular processes.
Directly light-regulated binding of RGS-LOV photoreceptors to anionic membrane phospholipids.
We report natural light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) photoreceptors with a blue light-switched, high-affinity (KD ∼ 10-7 M), and direct electrostatic interaction with anionic phospholipids. Membrane localization of one such photoreceptor, BcLOV4 from Botrytis cinerea, is directly coupled to its flavin photocycle, and is mediated by a polybasic amphipathic helix in the linker region between the LOV sensor and its C-terminal domain of unknown function (DUF), as revealed through a combination of bioinformatics, computational protein modeling, structure-function studies, and optogenetic assays in yeast and mammalian cell line expression systems. In model systems, BcLOV4 rapidly translocates from the cytosol to plasma membrane (∼1 second). The reversible electrostatic interaction is nonselective among anionic phospholipids, exhibiting binding strengths dependent on the total anionic content of the membrane without preference for a specific headgroup. The in vitro and cellular responses were also observed with a BcLOV4 homolog and thus are likely to be general across the dikarya LOV class, whose members are associated with regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) domains. Natural photoreceptors are not previously known to directly associate with membrane phospholipids in a light-dependent manner, and thus this work establishes both a photosensory signal transmission mode and a single-component optogenetic tool with rapid membrane localization kinetics that approaches the diffusion limit.
A compendium of chemical and genetic approaches to light-regulated gene transcription.
On-cue regulation of gene transcription is an invaluable tool for the study of biological processes and the development and integration of next-generation therapeutics. Ideal reagents for the precise regulation of gene transcription should be nontoxic to the host system, highly tunable, and provide a high level of spatial and temporal control. Light, when coupled with protein or small molecule-linked photoresponsive elements, presents an attractive means of meeting the demands of an ideal system for regulating gene transcription. In this review, we cover recent developments in the burgeoning field of light-regulated gene transcription, covering both genetically encoded and small-molecule based strategies for optical regulation of transcription during the period 2012 till present.
Near-Infrared Fluorescent Proteins: Multiplexing and Optogenetics across Scales.
Since mammalian tissue is relatively transparent to near-infrared (NIR) light, NIR fluorescent proteins (FPs) engineered from bacterial phytochromes have become widely used probes for non-invasive in vivo imaging. Recently, these genetically encoded NIR probes have been substantially improved, enabling imaging experiments that were not possible previously. Here, we discuss the use of monomeric NIR FPs and NIR biosensors for multiplexed imaging with common visible GFP-based probes and blue light-activatable optogenetic tools. These NIR probes are suitable for visualization of functional activities from molecular to organismal levels. In combination with advanced imaging techniques, such as two-photon microscopy with adaptive optics, photoacoustic tomography and its recent modification reversibly switchable photoacoustic computed tomography, NIR probes allow subcellular resolution at millimeter depths.
Oscillatory Control of Notch Signaling in Development.
The Notch effectors Hes1 and Hes7 and the Notch ligand Delta-like1 (Dll1) are expressed in an oscillatory manner during neurogenesis and somitogenesis. These two biological events exhibit different types of oscillations: anti-/out-of-phase oscillation in neural stem cells during neurogenesis and in-phase oscillation in presomitic mesoderm (PSM) cells during somitogenesis. Accelerated or delayed Dll1 expression by shortening or elongating the size of the Dll1 gene, respectively, dampens or quenches Dll1 oscillation at intermediate levels, a phenomenon known as "amplitude/oscillation death" of coupled oscillators. Under this condition, both Hes1 oscillation in neural stem cells and Hes7 oscillation in PSM cells are also dampened. As a result, maintenance of neural stem cells is impaired, leading to microcephaly, while somite segmentation is impaired, leading to severe fusion of somites and their derivatives, such as vertebrae and ribs. Thus, the appropriate timing of Dll1 expression is critical for the oscillatory expression in Notch signaling and normal processes of neurogenesis and somitogenesis. Optogenetic analysis indicated that Dll1 oscillations transfer the oscillatory information between neighboring cells, which may induce anti-/out-of-phase and in-phase oscillations depending on the delay in signaling transmission. These oscillatory dynamics can be described in a unified manner by mathematical modeling.
Illuminating pathogen-host intimacy through optogenetics.
The birth and subsequent evolution of optogenetics has resulted in an unprecedented advancement in our understanding of the brain. Its outstanding success does usher wider applications; however, the tool remains still largely relegated to neuroscience. Here, we introduce selected aspects of optogenetics with potential applications in infection biology that will not only answer long-standing questions about intracellular pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) but also broaden the dimension of current research in entwined models. In this essay, we illustrate how a judicious integration of optogenetics with routine methods can illuminate the host-pathogen interactions in a way that has not been feasible otherwise.
Shining light on spindle positioning.
Optogenetic approaches are leading to a better understanding of the forces that determine the plane of cell division.
Blue-Light Receptors for Optogenetics.
Sensory photoreceptors underpin light-dependent adaptations of organismal physiology, development, and behavior in nature. Adapted for optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors become genetically encoded actuators and reporters to enable the noninvasive, spatiotemporally accurate and reversible control by light of cellular processes. Rooted in a mechanistic understanding of natural photoreceptors, artificial photoreceptors with customized light-gated function have been engineered that greatly expand the scope of optogenetics beyond the original application of light-controlled ion flow. As we survey presently, UV/blue-light-sensitive photoreceptors have particularly allowed optogenetics to transcend its initial neuroscience applications by unlocking numerous additional cellular processes and parameters for optogenetic intervention, including gene expression, DNA recombination, subcellular localization, cytoskeleton dynamics, intracellular protein stability, signal transduction cascades, apoptosis, and enzyme activity. The engineering of novel photoreceptors benefits from powerful and reusable design strategies, most importantly light-dependent protein association and (un)folding reactions. Additionally, modified versions of these same sensory photoreceptors serve as fluorescent proteins and generators of singlet oxygen, thereby further enriching the optogenetic toolkit. The available and upcoming UV/blue-light-sensitive actuators and reporters enable the detailed and quantitative interrogation of cellular signal networks and processes in increasingly more precise and illuminating manners.
Optical activation of TrkA signaling.
Nerve growth factor/tropomyosin receptor kinase A (NGF/TrkA) signaling plays a key role in neuronal development, function, survival, and growth. The pathway is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, inflammation, and cancer. NGF binds the extracellular domain of TrkA, leading to the activation of the receptor's intracellular kinase domain. TrkA signaling is highly dynamic, thus mechanistic studies would benefit from a tool with high spatial and temporal resolution. Here we present the design and evaluation of four strategies for light-inducible activation of TrkA in the absence of NGF. Our strategies involve the light-sensitive protein Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and its binding partner CIB1. We demonstrate successful recapitulation of native NGF/TrkA functions by optical induction of plasma membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkA. This approach activates PI3K/AKT and Raf/ERK signaling pathways, promotes neurite growth in PC12 cells, and supports the survival of dorsal root ganglion neurons in the absence of NGF. This ability to activate TrkA using light bestows high spatial and temporal resolution for investigating NGF/TrkA signaling.
Synthetic far-red light-mediated CRISPR-dCas9 device for inducing functional neuronal differentiation.
The ability to control the activity of CRISPR-dCas9 with precise spatiotemporal resolution will enable tight genome regulation of user-defined endogenous genes for studying the dynamics of transcriptional regulation. Optogenetic devices with minimal phototoxicity and the capacity for deep tissue penetration are extremely useful for precise spatiotemporal control of cellular behavior and for future clinic translational research. Therefore, capitalizing on synthetic biology and optogenetic design principles, we engineered a far-red light (FRL)-activated CRISPR-dCas9 effector (FACE) device that induces transcription of exogenous or endogenous genes in the presence of FRL stimulation. This versatile system provides a robust and convenient method for precise spatiotemporal control of endogenous gene expression and also has been demonstrated to mediate targeted epigenetic modulation, which can be utilized to efficiently promote differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells into functional neurons by up-regulating a single neural transcription factor, NEUROG2 This FACE system might facilitate genetic/epigenetic reprogramming in basic biological research and regenerative medicine for future biomedical applications.
Controlling Cells with Light and LOV.
Optogenetics is a powerful method for studying dynamic processes in living cells and has advanced cell biology research over the recent past. Key to the successful application of optogenetics is the careful design of the light‐sensing module, typically employing a natural or engineered photoreceptor that links the exogenous light input to the cellular process under investigation. Light–oxygen–voltage (LOV) domains, a highly diverse class of small blue light sensors, have proven to be particularly versatile for engineering optogenetic input modules. These can function via diverse modalities, including inducible allostery, protein recruitment, dimerization, or dissociation. This study reviews recent advances in the development of LOV domain‐based optogenetic tools and their application for studying and controlling selected cellular functions. Focusing on the widely employed LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin‐1, this review highlights the broad spectrum of engineering opportunities that can be explored to achieve customized optogenetic regulation. Finally, major bottlenecks in the development of optogenetic methods are discussed and strategies to overcome these with recent synthetic biology approaches are pointed out.
"Rho"ing a Cellular Boat with Rearward Membrane Flow.
The physicist Edward Purcell wrote in 1977 about mechanisms that cells could use to propel themselves in a low Reynolds number environment. Reporting in Developmental Cell, O'Neill et al. (2018) provide direct evidence for one of these mechanisms by optogenetically driving the migration of cells suspended in liquid through RhoA activation.