Showing 1 - 25 of 61 results
Optogenetic control of Wnt signaling models cell-intrinsic embryogenic patterning using 2D human pluripotent stem cell culture.
In embryonic stem cell (ESC) models for early development, spatially and temporally varying patterns of signaling and cell types emerge spontaneously. However, mechanistic insight into this dynamic self-organization is limited by a lack of methods for spatiotemporal control of signaling, and the relevance of signal dynamics and cell-to-cell variability to pattern emergence remains unknown. Here, we combine optogenetic stimulation, imaging, and transcriptomic approaches to study self-organization of human ESCs (hESC) in two-dimensional (2D) culture. Morphogen dynamics were controlled via optogenetic activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling (optoWnt), which drove broad transcriptional changes and mesendoderm differentiation at high efficiency (>99% cells). When activated within cell subpopulations, optoWnt induced cell self-organization into distinct epithelial and mesenchymal domains, mediated by changes in cell migration, an epithelial to mesenchymal-like transition, and TGF-β signaling. Furthermore, we demonstrate that such optogenetic control of cell subpopulations can be used to uncover signaling feedback mechanisms between neighboring cell types. These findings reveal that cell-to-cell variability in Wnt signaling is sufficient to generate tissue-scale patterning and establish an hESC model system for investigating feedback mechanisms relevant to early human embryogenesis.
Rab8, Rab11, and Rab35 coordinate lumen and cilia formation during zebrafish left-right organizer development.
An essential process during Danio rerio's left-right organizer (Kupffer's Vesicle, KV) formation is the formation of a motile cilium by developing KV cells which extends into the KV lumen. Beating of motile cilia within the KV lumen directs fluid flow to establish the embryo's left-right axis. However, the timepoint at which KV cells start to form cilia and how cilia formation is coordinated with KV lumen formation have not been examined. We identified that nascent KV cells form cilia at their centrosomes at random intracellular positions that then move towards a forming apical membrane containing cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Using optogenetic clustering approaches, we found that Rab35 positive membranes recruit Rab11 to modulate CFTR delivery to the apical membrane, which is required for lumen opening, and subsequent cilia extension into the lumen. Once the intracellular cilia reach the CFTR positive apical membrane, Arl13b-positive cilia extend and elongate in a Rab8 dependent manner into the forming lumen once the lumen reaches an area of 300 μm2. These studies demonstrate the need to acutely coordinate Rab8, Rab11, and Rab35-mediated membrane trafficking events to ensure appropriate timing in lumen and cilia formation during KV development.
Optogenetic inhibition of Gα signalling alters and regulates circuit functionality and early circuit formation.
Optogenetic techniques provide genetically targeted, spatially and temporally precise approaches to correlate cellular activities and physiological outcomes. In the nervous system, G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) have essential neuromodulatory functions through binding extracellular ligands to induce intracellular signaling cascades. In this work, we develop and validate a new optogenetic tool that disrupt Gαq signaling through membrane recruitment of a minimal Regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) domain. This approach, Photo-induced Modulation of Gα protein – Inhibition of Gαq (PiGM-Iq), exhibited potent and selective inhibition of Gαq signaling. We alter the behavior of C. elegans and Drosophila with outcomes consistent with GPCR-Gαq disruption. PiGM-Iq also changes axon guidance in culture dorsal root ganglia neurons in response to serotonin. PiGM-Iq activation leads to developmental deficits in zebrafish embryos and larvae resulting in altered neuronal wiring and behavior. By altering the choice of minimal RGS domain, we also show that this approach is amenable to Gαi signaling.
Controlling protein stability with SULI, a highly sensitive tag for stabilization upon light induction.
Optogenetics tools for precise temporal and spatial control of protein abundance are valuable in studying diverse complex biological processes. In the present study, we engineer a monomeric tag of stabilization upon light induction (SULI) for yeast and zebrafish based on a single light-oxygen-voltage domain from Neurospora crassa. Proteins of interest fused with SULI are stable upon light illumination but are readily degraded after transfer to dark conditions. SULI shows a high dynamic range and a high tolerance to fusion at different positions of the target protein. Further studies reveal that SULI-mediated degradation occurs through a lysine ubiquitination-independent proteasome pathway. We demonstrate the usefulness of SULI in controlling the cell cycle in yeast and regulating protein stability in zebrafish, respectively. Overall, our data indicate that SULI is a simple and robust tool to quantitatively and spatiotemporally modulate protein levels for biotechnological or biomedical applications.
Dynamics of an incoherent feedforward loop drive ERK-dependent pattern formation in the early Drosophila embryo.
Positional information in developing tissues often takes the form of stripes of gene expression that mark the boundaries of a particular cell type or morphogenetic process. How stripes form is still in many cases poorly understood. Here we use optogenetics and live-cell biosensors to investigate one such pattern: the posterior stripe of brachyenteron (byn) expression in the early Drosophila embryo. This byn stripe depends on interpretation of an upstream signal – a gradient of ERK kinase activity – and the expression of two target genes tailless (tll) and huckebein (hkb) that exert antagonistic control over byn. We find that high or low doses of ERK signaling produce either transient or sustained byn expression, respectively. These ERK stimuli also regulate tll and hkb expression with distinct dynamics: tll transcription is rapidly induced under both low and high stimuli, whereas hkb transcription converts graded ERK inputs into an output switch with a variable time delay. Antagonistic regulatory paths acting on different timescales are hallmarks of an incoherent feedforward loop architecture, which is sufficient to explain transient or sustained byn dynamics and adds temporal complexity to the steady-state model of byn stripe formation. We further show that an all-or-none stimulus can be ‘blurred’ through intracellular diffusion to non-locally produce a stripe of byn gene expression. Overall, our study provides a blueprint for using optogenetic inputs to dissect developmental signal interpretation in space and time.
Optogenetic dissection of transcriptional repression in a multicellular organism.
Transcriptional control is fundamental to cellular function. However, despite knowing that transcription factors can act as repressors or activators, how these functions are implemented at the molecular level has remained elusive. Here we combine optogenetics, single-cell live-imaging, and mathematical modeling to study how a zinc-finger repressor, Knirps, induces switch-like transitions into long-lived quiescent states. Using optogenetics, we demonstrate that repression is rapidly reversible (~1 minute) and memoryless. Finally, we show that the repressor acts by decreasing the frequency of transcriptional bursts in a manner consistent with an equilibrium binding model. Our results provide a quantitative framework for dissecting the in vivo biochemistry of eukaryotic transcriptional regulation.
Patterned mechanical feedback establishes a global myosin gradient.
Morphogenesis, the coordinated execution of developmental programs that shape embryos, raises many fundamental questions at the interface between physics and biology. In particular, how the dynamics of active cytoskeletal processes are coordinated across the surface of entire embryos to generate global cell flows is poorly understood. Two distinct regulatory principles have been identified: genetic programs and dynamic response to mechanical stimuli. Despite progress, disentangling these two contributions remains challenging. Here, we combine in toto light sheet microscopy with genetic and optogenetic perturbations of tissue mechanics to examine theoretically predicted dynamic recruitment of non-muscle myosin II to cell junctions during Drosophila embryogenesis. We find dynamic recruitment has a long-range impact on global myosin configuration, and the rate of junction deformation sets the rate of myosin recruitment. Mathematical modeling and high frequency analysis reveal myosin fluctuations on junctions around a mean value set by mechanical feedback. Our model accounts for the early establishment of the global myosin pattern at 80% fidelity. Taken together our results indicate spatially modulated mechanical feedback as a key regulatory input in the establishment of long-range gradients of cytoskeletal configurations and global tissue flow patterns.
Spatiotemporal control of ERK pulse frequency coordinates fate decisions during mammary acinar morphogenesis.
The signaling events controlling proliferation, survival, and apoptosis during mammary epithelial acinar morphogenesis remain poorly characterized. By imaging single-cell ERK activity dynamics in MCF10A acini, we find that these fates depend on the average frequency of non-periodic ERK pulses. High pulse frequency is observed during initial acinus growth, correlating with rapid cell motility and proliferation. Subsequent decrease in motility correlates with lower ERK pulse frequency and quiescence. Later, during lumen formation, coordinated multicellular ERK waves emerge, correlating with high and low ERK pulse frequencies in outer surviving and inner dying cells, respectively. Optogenetic entrainment of ERK pulses causally connects high ERK pulse frequency with inner cell survival. Acini harboring the PIK3CA H1047R mutation display increased ERK pulse frequency and inner cell survival. Thus, fate decisions during acinar morphogenesis are coordinated by different spatiotemporal modalities of ERK pulse frequency.
Optogenetic inhibition of actomyosin reveals mechanical bistability of the mesoderm epithelium during Drosophila mesoderm invagination.
Apical constriction driven by actin and non-muscle myosin II (actomyosin) provides a well-conserved mechanism to mediate epithelial folding. It remains unclear how contractile forces near the apical surface of a cell sheet drive out-of-the-plane bending of the sheet and whether myosin contractility is required throughout folding. By optogenetic-mediated acute inhibition of actomyosin, we find that during Drosophila mesoderm invagination, actomyosin contractility is critical to prevent tissue relaxation during the early, 'priming' stage of folding but is dispensable for the actual folding step after the tissue passes through a stereotyped transitional configuration. This binary response suggests that Drosophila mesoderm is mechanically bistable during gastrulation. Computer modeling analysis demonstrates that the binary tissue response to actomyosin inhibition can be recapitulated in the simulated epithelium that undergoes buckling-like deformation jointly mediated by apical constriction in the mesoderm and in-plane compression generated by apicobasal shrinkage of the surrounding ectoderm. Interestingly, comparison between wild-type and snail mutants that fail to specify the mesoderm demonstrates that the lateral ectoderm undergoes apicobasal shrinkage during gastrulation independently of mesoderm invagination. We propose that Drosophila mesoderm invagination is achieved through an interplay between local apical constriction and mechanical bistability of the epithelium that facilitates epithelial buckling.
Spatio-temporal, optogenetic control of gene expression in organoids.
Organoids derived from stem cells become increasingly important to study human development and to model disease. However, methods are needed to control and study spatio-temporal patterns of gene expression in organoids. To this aim, we combined optogenetics and gene perturbation technologies to activate or knock-down RNA of target genes, at single-cell resolution and in programmable spatio-temporal patterns. To illustrate the usefulness of our approach, we locally activated Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling in an organoid model for human neurodevelopment. High-resolution spatial transcriptomic and single-cell analyses showed that this local induction was sufficient to generate stereotypically patterned organoids in three dimensions and revealed new insights into SHH’s contribution to gene regulation in neurodevelopment. With this study, we propose optogenetic perturbations in combination with spatial transcriptomics as a powerful technology to reprogram and study cell fates and tissue patterning in organoids.
Cell polarity determinant Dlg1 facilitates epithelial invagination by promoting tissue-scale mechanical coordination.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction serves as a fundamental mechanism to convert flat epithelial sheets into multilayered structures. It remains elusive whether additional mechanical inputs are required for folding mediated by apical constriction. Using Drosophila mesoderm invagination as a model, we identified an important role for the non-constricting, lateral mesodermal cells adjacent to the constriction domain (“flanking cells”) in facilitating epithelial folding. We found that depletion of the basolateral determinant, Dlg1, disrupts the transition between apical constriction and invagination without affecting the rate of apical constriction. Strikingly, the observed delay in invagination is associated with ineffective apical myosin contractions in the flanking cells that lead to overstretching of their apical domain. The defects in the flanking cells impede ventral-directed movement of the lateral ectoderm, suggesting reduced mechanical coupling between tissues. Specifically disrupting the flanking cells in wildtype embryos by laser ablation or optogenetic depletion of cortical actin is sufficient to delay the apical constriction-to-invagination transition. Our findings indicate that effective mesoderm invagination requires intact flanking cells and suggest a role for tissue-scale mechanical coupling during epithelial folding.
Optogenetic control of the Bicoid morphogen reveals fast and slow modes of gap gene regulation.
Developmental patterning networks are regulated by multiple inputs and feedback connections that rapidly reshape gene expression, limiting the information that can be gained solely from slow genetic perturbations. Here we show that fast optogenetic stimuli, real-time transcriptional reporters, and a simplified genetic background can be combined to reveal quantitative regulatory dynamics from a complex genetic network in vivo. We engineer light-controlled variants of the Bicoid transcription factor and study their effects on downstream gap genes in embryos. Our results recapitulate known relationships, including rapid Bicoid-dependent expression of giant and hunchback and delayed repression of Krüppel. In contrast, we find that the posterior pattern of knirps exhibits a quick but inverted response to Bicoid perturbation, suggesting a previously unreported role for Bicoid in suppressing knirps expression. Acute modulation of transcription factor concentration while simultaneously recording output gene activity represents a powerful approach for studying how gene circuit elements are coupled to cell identification and complex body pattern formation in vivo.
Wnt signaling rescues amyloid beta induced stem cell loss.
Previously, we established an optogenetic model to induce Amyloid-β intracellular oligomerization to model distinct disease etiologies (Lim et al. 2020). Here we examine the effect of Wnt signaling on Amyloid in this model. We observe that Wnt activation rescues the detrimental effects of Amyloid expression and oligomerization. We analyze the gene expression changes downstream of Wnt that contribute to this rescue and find changes in aging related genes, protein misfolding, metabolism and inflammation. We propose that Wnt expression reduces inflammation through repression of Toll activating factors and confirm that chronic Toll activation reduces lifespan. We propose that the protective effect observed for Lithium treatment functions at least in part through Wnt activation and inhibition of inflammation.
Desensitisation of Notch signalling through dynamic adaptation in the nucleus.
During embryonic development, signalling pathways orchestrate organogenesis by controlling tissue-specific gene expression programmes and differentiation. Although the molecular components of many common developmental signalling systems are known, our current understanding of how signalling inputs are translated into gene expression outputs in real-time is limited. Here we employ optogenetics to control the activation of Notch signalling during Drosophila embryogenesis with minute accuracy and follow target gene expression by quantitative live imaging. Light-induced nuclear translocation of the Notch Intracellular Domain (NICD) causes a rapid activation of target mRNA expression. However, target gene transcription gradually decays over time despite continuous photo-activation and nuclear NICD accumulation, indicating dynamic adaptation to the signalling input. Using mathematical modelling and molecular perturbations, we show that this adaptive transcriptional response fits to known motifs capable of generating near-perfect adaptation and can be best explained by state-dependent inactivation at the target cis-regulatory region. Taken together, our results reveal dynamic nuclear adaptation as a novel mechanism controlling Notch signalling output during tissue differentiation.
Extremely rapid and reversible optogenetic perturbation of nuclear proteins in living embryos.
Many developmental regulators have complex and context-specific roles in different tissues and stages, making the dissection of their function extremely challenging. As regulatory processes often occur within minutes, perturbation methods that match these dynamics are needed. Here, we present the improved light-inducible nuclear export system (iLEXY), an optogenetic loss-of-function approach that triggers translocation of proteins from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. By introducing a series of mutations, we substantially increased LEXY's efficiency and generated variants with different recovery times. iLEXY enables rapid (t1/2 < 30 s), efficient, and reversible nuclear protein depletion in embryos, and is generalizable to proteins of diverse sizes and functions. Applying iLEXY to the Drosophila master regulator Twist, we phenocopy loss-of-function mutants, precisely map the Twist-sensitive embryonic stages, and investigate the effects of timed Twist depletions. Our results demonstrate the power of iLEXY to dissect the function of pleiotropic factors during embryogenesis with unprecedented temporal precision.
A Non-Canonical Raf Function Is Required for Dorsal-Ventral Patterning During Drosophila Embryogenesis.
Proper embryonic development requires directional axes to pattern cells into embryonic structures. In Drosophila, spatially discrete expression of transcription factors determines the anterior to posterior organization of the early embryo, while the Toll and TGFβ signalling pathways determine the early dorsal to ventral pattern. Embryonic MAPK/ERK signaling contributes to both anterior to posterior patterning in the terminal regions and to dorsal to ventral patterning during oogenesis and embryonic stages. Here we describe a novel loss of function mutation in the Raf kinase gene, which leads to loss of ventral cell fates as seen through the loss of the ventral furrow, the absence of Dorsal/NFκB nuclear localization, the absence of mesoderm determinants Twist and Snail, and the expansion of TGFβ. Gene expression analysis showed cells adopting ectodermal fates much like loss of Toll signaling. Our results combine novel mutants, live imaging, optogenetics and transcriptomics to establish a novel role for Raf, that appears to be independent of the MAPK cascade, in embryonic patterning.
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of mesoderm specification to FGFR signalling in the Drosophila embryo.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Although Htl has been extensively studied, the dynamics of its action are poorly understood after the initial phases of mesoderm formation and spreading. To begin to address this challenge, we have developed an optogenetic version of the FGFR Heartless in Drosophila (Opto-htl). Opto-htl enables us to activate the FGFR pathway in selective spatial (~ 35 μm section from one of the lateral sides of the embryo) and temporal domains (ranging from 40 min to 14 h) during embryogenesis. Importantly, the effects can be tuned by the intensity of light-activation, making this approach significantly more flexible than other genetic approaches. We performed controlled perturbations to the FGFR pathway to define the contribution of Htl signalling to the formation of the developing embryonic heart and somatic muscles. We find a direct correlation between Htl signalling dosage and number of Tinman-positive heart cells specified. Opto-htl activation favours the specification of Tinman positive cardioblasts and eliminates Eve-positive DA1 muscles. This effect is seen to increase progressively with increasing light intensity. Therefore, fine tuning of phenotypic responses to varied Htl signalling dosage can be achieved more conveniently than with other genetic approaches. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful new tool for dissecting the role of FGFR signalling during development.
Temporal integration of inductive cues on the way to gastrulation.
Markers for the endoderm and mesoderm germ layers are commonly expressed together in the early embryo, potentially reflecting cells' ability to explore potential fates before fully committing. It remains unclear when commitment to a single-germ layer is reached and how it is impacted by external signals. Here, we address this important question in Drosophila, a convenient model system in which mesodermal and endodermal fates are associated with distinct cellular movements during gastrulation. Systematically applying endoderm-inducing extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signals to the ventral medial embryo-which normally only receives a mesoderm-inducing cue-reveals a critical time window during which mesodermal cell movements and gene expression are suppressed by proendoderm signaling. We identify the ERK target gene huckebein (hkb) as the main cause of the ventral furrow suppression and use computational modeling to show that Hkb repression of the mesoderm-associated gene snail is sufficient to account for a broad range of transcriptional and morphogenetic effects. Our approach, pairing precise signaling perturbations with observation of transcriptional dynamics and cell movements, provides a general framework for dissecting the complexities of combinatorial tissue patterning.
Optogenetic Control of the Canonical Wnt Signaling Pathway During Xenopus laevis Embryonic Development.
Optogenetics uses light-inducible protein-protein interactions to precisely control the timing, localization, and intensity of signaling activity. The precise spatial and temporal resolution of this emerging technology has proven extremely attractive to the study of embryonic development, a program faithfully replicated to form the same organism from a single cell. We have previously performed a comparative study for optogenetic activation of receptor tyrosine kinases, where we found that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation-based optogenetic systems outperform the membrane-anchored dimerization systems in activating the receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in live Xenopus embryos. Here, we determine if this engineering strategy can be generalized to other signaling pathways involving membrane-bound receptors. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation of the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-6 (LRP6), a membrane-bound coreceptor for the canonical Wnt pathway, triggers Wnt activity. Optogenetic activation of LRP6 leads to axis duplication in developing Xenopus embryos, indicating that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation of the membrane-bound receptor could be a generalizable strategy for the construction of optogenetic systems.
Physically asymmetric division of the C. elegans zygote ensures invariably successful embryogenesis.
Asymmetric divisions that yield daughter cells of different sizes are frequent during early embryogenesis, but the importance of such a physical difference for successful development remains poorly understood. Here, we investigated this question using the first division of Caenorhabditis elegans embryos, which yields a large AB cell and a small P1 cell. We equalized AB and P1 sizes using acute genetic inactivation or optogenetic manipulation of the spindle positioning protein LIN-5. We uncovered that only some embryos tolerated equalization, and that there was a size asymmetry threshold for viability. Cell lineage analysis of equalized embryos revealed an array of defects, including faster cell cycle progression in P1 descendants, as well as defects in cell positioning, division orientation, and cell fate. Moreover, equalized embryos were more susceptible to external compression. Overall, we conclude that unequal first cleavage is essential for invariably successful embryonic development of C. elegans.
High levels of Dorsal transcription factor downregulate, not promote, snail expression by regulating enhancer action.
In Drosophila embryos, genes expressed along the dorsal-ventral axis are responsive to concentration of the Dorsal (Dl) transcription factor, which varies in space; however, levels of this morphogen also build over time. Since expression of high-threshold Dl target genes such as snail (sna) is supported before Dl levels peak, it is unclear what role increasing levels have if any. Here we investigated action of two enhancers that control sna expression in embryos, demonstrating using genome editing that Dl binding sites within one enhancer located promoter proximally, sna.prox, can limit the ability of the other distally-located enhancer, sna.dis, to increase sna levels. In addition, MS2-MCP live imaging was used to study sna transcription rate in wildtype, dl heterozygote, and a background in which a photo-sensitive degron is fused to Dl (dl-BLID). The results demonstrate that, when Dl levels are high, Dl acts through sna.prox to limit the activity of sna.dis and thereby influence sna transcription rate. In contrast, when Dl levels are kept low using dl-BLID, sna.prox positively influences sna transcription rate. Collectively, our data support the view that Dl’s effect on gene expression changes over time, switching from promoting sna expression at low concentration to dampening sna expression at high concentration by regulating enhancer interactions. We propose this differential action of the Dl morphogen is likely supported by occupancy of this factor first to high and then low affinity binding sites over time as Dl levels rise to coordinate action of these two co-acting enhancers.
An Irf6-Esrp1/2 regulatory axis controls midface morphogenesis in vertebrates.
Irf6 and Esrp1 are important for palate development across vertebrates. In zebrafish, we found that irf6 regulates the expression of esrp1 We detailed overlapping Irf6 and Esrp1/2 expression in mouse orofacial epithelium. In zebrafish, irf6 and esrp1/2 share expression in periderm, frontonasal ectoderm and oral epithelium. Genetic disruption of irf6 and esrp1/2 in zebrafish resulted in cleft of the anterior neurocranium. The esrp1/2 mutant also developed cleft of the mouth opening. Lineage tracing of cranial neural crest cells revealed that the cleft resulted not from migration defect, but from impaired chondrogenesis. Analysis of aberrant cells within the cleft revealed expression of sox10, col1a1 and irf6, and these cells were adjacent to krt4 + and krt5 + cells. Breeding of mouse Irf6; Esrp1; Esrp2 compound mutants suggested genetic interaction, as the triple homozygote and the Irf6; Esrp1 double homozygote were not observed. Further, Irf6 heterozygosity reduced Esrp1/2 cleft severity. These studies highlight the complementary analysis of Irf6 and Esrp1/2 in mouse and zebrafish, and identify a unique aberrant cell population in zebrafish expressing sox10, col1a1 and irf6 Future work characterizing this cell population will yield additional insight into cleft pathogenesis.
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of embryonic heart specification to FGFR signaling in Drosophila.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Htl is involved in shaping the mesoderm at both early and later stages during embryogenesis. How Htl expression levels and timing of signaling affect mesoderm morphogenesis after spreading remains elusive. We have developed an optogenetic tool (Opto-htl) to control the activation of Htl signaling with precise spatiotemporal resolution in vivo. We find that the embryo is most sensitive to Htl over-activation within a developmental window of ~4 hours ranging from late stage 10 until early stage 13, which corresponds to early stages of heart morphogenesis. Opto-htl restores heart cells in htl mutants upon light activation, independent of its role in early mesoderm shaping events. We also successfully generated spatially distinct regions of Htl activity in the mesoderm using light-sheet microscopy. The developing tissue was unable to correct for the ensuing asymmetries in cell fate. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful tool for studying spatiotemporal regulation of Htl signaling during embryogenesis.
Rho1 activation recapitulates early gastrulation events in the ventral, but not dorsal, epithelium of Drosophila embryos.
Ventral furrow formation, the first step in Drosophila gastrulation, is a well-studied example of tissue morphogenesis. Rho1 is highly active in a subset of ventral cells and is required for this morphogenetic event. However, it is unclear whether spatially patterned Rho1 activity alone is sufficient to recapitulate all aspects of this morphogenetic event, including anisotropic apical constriction and coordinated cell movements. Here, using an optogenetic probe that rapidly and robustly activates Rho1 in Drosophila tissues, we show that Rho1 activity induces ectopic deformations in the dorsal and ventral epithelia of Drosophila embryos. These perturbations reveal substantial differences in how ventral and dorsal cells, both within and outside the zone of Rho1 activation, respond to spatially and temporally identical patterns of Rho1 activation. Our results demonstrate that an asymmetric zone of Rho1 activity is not sufficient to recapitulate ventral furrow formation and reveal that additional, ventral-specific factors contribute to the cell- and tissue-level behaviors that emerge during ventral furrow formation.
Optogenetic investigation of BMP target gene expression diversity.
Signaling molecules activate distinct patterns of gene expression to coordinate embryogenesis, but how spatiotemporal expression diversity is generated is an open question. In zebrafish, a BMP signaling gradient patterns the dorsal-ventral axis. We systematically identified target genes responding to BMP and found that they have diverse spatiotemporal expression patterns. Transcriptional responses to optogenetically delivered high- and low-amplitude BMP signaling pulses indicate that spatiotemporal expression is not fully defined by different BMP signaling activation thresholds. Additionally, we observed negligible correlations between spatiotemporal expression and transcription kinetics for the majority of analyzed genes in response to BMP signaling pulses. In contrast, spatial differences between BMP target genes largely collapsed when FGF and Nodal signaling were inhibited. Our results suggest that, similar to other patterning systems, combinatorial signaling is likely to be a major driver of spatial diversity in BMP-dependent gene expression in zebrafish.