Showing 1 - 25 of 76 results
Optogenetic dissection of Rac1 and Cdc42 gradient shaping.
During cell migration, Rho GTPases spontaneously form spatial gradients that define the front and back of cells. At the front, active Cdc42 forms a steep gradient whereas active Rac1 forms a more extended pattern peaking a few microns away. What are the mechanisms shaping these gradients, and what is the functional role of the shape of these gradients? Here we report, using a combination of optogenetics and micropatterning, that Cdc42 and Rac1 gradients are set by spatial patterns of activators and deactivators and not directly by transport mechanisms. Cdc42 simply follows the distribution of Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors, whereas Rac1 shaping requires the activity of a GTPase-Activating Protein, β2-chimaerin, which is sharply localized at the tip of the cell through feedbacks from Cdc42 and Rac1. Functionally, the spatial extent of Rho GTPases gradients governs cell migration, a sharp Cdc42 gradient maximizes directionality while an extended Rac1 gradient controls the speed.
Downregulation of basal myosin-II is required for cell shape changes and tissue invagination.
Tissue invagination drives embryo remodeling and assembly of internal organs during animal development. While the role of actomyosin-mediated apical constriction in initiating inward folding is well established, computational models suggest relaxation of the basal surface as an additional requirement. However, the lack of genetic mutations interfering specifically with basal relaxation has made it difficult to test its requirement during invagination so far. Here we use optogenetics to quantitatively control myosin-II levels at the basal surface of invaginating cells during Drosophila gastrulation. We show that while basal myosin-II is lost progressively during ventral furrow formation, optogenetics allows the maintenance of pre-invagination levels over time. Quantitative imaging demonstrates that optogenetic activation prior to tissue bending slows down cell elongation and blocks invagination. Activation after cell elongation and tissue bending has initiated inhibits cell shortening and folding of the furrow into a tube-like structure. Collectively, these data demonstrate the requirement of myosin-II polarization and basal relaxation throughout the entire invagination process.
Integrating chemical and mechanical signals through dynamic coupling between cellular protrusions and pulsed ERK activation.
The Ras-ERK signaling pathway regulates diverse cellular processes in response to environmental stimuli and contains important therapeutic targets for cancer. Recent single cell studies revealed stochastic pulses of ERK activation, the frequency of which determines functional outcomes such as cell proliferation. Here we show that ERK pulses are initiated by localized protrusive activities. Chemically and optogenetically induced protrusions trigger ERK activation through various entry points into the feedback loop involving Ras, PI3K, the cytoskeleton, and cellular adhesion. The excitability of the protrusive signaling network drives stochastic ERK activation in unstimulated cells and oscillations upon growth factor stimulation. Importantly, protrusions allow cells to sense combined signals from substrate stiffness and the growth factor. Thus, by uncovering the basis of ERK pulse generation we demonstrate how signals involved in cell growth and differentiation are regulated by dynamic protrusions that integrate chemical and mechanical inputs from the environment.
Membrane dynamics induced by a PIP3 optogenetic tool.
Membrane dynamic structures such as filopodia, lamellipodia, and ruffles have important cellular functions in phagocytosis and cell motility, and in pathological states such as cancer metastasis. Phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) is a crucial lipid that regulates PIP3 dynamics. Investigations of how PIP3 is involved in these functions have mainly relied on pharmacological interventions, and therefore have not generated detailed spatiotemporal information of membrane dynamics upon PIP3 production. In the present study, we applied an optogenetic approach using the CRY2–CIBN system. Using this system, we revealed that local PIP3 generation induced directional cell motility and membrane ruffles in COS7 cells. Furthermore, combined with structured illumination microscopy (SIM), membrane dynamics were investigated with high spatial resolution. We observed PIP3-induced apical ruffles and unique actin fiber behavior in that a single actin fiber protruded from the plasma membrane was taken up into the plasma membrane without depolymerization. This system has the potential to investigate other high-level cell motility and dynamic behaviors such as cancer cell invasion and wound healing with high spatiotemporal resolution, and could provide new insights of biological sciences for membrane dynamics.
RalB directly triggers invasion downstream Ras by mobilizing the Wave complex.
The two Ral GTPases, RalA and RalB, have crucial roles downstream Ras oncoproteins in human cancers; in particular, RalB is involved in invasion and metastasis. However, therapies targeting Ral signalling are not available yet. By a novel optogenetic approach, we found that light-controlled activation of Ral at plasma-membrane promotes the recruitment of the Wave Regulatory Complex (WRC) via its effector exocyst, with consequent induction of protrusions and invasion. We show that active Ras signals to RalB via two RalGEFs (Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors), RGL1 and RGL2, to foster invasiveness; RalB contribution appears to be more important than that of MAPK and PI3K pathways. Moreover, on the clinical side, we uncovered a potential role of RalB in human breast cancers by determining that RalB expression at protein level increases in a manner consistent with progression toward metastasis. This work highlights the Ras-RGL1/2-RalB-exocyst-WRC axis as appealing target for novel anti-cancer strategies.
Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration.
Synthetic hydrogels are widely used as biomimetic in vitro model systems to understand how cells respond to complex microenvironments. The mechanical properties of hydrogels are deterministic for many cellular behaviors, including cell migration, spreading, and differentiation. However, it remains a major challenge to engineer hydrogels that recapture the dynamic mechanical properties of native extracellular matrices. Here, we provide a new hydrogel platform with spatiotemporally tunable mechanical properties to assay and define cellular behaviors under light. The change in the mechanical properties of the hydrogel is effected by a photo-induced switch of the cross-linker fluorescent protein, Dronpa145N, between the tetrameric and monomeric states, which causes minimal changes to the chemical properties of the hydrogel. The mechanical properties can be rapidly and reversibly tuned for multiple cycles using visible light, as confirmed by rheological measurements and atomic force microscopybased nano-indentation. We further demonstrated real-time and reversible modulation of cell migration behaviors on the hydrogels through photo-induced stiffness switching, with minimal invasion to the cultured cells. Hydrogels with a programmable mechanical history and a spatially defined mechanical hierarchy might serve as an ideal model system to better understand complex cellular functions.
Fam49/CYRI interacts with Rac1 and locally suppresses protrusions.
Actin-based protrusions are reinforced through positive feedback, but it is unclear what restricts their size, or limits positive signals when they retract or split. We identify an evolutionarily conserved regulator of actin-based protrusion: CYRI (CYFIP-related Rac interactor) also known as Fam49 (family of unknown function 49). CYRI binds activated Rac1 via a domain of unknown function (DUF1394) shared with CYFIP, defining DUF1394 as a Rac1-binding module. CYRI-depleted cells have broad lamellipodia enriched in Scar/WAVE, but reduced protrusion-retraction dynamics. Pseudopods induced by optogenetic Rac1 activation in CYRI-depleted cells are larger and longer lived. Conversely, CYRI overexpression suppresses recruitment of active Scar/WAVE to the cell edge, resulting in short-lived, unproductive protrusions. CYRI thus focuses protrusion signals and regulates pseudopod complexity by inhibiting Scar/WAVE-induced actin polymerization. It thus behaves like a 'local inhibitor' as predicted in widely accepted mathematical models, but not previously identified in cells. CYRI therefore regulates chemotaxis, cell migration and epithelial polarization by controlling the polarity and plasticity of protrusions.
Optogenetic control of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer cells.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is one of the most important mechanisms in the initiation and promotion of cancer cell metastasis. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway has been demonstrated to be involved in TGF-β induced EMT, but the complicated TGF-β signaling network makes it challenging to dissect the important role of PI3K on regulation of EMT process. Here, we applied optogenetic controlled PI3K module (named 'Opto-PI3K'), which based on CRY2 and the N-terminal of CIB1 (CIBN), to rapidly and reversibly control the endogenous PI3K activity in cancer cells with light. By precisely modulating the kinetics of PI3K activation, we found that E-cadherin is an important downstream target of PI3K signaling. Compared with TGF-β treatment, Opto-PI3K had more potent effect in down-regulation of E-cadherin expression, which was demonstrated to be regulated in a light dose-dependent manner. Surprisingly, sustained PI3K activation induced partial EMT state in A549 cells that is highly reversible. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Opto-PI3K only partially mimicked TGF-β effects on promotion of cell migration in vitro. These results reveal the importance of PI3K signaling in TGF-β induced EMT, suggesting other TGF-β regulated signaling pathways are necessary for the full and irreversible promotion of EMT in cancer cells. In addition, our study implicates the great promise of optogenetics in cancer research for mapping input-output relationships in oncogenic pathways.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Rac1-FMNL2 signaling module affects cell-cell contact formation independent of Cdc42 and membrane protrusions.
De novo formation of epithelial cell-cell contacts relies on actin-based protrusions as well as tightly controlled turnover of junctional actin once cells encounter each other and adhesion complexes assemble. The specific contributions of individual actin regulators on either protrusion formation or junctional actin turnover remain largely unexplored. Based on our previous findings of Formin-like 2 (FMNL2)-mediated control of junctional actin dynamics, we investigated its potential role in membrane protrusions and impact on newly forming epithelial contacts. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated loss of FMNL2 in human MCF10A cells combined with optogenetic control of Rac1 activity confirmed its critical function in the establishment of intercellular contacts. While lamellipodial protrusion rates remained unaffected, FMNL2 knockout cells were characterized by impaired filopodia formation similar to depletion of the Rho GTPase Cdc42. Silencing of Cdc42, however, failed to affect FMNL2-mediated contact formation. Hence, we propose a cell-cell contact-specific and Rac1-mediated function of FMNL2 entirely independent of Cdc42. Consistent with this, direct visualizations of native epithelial junction formation revealed a striking and specifically Rac1- and not Cdc42-dependent recruitment of FMNL2 to newly forming junctions as well as established cell-cell contacts within epithelial sheets.
A biochemical network controlling basal myosin oscillation.
The actomyosin cytoskeleton, a key stress-producing unit in epithelial cells, oscillates spontaneously in a wide variety of systems. Although much of the signal cascade regulating myosin activity has been characterized, the origin of such oscillatory behavior is still unclear. Here, we show that basal myosin II oscillation in Drosophila ovarian epithelium is not controlled by actomyosin cortical tension, but instead relies on a biochemical oscillator involving ROCK and myosin phosphatase. Key to this oscillation is a diffusive ROCK flow, linking junctional Rho1 to medial actomyosin cortex, and dynamically maintained by a self-activation loop reliant on ROCK kinase activity. In response to the resulting myosin II recruitment, myosin phosphatase is locally enriched and shuts off ROCK and myosin II signals. Coupling Drosophila genetics, live imaging, modeling, and optogenetics, we uncover an intrinsic biochemical oscillator at the core of myosin II regulatory network, shedding light on the spatio-temporal dynamics of force generation.
Optogenetic Control of Cell Migration.
Subcellular optogenetics allows specific proteins to be optically activated or inhibited at a restricted subcellular location in intact living cells. It provides unprecedented control of dynamic cell behaviors. Optically modulating the activity of signaling molecules on one side of a cell helps optically control cell polarization and directional cell migration. Combining subcellular optogenetics with live cell imaging of the induced molecular and cellular responses in real time helps decipher the spatially and temporally dynamic molecular mechanisms that control a stereotypical complex cell behavior, cell migration. Here we describe methods for optogenetic control of cell migration by targeting three classes of key signaling switches that mediate directional cellular chemotaxis-G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), heterotrimeric G proteins, and Rho family monomeric G proteins.
Local control of intracellular microtubule dynamics by EB1 photodissociation.
End-binding proteins (EBs) are adaptors that recruit functionally diverse microtubule plus-end-tracking proteins (+TIPs) to growing microtubule plus ends. To test with high spatial and temporal accuracy how, when and where +TIP complexes contribute to dynamic cell biology, we developed a photo-inactivated EB1 variant (π-EB1) by inserting a blue-light-sensitive protein–protein interaction module between the microtubule-binding and +TIP-binding domains of EB1. π-EB1 replaces endogenous EB1 function in the absence of blue light. By contrast, blue-light-mediated π-EB1 photodissociation results in rapid +TIP complex disassembly, and acutely and reversibly attenuates microtubule growth independent of microtubule end association of the microtubule polymerase CKAP5 (also known as ch-TOG and XMAP215). Local π-EB1 photodissociation allows subcellular control of microtubule dynamics at the second and micrometre scale, and elicits aversive turning of migrating cancer cells. Importantly, light-mediated domain splitting can serve as a template to optically control other intracellular protein activities.
Control of microtubule dynamics using an optogenetic microtubule plus end-F-actin cross-linker.
We developed a novel optogenetic tool, SxIP-improved light-inducible dimer (iLID), to facilitate the reversible recruitment of factors to microtubule (MT) plus ends in an end-binding protein-dependent manner using blue light. We show that SxIP-iLID can track MT plus ends and recruit tgRFP-SspB upon blue light activation. We used this system to investigate the effects of cross-linking MT plus ends and F-actin in Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells to gain insight into spectraplakin function and mechanism. We show that SxIP-iLID can be used to temporally recruit an F-actin binding domain to MT plus ends and cross-link the MT and F-actin networks. Cross-linking decreases MT growth velocities and generates a peripheral MT exclusion zone. SxIP-iLID facilitates the general recruitment of specific factors to MT plus ends with temporal control enabling researchers to systematically regulate MT plus end dynamics and probe MT plus end function in many biological processes.
Optogenetics reprogramming of planktonic cells for biofilm formation.
Single-cell behaviors play essential roles during early-stage biofilms formation. In this study, we evaluated whether biofilm formation could be guided by precisely manipulating single cells behaviors. Thus, we established an illumination method to precisely manipulate the type IV pili (TFP) mediated motility and microcolony formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by using a combination of a high-throughput bacterial tracking algorithm, optogenetic manipulation and adaptive microscopy. We termed this method as Adaptive Tracking Illumination (ATI). We reported that ATI enables the precise manipulation of TFP mediated motility and microcolony formation during biofilm formation by manipulating bis-(3′-5′)-cyclic dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP) levels in single cells. Moreover, we showed that the spatial organization of single cells in mature biofilms can be controlled using ATI. Thus, the established method (i.e., ATI) can markedly promote ongoing studies of biofilms.
Optogenetic activation of EphB2 receptor in dendrites induced actin polymerization by activating Arg kinase.
Erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular (Eph) receptors regulate a wide array of developmental processes by responding to cell-cell contacts. EphB2 is well-expressed in brain and known to be important for dendritic spine development, as well as for the maintenance of the synapses, although the mechanisms of these functions have not been fully understood. Here we studied EphB2's functions in hippocampal neurons with an optogenetic approach, which allows us to specify spatial regions of signal activation and monitor in real-time the consequences of signal activation. We designed and constructed OptoEphB2, a genetically encoded photoactivatable EphB2. Photoactivation of OptoEphB2 in fibroblast cells induced receptor phosphorylation and resulted in cell rounding - a well-known cellular response to EphB2 activation. In contrast, local activation of OptoEphb2 in dendrites of hippocampal neurons induces rapid actin polymerization, resulting dynamic dendritic filopodial growth. Inhibition of Rac1 and CDC42 did not abolish OptoEphB2-induced actin polymerization. Instead, we identified Abelson Tyrosine-Protein Kinase 2 (Abl2/Arg) as a necessary effector in OptoEphB2-induced filopodia growth in dendrites. These findings provided new mechanistic insight into EphB2's role in neural development and demonstrated the advantage of OptoEphB as a new tool for studying EphB signaling.
Propagating Wave of ERK Activation Orients Collective Cell Migration.
The biophysical framework of collective cell migration has been extensively investigated in recent years; however, it remains elusive how chemical inputs from neighboring cells are integrated to coordinate the collective movement. Here, we provide evidence that propagation waves of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase activation determine the direction of the collective cell migration. A wound-healing assay of Mardin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells revealed two distinct types of ERK activation wave, a "tidal wave" from the wound, and a self-organized "spontaneous wave" in regions distant from the wound. In both cases, MDCK cells collectively migrated against the direction of the ERK activation wave. The inhibition of ERK activation propagation suppressed collective cell migration. An ERK activation wave spatiotemporally controlled actomyosin contraction and cell density. Furthermore, an optogenetic ERK activation wave reproduced the collective cell migration. These data provide new mechanistic insight into how cells sense the direction of collective cell migration.
Optogenetic interrogation of integrin αVβ3 function in endothelial cells.
αVβ3 is reported to promote angiogenesis in some model systems but not in others. Here we used optogenetics to study effects of αVβ3 interaction with the intracellular adapter, kindlin-2, on endothelial cell functions potentially relevant to angiogenesis. Since interaction of kindlin-2 with αVβ3 requires the C-terminal three residues of the β3 cytoplasmic tail (Arg-Gly-Thr; RGT), optogenetic probes LOVpep and ePDZ1 were fused to β3ΔRGT-GFP and mCherry-kindlin2, respectively, and expressed in β3-null microvascular endothelial cells. Exposure of the cells to 450 nm (blue) light caused rapid and specific interaction of kindlin-2 with αVβ3 as assessed by immunofluorescence and TIRF microscopy, and it led to increased endothelial cell migration, podosome formation and angiogenic sprouting. Analyses of kindlin-2 mutants indicated that interaction of kindlin-2 with other kindlin-2 binding partners, including c-Src, actin, integrin-linked kinase and phosphoinositides, were also likely necessary for these endothelial cell responses. Thus, kindlin-2 promotes αVβ3-dependent angiogenic functions of endothelial cells through its simultaneous interactions with β3 and several other binding partners. Optogenetic approaches should find further use in clarifying spatiotemporal aspects of vascular cell biology.
Two independent but synchronized Gβγ subunit-controlled pathways are essential for trailing-edge retraction during macrophage migration.
Chemokine-induced directional cell migration is a universal cellular mechanism and plays crucial roles in numerous biological processes, including embryonic development, immune system function, and tissue remodeling and regeneration. During the migration of a stationary cell, the cell polarizes, forms lamellipodia at the leading edge (LE), and triggers the concurrent retraction of the trailing edge (TE). During cell migration governed by inhibitory G protein (Gi)-coupled receptors (GPCRs), G protein βγ (Gβγ) subunits control the LE signaling. Interestingly, TE retraction has been linked to the activation of the small GTPase Ras homolog family member A (RhoA) by the Gα12/13 pathway. However, it is not clear how the activation of Gi-coupled GPCRs at the LE orchestrates the TE retraction in RAW264.7 macrophages. Here, using an optogenetic approach involving an opsin to activate the Gi pathway in defined subcellular regions of RAW cells, we show that in addition to their LE activities, free Gβγ subunits also govern TE retraction by operating two independent, yet synchronized, pathways. The first pathway involves RhoA activation, which prevents dephosphorylation of the myosin light chain, allowing actomyosin contractility to proceed. The second pathway activates phospholipase Cβ and induces myosin light chain phosphorylation to enhance actomyosin contractility through increasing cytosolic calcium. We further show that both of these pathways are essential, and inhibition of either one is sufficient to abolish the Gi-coupled GPCR-governed TE retraction and subsequent migration of RAW cells.
Cells lay their own tracks: optogenetic Cdc42 activation stimulates fibronectin deposition supporting directed migration.
Rho GTPase family members are known regulators of directed migration and therefore play key roles in processes including development, immune response and cancer metastasis. However, their individual contributions to these processes are complex. Here, we regulate the activity of two family members, Rac and Cdc42, by optogenetically recruiting specific GEF DH/PH domains to defined regions on the cell membrane. We find that the localized activation of both GTPases produce lamellipodia in cells plated on a fibronectin substrate. Using a novel optotaxis assay, we show that biased activation can drive directional migration. Interestingly, in the absence of exogenous fibronectin, Rac activation is insufficient to produce stable lamellipodia or directional migration while Cdc42 activation is sufficient. We find that a remarkably small amount of fibronectin (<10 puncta per protrusion) is necessary to support stable GTPase-driven lamellipodia. Cdc42 bypasses the need for exogenous fibronectin by stimulating cellular fibronectin deposition under the newly formed lamellipodia.
A module for Rac temporal signal integration revealed with optogenetics.
Sensory systems use adaptation to measure changes in signaling inputs rather than absolute levels of signaling inputs. Adaptation enables eukaryotic cells to directionally migrate over a large dynamic range of chemoattractant. Because of complex feedback interactions and redundancy, it has been difficult to define the portion or portions of eukaryotic chemotactic signaling networks that generate adaptation and identify the regulators of this process. In this study, we use a combination of optogenetic intracellular inputs, CRISPR-based knockouts, and pharmacological perturbations to probe the basis of neutrophil adaptation. We find that persistent, optogenetically driven phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3) production results in only transient activation of Rac, a hallmark feature of adaptive circuits. We further identify the guanine nucleotide exchange factor P-Rex1 as the primary PIP3-stimulated Rac activator, whereas actin polymerization and the GTPase-activating protein ArhGAP15 are essential for proper Rac turnoff. This circuit is masked by feedback and redundancy when chemoattractant is used as the input, highlighting the value of probing signaling networks at intermediate nodes to deconvolve complex signaling cascades.