Showing 1 - 25 of 25 results
Optoribogenetic control of regulatory RNA molecules.
Short regulatory RNA molecules underpin gene expression and govern cellular state and physiology. To establish an alternative layer of control over these processes, we generated chimeric regulatory RNAs that interact reversibly and light-dependently with the light-oxygen-voltage photoreceptor PAL. By harnessing this interaction, the function of micro RNAs (miRs) and short hairpin (sh) RNAs in mammalian cells can be regulated in a spatiotemporally precise manner. The underlying strategy is generic and can be adapted to near-arbitrary target sequences. Owing to full genetic encodability, it establishes optoribogenetic control of cell state and physiology. The method stands to facilitate the non-invasive, reversible and spatiotemporally resolved study of regulatory RNAs and protein function in cellular and organismal environments.
Development of optogenetic tools to manipulate cell cycle checkpoints.
In order to understand the systematic regulation of the cell cycle, we need more precise tools for cell-cycle perturbation. Optogenetics is a powerful technique for precisely controlling cellular signaling at higher spatial and temporal resolution. Here, we report optogenetic tools for the rapid and reversible control of cell-cycle checkpoints with a red/far-red light photoreceptor, phytochrome B (PhyB). We established fission yeast cells producing phycocyanobilin as a chromophore of PhyB, and demonstrated light-dependent protein recruitment to the plasma membrane, nucleus, and kinetochore. Using this system, we developed optogenetic manipulation of the cell cycle in two ways: the Opto-G2/M checkpoint triggered G2/M cell cycle arrest in response to red light, and Opto-SAC induced a spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) in response to red light and then quickly released the SAC by far-red light.
Light-powered Escherichia coli cell division for chemical production.
Cell division can perturb the metabolic performance of industrial microbes. The C period of cell division starts from the initiation to the termination of DNA replication, whereas the D period is the bacterial division process. Here, we first shorten the C and D periods of E. coli by controlling the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdAB and division proteins FtsZA through blue light and near-infrared light activation, respectively. It increases the specific surface area to 3.7 μm-1 and acetoin titer to 67.2 g·L-1. Next, we prolong the C and D periods of E. coli by regulating the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdA and division protein inhibitor SulA through blue light activation-repression and near-infrared (NIR) light activation, respectively. It improves the cell volume to 52.6 μm3 and poly(lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) titer to 14.31 g·L-1. Thus, the optogenetic-based cell division regulation strategy can improve the efficiency of microbial cell factories.
A Live-Cell Screen for Altered Erk Dynamics Reveals Principles of Proliferative Control.
Complex, time-varying responses have been observed widely in cell signaling, but how specific dynamics are generated or regulated is largely unknown. One major obstacle has been that high-throughput screens are typically incompatible with the live-cell assays used to monitor dynamics. Here, we address this challenge by screening a library of 429 kinase inhibitors and monitoring extracellular-regulated kinase (Erk) activity over 5 h in more than 80,000 single primary mouse keratinocytes. Our screen reveals both known and uncharacterized modulators of Erk dynamics, including inhibitors of non-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) that increase Erk pulse frequency and overall activity. Using drug treatment and direct optogenetic control, we demonstrate that drug-induced changes to Erk dynamics alter the conditions under which cells proliferate. Our work opens the door to high-throughput screens using live-cell biosensors and reveals that cell proliferation integrates information from Erk dynamics as well as additional permissive cues.
Pulsatile MAPK Signaling Modulates p53 Activity to Control Cell Fate Decisions at the G2 Checkpoint for DNA Damage.
Cell-autonomous changes in p53 expression govern the duration and outcome of cell-cycle arrest at the G2 checkpoint for DNA damage. Here, we report that mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling integrates extracellular cues with p53 dynamics to determine cell fate at the G2 checkpoint. Optogenetic tools and quantitative cell biochemistry reveal transient oscillations in MAPK activity dependent on ataxia-telangiectasia-mutated kinase after DNA damage. MAPK inhibition alters p53 dynamics and p53-dependent gene expression after checkpoint enforcement, prolonging G2 arrest. In contrast, sustained MAPK signaling induces the phosphorylation of CDC25C, and consequently, the accumulation of pro-mitotic kinases, thereby relaxing checkpoint stringency and permitting cells to evade prolonged G2 arrest and senescence induction. We propose a model in which this MAPK-mediated mechanism integrates extracellular cues with cell-autonomous p53-mediated signals, to safeguard genomic integrity during tissue proliferation. Early steps in oncogene-driven carcinogenesis may imbalance this tumor-suppressive mechanism to trigger genome instability.
Mps1 releases Mad1 from nuclear pores to ensure a robust mitotic checkpoint and accurate chromosome segregation.
The strength of the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) depends on the amount of the Mad1-C-Mad2 heterotetramer at kinetochores but also on its binding to Megator/Tpr at nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) during interphase. However, the molecular underpinnings controlling the spatiotemporal redistribution of Mad1-C-Mad2 as cells progress into mitosis remain elusive. Here, we show that Mps1-mediated phosphorylation of Megator/Tpr abolishes its interaction with Mad1 in vitro and in Drosophila cells. Timely activation of Mps1 during prophase triggers Mad1 release from NPCs, which we find to be required for competent kinetochore recruitment of Mad1-C-Mad2 and robust checkpoint response. Importantly, preventing Mad1 binding to Megator/Tpr rescues the fidelity of chromosome segregation and aneuploidy in larval neuroblasts of Drosophila mps1-null mutants. Our findings demonstrate that the subcellular localization of Mad1 is stringently coordinated with cell cycle progression by kinetochore-extrinsic activity of Mps1. This ensures that both NPCs in interphase and kinetochores in mitosis can generate anaphase inhibitors to efficiently preserve genomic stability.
Optogenetic downregulation of protein levels with an ultrasensitive switch.
Optogenetic control of protein activity is a versatile technique to gain control over cellular processes, e.g. for biomedical and biotechnological applications. Among other techniques, the regulation of protein abundance by controlling either transcription or protein stability found common use as this controls the activity of any type of target protein. Here, we report modules of an improved variant of the photosensitive degron module and a light-sensitive transcription factor, which we compared to doxycycline-dependent transcriptional control. Given their modularity the combined control of synthesis and stability of a given target protein resulted in the synergistic down regulation of its abundance by light. This combined module exhibits very high switching ratios, profound downregulation of protein abundance at low light-fluxes as well as fast protein depletion kinetics. Overall, this synergistic optogenetic multistep control (SOMCo) module is easy to implement and results in a regulation of protein abundance superior to each individual component.
A size-invariant bud-duration timer enables robustness in yeast cell size control.
Cell populations across nearly all forms of life generally maintain a characteristic cell type-dependent size, but how size control is achieved has been a long-standing question. The G1/S boundary of the cell cycle serves as a major point of size control, and mechanisms operating here restrict passage of cells to Start if they are too small. In contrast, it is less clear how size is regulated post-Start, during S/G2/M. To gain further insight into post-Start size control, we prepared budding yeast that can be reversibly blocked from bud initiation. While blocked, cells continue to grow isotropically, increasing their volume by more than an order of magnitude over unperturbed cells. Upon release from their block, giant mothers reenter the cell cycle and their progeny rapidly return to the original unperturbed size. We found this behavior to be consistent with a size-invariant 'timer' specifying the duration of S/G2/M. These results indicate that yeast use at least two distinct mechanisms at different cell cycle phases to ensure size homeostasis.
Luminescence-activated nucleotide cyclase regulates spatial and temporal cAMP synthesis.
cAMP is a ubiquitous second messenger that regulates cellular proliferation, differentiation, attachment, migration, and several other processes. It has become increasingly evident that tight regulation of cAMP accumulation and localization confers divergent yet specific signaling to downstream pathways. Currently, few tools are available that have sufficient spatial and temporal resolution to study location-biased cAMP signaling. Here, we introduce a new fusion protein consisting of a light-activated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) and luciferase (nLuc). This construct allows dual activation of cAMP production through temporally precise photostimulation or chronic chemical stimulation that can be fined-tuned to mimic physiological levels and duration of cAMP synthesis to trigger downstream events. By targeting this construct to different compartments, we show that cAMP produced in the cytosol and nucleus stimulates proliferation in thyroid cells. The bPAC-nLuc fusion construct adds a new reagent to the available toolkit to study cAMP-regulated processes in living cells.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plasma Membrane Association but Not Midzone Recruitment of RhoGEF ECT2 Is Essential for Cytokinesis.
Cytokinesis, the final step of cell division, begins with the formation of a cleavage furrow. How the mitotic spindle specifies the furrow at the equator in animal cells remains unknown. Current models propose that the concentration of the RhoGEF ECT2 at the spindle midzone and the equatorial plasma membrane directs furrow formation. Using chemical genetic and optogenetic tools, we demonstrate that the association of ECT2 with the plasma membrane during anaphase is required and sufficient for cytokinesis. Local membrane targeting of ECT2 leads to unilateral furrowing, highlighting the importance of local ECT2 activity. ECT2 mutations that prevent centralspindlin binding compromise concentration of ECT2 at the midzone and equatorial membrane but sustain cytokinesis. While the association of ECT2 with the plasma membrane is essential for cytokinesis, our data suggest that ECT2 recruitment to the spindle midzone is insufficient to account for equatorial furrowing and may act redundantly with yet-uncharacterized signals.
Optogenetic clustering of CNK1 reveals mechanistic insights in RAF and AKT signalling controlling cell fate decisions.
Scaffold proteins such as the multidomain protein CNK1 orchestrate the signalling network by integrating and controlling the underlying pathways. Using an optogenetic approach to stimulate CNK1 uncoupled from upstream effectors, we identified selective clusters of CNK1 that either stimulate RAF-MEK-ERK or AKT signalling depending on the light intensity applied. OptoCNK1 implemented in MCF7 cells induces differentiation at low light intensity stimulating ERK activity whereas stimulation of AKT signalling by higher light intensity promotes cell proliferation. CNK1 clustering in response to increasing EGF concentrations revealed that CNK1 binds to RAF correlating with ERK activation at low EGF dose. At higher EGF dose active AKT binds to CNK1 and phosphorylates and inhibits RAF. Knockdown of CNK1 protects CNK1 from this AKT/RAF crosstalk. In C2 skeletal muscle cells CNK1 expression is induced with the onset of differentiation. Hence, AKT-bound CNK1 counteracts ERK stimulation in differentiated but not in proliferating cells. Ectopically expressed CNK1 facilitates C2 cell differentiation and knockdown of CNK1 impaired the transcriptional network underlying C2 cell differentiation. Thus, CNK1 expression, CNK1 clustering and the thereto related differential signalling processes decide on proliferation and differentiation in a cell type- and cell stage-dependent manner by orchestrating AKT and RAF signalling.
Local RhoA activation induces cytokinetic furrows independent of spindle position and cell cycle stage.
The GTPase RhoA promotes contractile ring assembly and furrow ingression during cytokinesis. Although many factors that regulate RhoA during cytokinesis have been characterized, the spatiotemporal regulatory logic remains undefined. We have developed an optogenetic probe to gain tight spatial and temporal control of RhoA activity in mammalian cells and demonstrate that cytokinetic furrowing is primarily regulated at the level of RhoA activation. Light-mediated recruitment of a RhoGEF domain to the plasma membrane leads to rapid induction of RhoA activity, leading to assembly of cytokinetic furrows that partially ingress. Furthermore, furrow formation in response to RhoA activation is not temporally or spatially restricted. RhoA activation is sufficient to generate furrows at both the cell equator and cell poles, in both metaphase and anaphase. Remarkably, furrow formation can be initiated in rounded interphase cells, but not adherent cells. These results indicate that RhoA activation is sufficient to induce assembly of functional contractile rings and that cell rounding facilitates furrow formation.
Probing Yeast Polarity with Acute, Reversible, Optogenetic Inhibition of Protein Function.
We recently developed a technique for rapidly and reversibly inhibiting protein function through light-inducible sequestration of proteins away from their normal sites of action. Here, we adapt this method for inducible inactivation of Bem1, a scaffold protein involved in budding yeast polarity. We find that acute inhibition of Bem1 produces profound defects in cell polarization and cell viability that are not observed in bem1Δ. By disrupting Bem1 activity at specific points in the cell cycle, we demonstrate that Bem1 is essential for the establishment of polarity and bud emergence but is dispensable for the growth of an emerged bud. By taking advantage of the reversibility of Bem1 inactivation, we show that pole size scales with cell size, and that this scaling is dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. Our experiments reveal how rapid reversible inactivation of protein function complements traditional genetic approaches. This strategy should be widely applicable to other biological contexts.
Engineering light-inducible nuclear localization signals for precise spatiotemporal control of protein dynamics in living cells.
The function of many eukaryotic proteins is regulated by highly dynamic changes in their nucleocytoplasmic distribution. The ability to precisely and reversibly control nuclear translocation would, therefore, allow dissecting and engineering cellular networks. Here we develop a genetically encoded, light-inducible nuclear localization signal (LINuS) based on the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1. LINuS is a small, versatile tag, customizable for different proteins and cell types. LINuS-mediated nuclear import is fast and reversible, and can be tuned at different levels, for instance, by introducing mutations that alter AsLOV2 domain photo-caging properties or by selecting nuclear localization signals (NLSs) of various strengths. We demonstrate the utility of LINuS in mammalian cells by controlling gene expression and entry into mitosis with blue light.
Reversible protein inactivation by optogenetic trapping in cells.
We present a versatile platform to inactivate proteins in living cells using light, light-activated reversible inhibition by assembled trap (LARIAT), which sequesters target proteins into complexes formed by multimeric proteins and a blue light-mediated heterodimerization module. Using LARIAT, we inhibited diverse proteins that modulate cytoskeleton, lipid signaling and cell cycle with high spatiotemporal resolution. Use of single-domain antibodies extends the method to target proteins containing specific epitopes, including GFP.
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.
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.
A light-inducible organelle-targeting system for dynamically activating and inactivating signaling in budding yeast.
Protein localization plays a central role in cell biology. Although powerful tools exist to assay the spatial and temporal dynamics of proteins in living cells, our ability to control these dynamics has been much more limited. We previously used the phytochrome B- phytochrome-interacting factor light-gated dimerization system to recruit proteins to the plasma membrane, enabling us to control the activation of intracellular signals in mammalian cells. Here we extend this approach to achieve rapid, reversible, and titratable control of protein localization for eight different organelles/positions in budding yeast. By tagging genes at the endogenous locus, we can recruit proteins to or away from their normal sites of action. This system provides a general strategy for dynamically activating or inactivating proteins of interest by controlling their localization and therefore their availability to binding partners and substrates, as we demonstrate for galactose signaling. More importantly, the temporal and spatial precision of the system make it possible to identify when and where a given protein's activity is necessary for function, as we demonstrate for the mitotic cyclin Clb2 in nuclear fission and spindle stabilization. Our light-inducible organelle-targeting system represents a powerful approach for achieving a better understanding of complex biological systems.
A LOV2 domain-based optogenetic tool to control protein degradation and cellular function.
Light perception is indispensable for plants to respond adequately to external cues and is linked to proteolysis of key transcriptional regulators. To provide synthetic light control of protein stability, we developed a generic photosensitive degron (psd) module combining the light-reactive LOV2 domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phot1 with the murine ornithine decarboxylase-like degradation sequence cODC1. Functionality of the psd module was demonstrated in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Generation of conditional mutants, light regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase activity, light-based patterning of cell growth, and yeast photography exemplified its versatility. In silico modeling of psd module behavior increased understanding of its characteristics. This engineered degron module transfers the principle of light-regulated degradation to nonplant organisms. It will be highly beneficial to control protein levels in biotechnological or biomedical applications and offers the potential to render a plethora of biological processes light-switchable.
Light-mediated control of DNA transcription in yeast.
A variety of methods exist for inducible control of DNA transcription in yeast. These include the use of native yeast promoters or regulatory elements that are responsive to small molecules such as galactose, methionine, and copper, or engineered systems that allow regulation by orthogonal small molecules such as estrogen. While chemically regulated systems are easy to use and can yield high levels of protein expression, they often provide imprecise control over protein levels. Moreover, chemically regulated systems can affect many other proteins and pathways in yeast, activating signaling pathways or physiological responses. Here, we describe several methods for light mediated control of DNA transcription in vivo in yeast. We describe methodology for using a red light and phytochrome dependent system to induce transcription of genes under GAL1 promoter control, as well as blue light/cryptochrome dependent systems to control transcription of genes under GAL1 promoter or LexA operator control. Light is dose dependent, inexpensive to apply, easily delivered, and does not interfere with cellular pathways, and thus has significant advantages over chemical systems.
TULIPs: tunable, light-controlled interacting protein tags for cell biology.
Naturally photoswitchable proteins offer a means of directly manipulating the formation of protein complexes that drive a diversity of cellular processes. We developed tunable light-inducible dimerization tags (TULIPs) based on a synthetic interaction between the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1 (AsLOV2) and an engineered PDZ domain (ePDZ). TULIPs can recruit proteins to diverse structures in living yeast and mammalian cells, either globally or with precise spatial control using a steerable laser. The equilibrium binding and kinetic parameters of the interaction are tunable by mutation, making TULIPs readily adaptable to signaling pathways with varying sensitivities and response times. We demonstrate the utility of TULIPs by conferring light sensitivity to functionally distinct components of the yeast mating pathway and by directing the site of cell polarization.