Showing 1 - 22 of 22 results
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.
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.
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.
Light-dependent cytoplasmic recruitment enhances the dynamic range of a nuclear import photoswitch.
Cellular signal transduction is often regulated at multiple steps in order to achieve more complex logic or precise control of a pathway. For instance, some signaling mechanisms couple allosteric activation with localization to achieve high signal to noise. Here, we create a system for light activated nuclear import that incorporates two levels of control. It consists of a nuclear import photoswitch, Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS), and a protein engineered to preferentially interact with LANS in the dark, Zdk2. First, Zdk2 is tethered to a location in the cytoplasm, which sequesters LANS in the dark. Second, LANS incorporates a nuclear localization signal (NLS) that is sterically blocked from binding to the nuclear import machinery in the dark. When activated with light, LANS both dissociates from its tethered location and exposes its NLS, which leads to nuclear accumulation. We demonstrate that this coupled system improves the dynamic range of LANS in mammalian cells, yeast, and C. elegans and provides tighter control of transcription factors that have been fused to LANS.
Coupling optogenetics and light-sheet microscopy, a method to study Wnt signaling during embryogenesis.
Optogenetics allows precise, fast and reversible intervention in biological processes. Light-sheet microscopy allows observation of the full course of Drosophila embryonic development from egg to larva. Bringing the two approaches together allows unparalleled precision into the temporal regulation of signaling pathways and cellular processes in vivo. To develop this method, we investigated the regulation of canonical Wnt signaling during anterior-posterior patterning of the Drosophila embryonic epidermis. Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from Arabidopsis Thaliana was fused to mCherry fluorescent protein and Drosophila β-catenin to form an easy to visualize optogenetic switch. Blue light illumination caused oligomerization of the fusion protein and inhibited downstream Wnt signaling in vitro and in vivo. Temporal inactivation of β-catenin confirmed that Wnt signaling is required not only for Drosophila pattern formation, but also for maintenance later in development. We anticipate that this method will be easily extendable to other developmental signaling pathways and many other experimental systems.
Modulation of cyclic nucleotide-mediated cellular signaling and gene expression using photoactivated adenylyl cyclase as an optogenetic tool.
Cyclic nucleotide signaling pathway plays a significant role in various biological processes such as cell growth, transcription, inflammation, in microbial pathogenesis, etc. Modulation of cyclic nucleotide levels by optogenetic tools has overcome certain limitations of studying transduction cascade by pharmacological agents and has allowed several ways to modulate biological processes in a spatiotemporal manner. Here, we have shown the optogenetic modulation of the cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox-2) gene expression and their downstream effector molecule (PGE2) in HEK-293T cells and the development process of Dictyostelium discoideum via modulating the cyclic nucleotide (cAMP) signaling pathway utilizing photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) as an optogenetic tool. Light-induced activation of PACs in HEK-293T cells increases the cAMP level that leads to activation of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) transcription factor and further upregulates downstream Cox-2 gene expression and their downstream effector molecule prostaglandin E2. In D. discoideum, the light-regulated increase in cAMP level affects the starvation-induced developmental process. These PACs could modulate the cAMP levels in a light-dependent manner and have a potential to control gene expression and their downstream effector molecules with varying magnitude. It would enable one to utilize PAC as a tool to decipher cyclic nucleotide mediated signaling pathway regulations and their mechanism.
Engineering a light-activated caspase-3 for precise ablation of neurons in vivo.
The circuitry of the brain is characterized by cell heterogeneity, sprawling cellular anatomy, and astonishingly complex patterns of connectivity. Determining how complex neural circuits control behavior is a major challenge that is often approached using surgical, chemical, or transgenic approaches to ablate neurons. However, all these approaches suffer from a lack of precise spatial and temporal control. This drawback would be overcome if cellular ablation could be controlled with light. Cells are naturally and cleanly ablated through apoptosis due to the terminal activation of caspases. Here, we describe the engineering of a light-activated human caspase-3 (Caspase-LOV) by exploiting its natural spring-loaded activation mechanism through rational insertion of the light-sensitive LOV2 domain that expands upon illumination. We apply the light-activated caspase (Caspase-LOV) to study neurodegeneration in larval and adult Drosophila Using the tissue-specific expression system (UAS)-GAL4, we express Caspase-LOV specifically in three neuronal cell types: retinal, sensory, and motor neurons. Illumination of whole flies or specific tissues containing Caspase-LOV-induced cell death and allowed us to follow the time course and sequence of neurodegenerative events. For example, we find that global synchronous activation of caspase-3 drives degeneration with a different time-course and extent in sensory versus motor neurons. We believe the Caspase-LOV tool we engineered will have many other uses for neurobiologists and others for specific temporal and spatial ablation of cells in complex organisms.
An Engineered Optogenetic Switch for Spatiotemporal Control of Gene Expression, Cell Differentiation, and Tissue Morphogenesis.
The precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression, cell differentiation, and tissue morphogenesis has widespread application in regenerative medicine and the study of tissue development. In this work, we applied optogenetics to control cell differentiation and new tissue formation. Specifically, we engineered an optogenetic "on" switch that provides permanent transgene expression following a transient dose of blue light illumination. To demonstrate its utility in controlling cell differentiation and reprogramming, we incorporated an engineered form of the master myogenic factor MyoD into this system in multipotent cells. Illumination of cells with blue light activated myogenic differentiation, including upregulation of myogenic markers and fusion into multinucleated myotubes. Cell differentiation was spatially patterned by illumination of cell cultures through a photomask. To demonstrate the application of the system to controlling in vivo tissue development, the light inducible switch was used to control the expression of VEGF and angiopoietin-1, which induced angiogenic sprouting in a mouse dorsal window chamber model. Live intravital microscopy showed illumination-dependent increases in blood-perfused microvasculature. This optogenetic switch is broadly useful for applications in which sustained and patterned gene expression is desired following transient induction, including tissue engineering, gene therapy, synthetic biology, and fundamental studies of morphogenesis.
Decoding temporal interpretation of the morphogen Bicoid in the early Drosophila embryo.
Morphogen gradients provide essential spatial information during development. Not only the local concentration but also duration of morphogen exposure is critical for correct cell fate decisions. Yet, how and when cells temporally integrate signals from a morphogen remains unclear. Here, we use optogenetic manipulation to switch off Bicoid-dependent transcription in the early Drosophila embryo with high temporal resolution, allowing time-specific and reversible manipulation of morphogen signalling. We find that Bicoid transcriptional activity is dispensable for embryonic viability in the first hour after fertilization, but persistently required throughout the rest of the blastoderm stage. Short interruptions of Bicoid activity alter the most anterior cell fate decisions, while prolonged inactivation expands patterning defects from anterior to posterior. Such anterior susceptibility correlates with high reliance of anterior gap gene expression on Bicoid. Therefore, cell fates exposed to higher Bicoid concentration require input for longer duration, demonstrating a previously unknown aspect of Bicoid decoding.
Green-Light-Induced Inactivation of Receptor Signaling Using Cobalamin-Binding Domains.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology provide spatiotemporally precise control over protein interactions and protein function in cells and animals. Optogenetic methods that are sensitive to green light and can be used to break protein complexes are not broadly available but would enable multichromatic experiments with previously inaccessible biological targets. Herein, we repurposed cobalamin (vitamin B12) binding domains of bacterial CarH transcription factors for green-light-induced receptor dissociation. In cultured cells, we observed oligomerization-induced cell signaling for the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 fused to cobalamin-binding domains in the dark that was rapidly eliminated upon illumination. In zebrafish embryos expressing fusion receptors, green light endowed control over aberrant fibroblast growth factor signaling during development. Green-light-induced domain dissociation and light-inactivated receptors will critically expand the optogenetic toolbox for control of biological processes.
The Spatiotemporal Limits of Developmental Erk Signaling.
Animal development is characterized by signaling events that occur at precise locations and times within the embryo, but determining when and where such precision is needed for proper embryogenesis has been a long-standing challenge. Here we address this question for extracellular signal regulated kinase (Erk) signaling, a key developmental patterning cue. We describe an optogenetic system for activating Erk with high spatiotemporal precision in vivo. Implementing this system in Drosophila, we find that embryogenesis is remarkably robust to ectopic Erk signaling, except from 1 to 4 hr post-fertilization, when perturbing the spatial extent of Erk pathway activation leads to dramatic disruptions of patterning and morphogenesis. Later in development, the effects of ectopic signaling are buffered, at least in part, by combinatorial mechanisms. Our approach can be used to systematically probe the differential contributions of the Ras/Erk pathway and concurrent signals, leading to a more quantitative understanding of developmental signaling.
Precision Optogenetic Tool for Selective Single- and Multiple-Cell Ablation in a Live Animal Model System.
Cell ablation is a strategy to study cell lineage and function during development. Optogenetic methods are an important cell-ablation approach, and we have previously developed a mini singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG) tool that works in the living Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we use directed evolution to generate miniSOG2, an improved tool for cell ablation via photogenerated reactive oxygen species. We apply miniSOG2 to a far more complex model animal system, Drosophila melanogaster, and demonstrate that it can be used to kill a single neuron in a Drosophila larva. In addition, miniSOG2 is able to photoablate a small group of cells in one of the larval wing imaginal discs, resulting in an adult with one incomplete and one normal wing. We expect miniSOG2 to be a useful optogenetic tool for precision cell ablation at a desired developmental time point in live animals, thus opening a new window into cell origin, fate and function, tissue regeneration, and developmental biology.
TAEL: a zebrafish-optimized optogenetic gene expression system with fine spatial and temporal control.
Here, we describe an optogenetic gene expression system optimized for use in zebrafish. This system overcomes the limitations of current inducible expression systems by enabling robust spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression in living organisms. Because existing optogenetic systems show toxicity in zebrafish, we re-engineered the blue-light-activated EL222 system for minimal toxicity while exhibiting a large range of induction, fine spatial precision and rapid kinetics. We validate several strategies to spatially restrict illumination and thus gene induction with our new TAEL (TA4-EL222) system. As a functional example, we show that TAEL is able to induce ectopic endodermal cells in the presumptive ectoderm via targeted sox32 induction. We also demonstrate that TAEL can be used to resolve multiple roles of Nodal signaling at different stages of embryonic development. Finally, we show how inducible gene editing can be achieved by combining the TAEL and CRISPR/Cas9 systems. This toolkit should be a broadly useful resource for the fish community.
Reversible optogenetic control of kinase activity during differentiation and embryonic development.
A limited number of signaling pathways are repeatedly used to regulate a wide variety of processes during development and differentiation. The lack of tools to manipulate signaling pathways dynamically in space and time has been a major technical challenge for biologists. Optogenetic techniques, which utilize light to control protein functions in a reversible fashion, hold promise for modulating intracellular signaling networks with high spatial and temporal resolution. Applications of optogenetics in multicellular organisms, however, have not been widely reported. Here, we create an optimized bicistronic optogenetic system using Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) protein and the N-terminal domain of cryptochrome-interacting basic-helix-loop-helix (CIBN). In a proof-of-principle study, we develop an optogenetic Raf kinase that allows reversible light-controlled activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling cascade. In PC12 cells, this system significantly improves light-induced cell differentiation compared with co-transfection. When applied to Xenopus embryos, this system enables blue light-dependent reversible Raf activation at any desired developmental stage in specific cell lineages. Our system offers a powerful optogenetic tool suitable for manipulation of signaling pathways with high spatial and temporal resolution in a wide range of experimental settings.
Optogenetic Control of Nodal Signaling Reveals a Temporal Pattern of Nodal Signaling Regulating Cell Fate Specification during Gastrulation.
During metazoan development, the temporal pattern of morphogen signaling is critical for organizing cell fates in space and time. Yet, tools for temporally controlling morphogen signaling within the embryo are still scarce. Here, we developed a photoactivatable Nodal receptor to determine how the temporal pattern of Nodal signaling affects cell fate specification during zebrafish gastrulation. By using this receptor to manipulate the duration of Nodal signaling in vivo by light, we show that extended Nodal signaling within the organizer promotes prechordal plate specification and suppresses endoderm differentiation. Endoderm differentiation is suppressed by extended Nodal signaling inducing expression of the transcriptional repressor goosecoid (gsc) in prechordal plate progenitors, which in turn restrains Nodal signaling from upregulating the endoderm differentiation gene sox17 within these cells. Thus, optogenetic manipulation of Nodal signaling identifies a critical role of Nodal signaling duration for organizer cell fate specification during gastrulation.
Highly efficient optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans using membrane-targeted miniSOG.
The genetically encoded photosensitizer miniSOG (mini Singlet Oxygen Generator) can be used to kill cells in C. elegans. miniSOG generates the reactive oxygen species (ROS) singlet oxygen after illumination with blue light. Illumination of neurons expressing miniSOG targeted to the outer mitochondrial membrane (mito-miniSOG) causes neuronal death. To enhance miniSOG's efficiency as an ablation tool in multiple cell types we tested alternative targeting signals. We find that membrane targeted miniSOG allows highly efficient cell killing. When combined with a point mutation that increases miniSOG's ROS generation, membrane targeted miniSOG can ablate neurons in less than one tenth the time of mito-miniSOG. We extend the miniSOG ablation technique to non-neuronal tissues, revealing an essential role for the epidermis in locomotion. These improvements expand the utility and throughput of optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans.
An Optogenetic Method to Modulate Cell Contractility during Tissue Morphogenesis.
Morphogenesis of multicellular organisms is driven by localized cell shape changes. How, and to what extent, changes in behavior in single cells or groups of cells influence neighboring cells and large-scale tissue remodeling remains an open question. Indeed, our understanding of multicellular dynamics is limited by the lack of methods allowing the modulation of cell behavior with high spatiotemporal precision. Here, we developed an optogenetic approach to achieve local modulation of cell contractility and used it to control morphogenetic movements during Drosophila embryogenesis. We show that local inhibition of apical constriction is sufficient to cause a global arrest of mesoderm invagination. By varying the spatial pattern of inhibition during invagination, we further demonstrate that coordinated contractile behavior responds to local tissue geometrical constraints. Together, these results show the efficacy of this optogenetic approach to dissect the interplay between cell-cell interaction, force transmission, and tissue geometry during complex morphogenetic processes.
Optogenetic mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can modify and damage DNA. Here we report an optogenetic mutagenesis approach that is free of toxic chemicals and easy to perform by taking advantage of a genetically encoded ROS generator. This method relies on the potency of ROS generation by His-mSOG, the mini singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, fused to a histone. Caenorhabditis elegans expressing His-mSOG in the germline behave and reproduce normally, without photoinduction. Following exposure to blue light, the His-mSOG animals produce progeny with a wide range of heritable phenotypes. We show that optogenetic mutagenesis by His-mSOG induces a broad spectrum of mutations including single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), chromosomal deletions, as well as integration of extrachromosomal transgenes, which complements those derived from traditional chemical or radiation mutagenesis. The optogenetic mutagenesis expands the toolbox for forward genetic screening and also provides direct evidence that nuclear ROS can induce heritable and specific genetic mutations.
Control of Protein Activity and Cell Fate Specification via Light-Mediated Nuclear Translocation.
Light-activatable proteins allow precise spatial and temporal control of biological processes in living cells and animals. Several approaches have been developed for controlling protein localization with light, including the conditional inhibition of a nuclear localization signal (NLS) with the Light Oxygen Voltage (AsLOV2) domain of phototropin 1 from Avena sativa. In the dark, the switch adopts a closed conformation that sterically blocks the NLS motif. Upon activation with blue light the C-terminus of the protein unfolds, freeing the NLS to direct the protein to the nucleus. A previous study showed that this approach can be used to control the localization and activity of proteins in mammalian tissue culture cells. Here, we extend this result by characterizing the binding properties of a LOV/NLS switch and demonstrating that it can be used to control gene transcription in yeast. Additionally, we show that the switch, referred to as LANS (light-activated nuclear shuttle), functions in the C. elegans embryo and allows for control of nuclear localization in individual cells. By inserting LANS into the C. elegans lin-1 locus using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination, we demonstrated control of cell fate via light-dependent manipulation of a native transcription factor. We conclude that LANS can be a valuable experimental method for spatial and temporal control of nuclear localization in vivo.
A cyanobacterial light activated adenylyl cyclase partially restores development of a Dictyostelium discoideum, adenylyl cyclase a null mutant.
A light-regulated adenylyl cyclase, mPAC, was previously identified from the cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes PCC7420. MPAC consists of a flavin-based blue light-sensing LOV domain and a catalytic domain. In this work, we expressed mPAC in an adenylate cyclase A null mutant (aca-) of the eukaryote Dictyostelium discoideum and tested to what extent light activation of mPAC could restore the cAMP-dependent developmental programme of this organism. Amoebas of Dictyostelium, a well-established model organism, generate and respond to cAMP pulses, which cause them to aggregate and construct fruiting bodies. mPAC was expressed under control of a constitutive actin-15 promoter in D. discoideum and displayed low basal adenylyl cyclase activity in darkness that was about five-fold stimulated by blue light. mPAC expression in aca- cells marginally restored aggregation and fruiting body formation in darkness. However, more and larger fruiting bodies were formed when mPAC expressing cells were incubated in light. Extending former applications of light-regulated AC, these results demonstrate that mPAC can be used to manipulate multicellular development in eukaryotes in a light dependent manner.
A red/far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch to control gene expression in mammalian cells.
Growth and differentiation of multicellular systems is orchestrated by spatially restricted gene expression programs in specialized subpopulations. The targeted manipulation of such processes by synthetic tools with high-spatiotemporal resolution could, therefore, enable a deepened understanding of developmental processes and open new opportunities in tissue engineering. Here, we describe the first red/far-red light-triggered gene switch for mammalian cells for achieving gene expression control in time and space. We show that the system can reversibly be toggled between stable on- and off-states using short light pulses at 660 or 740 nm. Red light-induced gene expression was shown to correlate with the applied photon number and was compatible with different mammalian cell lines, including human primary cells. The light-induced expression kinetics were quantitatively analyzed by a mathematical model. We apply the system for the spatially controlled engineering of angiogenesis in chicken embryos. The system's performance combined with cell- and tissue-compatible regulating red light will enable unprecedented spatiotemporally controlled molecular interventions in mammalian cells, tissues and organisms.
Photo-inducible cell ablation in Caenorhabditis elegans using the genetically encoded singlet oxygen generating protein miniSOG.
We describe a method for light-inducible and tissue-selective cell ablation using a genetically encoded photosensitizer, miniSOG (mini singlet oxygen generator). miniSOG is a newly engineered fluorescent protein of 106 amino acids that generates singlet oxygen in quantum yield upon blue-light illumination. We transgenically expressed mitochondrially targeted miniSOG (mito-miniSOG) in Caenorhabditis elegans neurons. Upon blue-light illumination, mito-miniSOG causes rapid and effective death of neurons in a cell-autonomous manner without detectable damages to surrounding tissues. Neuronal death induced by mito-miniSOG appears to be independent of the caspase CED-3, but the clearance of the damaged cells partially depends on the phagocytic receptor CED-1, a homolog of human CD91. We show that neurons can be killed at different developmental stages. We further use this method to investigate the role of the premotor interneurons in regulating the convulsive behavior caused by a gain-of-function mutation in the neuronal acetylcholine receptor acr-2. Our findings support an instructive role for the interneuron AVB in controlling motor neuron activity and reveal an inhibitory effect of the backward premotor interneurons on the forward interneurons. In summary, the simple inducible cell ablation method reported here allows temporal and spatial control and will prove to be a useful tool in studying the function of specific cells within complex cellular contexts.