Curated Optogenetic Publication Database

Search precisely and efficiently by using the advantage of the hand-assigned publication tags that allow you to search for papers involving a specific trait, e.g. a particular optogenetic switch or a host organism.

Showing 1 - 25 of 40 results

Requirements for mammalian promoters to decode transcription factor dynamics.

blue AsLOV2 HEK293 HeLa Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
Nucleic Acids Res, 18 Apr 2023 DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkad273 Link to full text
Abstract: In response to different stimuli many transcription factors (TFs) display different activation dynamics that trigger the expression of specific sets of target genes, suggesting that promoters have a way to decode dynamics. Here, we use optogenetics to directly manipulate the nuclear localization of a synthetic TF in mammalian cells without affecting other processes. We generate pulsatile or sustained TF dynamics and employ live cell microscopy and mathematical modelling to analyse the behaviour of a library of reporter constructs. We find decoding of TF dynamics occurs only when the coupling between TF binding and transcription pre-initiation complex formation is inefficient and that the ability of a promoter to decode TF dynamics gets amplified by inefficient translation initiation. Using the knowledge acquired, we build a synthetic circuit that allows obtaining two gene expression programs depending solely on TF dynamics. Finally, we show that some of the promoter features identified in our study can be used to distinguish natural promoters that have previously been experimentally characterized as responsive to either sustained or pulsatile p53 and NF-κB signals. These results help elucidate how gene expression is regulated in mammalian cells and open up the possibility to build complex synthetic circuits steered by TF dynamics.

PhiReX 2.0: A Programmable and Red Light-Regulated CRISPR-dCas9 System for the Activation of Endogenous Genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

red PhyB/PIF3 S. cerevisiae Endogenous gene expression
ACS Synth Biol, 4 Apr 2023 DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.2c00517 Link to full text
Abstract: Metabolic engineering approaches do not exclusively require fine-tuning of heterologous genes but oftentimes also modulation or even induction of host gene expression, e.g., in order to rewire metabolic fluxes. Here, we introduce the programmable red light switch PhiReX 2.0, which can rewire metabolic fluxes by targeting endogenous promoter sequences through single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) and activate gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae upon red light stimulation. The split transcription factor is built from the plant-derived optical dimer PhyB and PIF3, which is fused to a DNA-binding domain based on the catalytically dead Cas9 protein (dCas9) and a transactivation domain. This design combines at least two major advantages: first, the sgRNAs, guiding dCas9 to the promoter of interest, can be exchanged in an efficient and straightforward Golden Gate-based cloning approach, which allows for rational or randomized combination of up to four sgRNAs in a single expression array. Second, target gene expression can be rapidly upregulated by short red light pulses in a light dose-dependent manner and returned to the native expression level by applying far-red light without interfering with the cell culture. Using the native yeast gene CYC1 as an example, we demonstrated that PhiReX 2.0 can upregulate CYC1 gene expression by up to 6-fold in a light intensity-dependent and reversible manner using a single sgRNA.

Light-activated macromolecular phase separation modulates transcription by reconfiguring chromatin interactions.

blue CRY2clust HeLa Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
Sci Adv, 31 Mar 2023 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adg1123 Link to full text
Abstract: Biomolecular condensates participate in the regulation of gene transcription, yet the relationship between nuclear condensation and transcriptional activation remains elusive. Here, we devised a biotinylated CRISPR-dCas9-based optogenetic method, light-activated macromolecular phase separation (LAMPS), to enable inducible formation, affinity purification, and multiomic dissection of nuclear condensates at the targeted genomic loci. LAMPS-induced condensation at enhancers and promoters activates endogenous gene transcription by chromatin reconfiguration, causing increased chromatin accessibility and de novo formation of long-range chromosomal loops. Proteomic profiling of light-induced condensates by dCas9-mediated affinity purification uncovers multivalent interaction-dependent remodeling of macromolecular composition, resulting in the selective enrichment of transcriptional coactivators and chromatin structure proteins. Our findings support a model whereby the formation of nuclear condensates at native genomic loci reconfigures chromatin architecture and multiprotein assemblies to modulate gene transcription. Hence, LAMPS facilitates mechanistic interrogation of the relationship between nuclear condensation, genome structure, and gene transcription in living cells.

An Optogenetic-Controlled Cell Reprogramming System for Driving Cell Fate and Light-Responsive Chimeric Mice.

blue CRY2/CIB1 isolated MEFs Transgene expression Cell differentiation Endogenous gene expression
Adv Sci (Weinh), 11 Dec 2022 DOI: 10.1002/advs.202202858 Link to full text
Abstract: Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) hold great promise for cell-based therapies, disease modeling, and drug discovery. Classic somatic cell reprogramming to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) is often achieved based on overexpression of transcription factors (TFs). However, this process is limited by side effect of overexpressed TFs and unpredicted targeting of TFs. Pinpoint control over endogenous TFs expression can provide the ability to reprogram cell fate and tissue function. Here, a light-inducible cell reprogramming (LIRE) system is developed based on a photoreceptor protein cryptochrome system and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/nuclease-deficient CRISPR-associated protein 9 for induced PSCs reprogramming. This system enables remote, non-invasive optogenetical regulation of endogenous Sox2 and Oct4 loci to reprogram mouse embryonic fibroblasts into iPSCs (iPSCLIRE ) under light-emitting diode-based illumination. iPSCLIRE cells can be efficiently differentiated into different cells by upregulating a corresponding TF. iPSCLIRE cells are used for blastocyst injection and optogenetic chimeric mice are successfully generated, which enables non-invasive control of user-defined endogenous genes in vivo, providing a valuable tool for facile and traceless controlled gene expression studies and genetic screens in mice. This LIRE system offers a remote, traceless, and non-invasive approach for cellular reprogramming and modeling of complex human diseases in basic biological research and regenerative medicine applications.

Optogenetic control of RelA reveals effect of transcription factor dynamics on downstream gene expression.

blue AsLOV2 LOVTRAP HEK293T MCF10A NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression
bioRxiv, 5 Aug 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2022.08.03.502739 Link to full text
Abstract: Many transcription factors (TFs) translocate to the nucleus with varied dynamic patterns in response to different inputs. A notable example of such behavior is RelA, a subunit of NF-κB, which translocates to the nucleus with either pulsed or sustained dynamics, depending on the stimulus. Our understanding of how these dynamics are interpreted by downstream genes has remained incomplete, partly because ubiquitously used environmental inputs activate other transcriptional regulators in addition to RelA. Here, we use an optogenetic tool, CLASP (controllable light-activated shuttling and plasma membrane sequestration), to control RelA spatiotemporal dynamics in mouse fibroblasts and quantify their effect on downstream genes using RNA-seq. Using RelA-CLASP, we show for the first time that nuclear translocation of RelA, without post-translational modifications or activation of other transcriptional regulators, is sufficient to activate downstream genes. Furthermore, we find that TNFα, a common endogenous input, regulates many genes independently of RelA, and that this gene regulation is different from that induced by RelA-CLASP. Genes responsive to RelA-CLASP show a wide range of dynamics in response to a constant RelA input. We use a simple promoter model to recapitulate these diverse dynamic responses, as well as data collected in response to a pulsed RelA-CLASP input, and extract features of many RelA-responsive promoters. We also pinpoint many genes for which more complex models, involving feedback or multi-step promoters, may be needed to explain their response to constant and pulsed TF inputs. This study introduces a new robust tool for studying mammalian transcriptional regulation and demonstrates the power of optogenetic tools in dissecting the quantitative features of important cellular pathways.

Light-switchable diphtherin transgene system combined with losartan for triple negtative breast cancer therapy based on nano drug delivery system.

blue VVD 4T1 mouse in vivo Endogenous gene expression
Int J Pharm, 22 Feb 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2022.121613 Link to full text
Abstract: Breast cancer is a common malignancy in women. The abnormally dense collagen network in breast cancer forms a therapeutic barrier that hinders the penetration and anti-tumor effect of drugs. To overcome this hurdle, we adopted a therapeutic strategy to treat breast cancer which combined a light-switchable transgene system and losartan. The light-switchable transgene system could regulate expression of the diphtheria toxin A fragment (DTA) gene with a high on/off ratio under blue light and had great potential for spatiotemporally controllable gene expression. We developed a nanoparticle drug delivery system to achieve tumor microenvironment-responsive and targeted delivery of DTA-encoded plasmids (pDTA) to tumor sites via dual targeting to cluster of differentiation-44 and αvβ3 receptors. In vivo studies indicated that the combination of pDTA and losartan reduce the concentration of collagen type I from 5.9 to 1.9 µg/g and decreased the level of active transforming growth factor-β by 75.0% in tumor tissues. Moreover, deeper tumor penetration was achieved, tumor growth was inhibited, and the survival rate was increased. Our combination strategy provides a novel and practical method for clinical treatment of breast cancer.

MYC amplifies gene expression through global changes in transcription factor dynamics.

blue AsLOV2 HBEC3-KT MCF7 NIH/3T3 U-2 OS Endogenous gene expression
Cell Rep, 25 Jan 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.110292 Link to full text
Abstract: The MYC oncogene has been studied for decades, yet there is still intense debate over how this transcription factor controls gene expression. Here, we seek to answer these questions with an in vivo readout of discrete events of gene expression in single cells. We engineered an optogenetic variant of MYC (Pi-MYC) and combined this tool with single-molecule RNA and protein imaging techniques to investigate the role of MYC in modulating transcriptional bursting and transcription factor binding dynamics in human cells. We find that the immediate consequence of MYC overexpression is an increase in the duration rather than in the frequency of bursts, a functional role that is different from the majority of human transcription factors. We further propose that the mechanism by which MYC exerts global effects on the active period of genes is by altering the binding dynamics of transcription factors involved in RNA polymerase II complex assembly and productive elongation.

Optogenetic control of RNA function and metabolism using engineered light-switchable RNA-binding proteins.

blue CRY2/CIB1 PAL VVD HEK293T HeLa Transgene expression Epigenetic modification Endogenous gene expression
Nat Biotechnol, 3 Jan 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41587-021-01112-1 Link to full text
Abstract: RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play an essential role in regulating the function of RNAs in a cellular context, but our ability to control RBP activity in time and space is limited. Here, we describe the engineering of LicV, a photoswitchable RBP that binds to a specific RNA sequence in response to blue light irradiation. When fused to various RNA effectors, LicV allows for optogenetic control of RNA localization, splicing, translation and stability in cell culture. Furthermore, LicV-assisted CRISPR-Cas systems allow for efficient and tunable photoswitchable regulation of transcription and genomic locus labeling. These data demonstrate that the photoswitchable RBP LicV can serve as a programmable scaffold for the spatiotemporal control of synthetic RNA effectors.

Rapid and robust optogenetic control of gene expression in Drosophila.

blue Magnets D. melanogaster in vivo Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
Dev Cell, 29 Nov 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.11.016 Link to full text
Abstract: Deciphering gene function requires the ability to control gene expression in space and time. Binary systems such as the Gal4/UAS provide a powerful means to modulate gene expression and to induce loss or gain of function. This is best exemplified in Drosophila, where the Gal4/UAS system has been critical to discover conserved mechanisms in development, physiology, neurobiology, and metabolism, to cite a few. Here we describe a transgenic light-inducible Gal4/UAS system (ShineGal4/UAS) based on Magnet photoswitches. We show that it allows efficient, rapid, and robust activation of UAS-driven transgenes in different tissues and at various developmental stages in Drosophila. Furthermore, we illustrate how ShineGal4 enables the generation of gain and loss-of-function phenotypes at animal, organ, and cellular levels. Thanks to the large repertoire of UAS-driven transgenes, ShineGal4 enriches the Drosophila genetic toolkit by allowing in vivo control of gene expression with high temporal and spatial resolutions.

Capicua is a fast-acting transcriptional brake.

cyan pdDronpa1 D. melanogaster in vivo Endogenous gene expression
Curr Biol, 15 Jun 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.061 Link to full text
Abstract: Even though transcriptional repressors are studied with ever-increasing molecular resolution, the temporal aspects of gene repression remain poorly understood. Here, we address the dynamics of transcriptional repression by Capicua (Cic), which is essential for normal development and is commonly mutated in human cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.1,2 We report the speed limit for Cic-dependent gene repression based on live imaging and optogenetic perturbations in the early Drosophila embryo, where Cic was originally discovered.3 Our measurements of Cic concentration and intranuclear mobility, along with real-time monitoring of the activity of Cic target genes, reveal remarkably fast transcriptional repression within minutes of removing an optogenetic de-repressive signal. In parallel, quantitative analyses of transcriptional bursting of Cic target genes support a repression mechanism providing a fast-acting brake on burst generation. This work sets quantitative constraints on potential mechanisms for gene regulation by Cic.

Changes in tongue-palatal contact during swallowing in patients with skeletal mandibular prognathism after orthognathic surgery.

near-infrared red BphP1/Q-PAS1 DrBphP HEK293T HeLa Neuro-2a Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
PLoS ONE, 19 May 2021 DOI: 10.21203/ Link to full text
Abstract: This study aimed to evaluate improvement of tongue-palatal contact patterns during swallowing after orthognathic surgery in mandibular prognathism patients. Thirty patients with mandibular prognathism treated by orthognathic surgery (average age of 27 years, 3 months) and 10 controls (average age 29 years, 6 months) participated in this study. Tongue-palatal contact patterns of patients before and three months after surgery were evaluated by electropalatography (EPG) as well as controls. Whole total of tongue-palatal contact at 0.3, 0.2, and 0.1 sec before complete tongue-palatal contact during swallowing were evaluated. The duration of swallowing phases was also examined. Complete contact of tongue-tip in the alveolar part of individual artificial EPG plate were shown at 0.3, 0.2, and 0.1 sec before complete tongue-palatal contact in the controls, although incomplete contact in the alveolar part were shown at 0.3 sec in mandibular prognathism patients. Whole total of tongue-palatal contact at 0.3 and 0.2 sec before complete tongue-palatal contact was significantly lower in the patients before surgery than in the controls (p<0.05). However, these values increased after surgery. The duration of oral and pharyngeal phase was significantly longer in the patients before surgery than in the controls and the patients after surgery (p<0.01). This study demonstrated that the tongue-palatal contact pattern improved and the duration of oral and pharyngeal phase was shortened in mandibular prognathism patients during swallowing after orthognathic surgery. It is suggested that changes in maxillofacial morphology by orthognathic surgery can induce normal tongue movement during swallowing. (The data underlying this study have been uploaded to figshare and are accessible using the following DOI:

Optogenetic Control of Myocardin‐Related Transcription Factor A Subcellular Localization and Transcriptional Activity Steers Membrane Blebbing and Invasive Cancer Cell Motility.

blue AsLOV2 HEK293 HeLa NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression
Adv Biol, 8 Feb 2021 DOI: 10.1002/adbi.202000208 Link to full text
Abstract: The myocardin‐related transcription factor A (MRTF‐A) controls the transcriptional activity of the serum response factor (SRF) in a tightly controlled actin‐dependent manner. In turn, MRTF‐A is crucial for many actin‐dependent processes including adhesion, migration, and contractility and has emerged as novel targets for anti‐tumor strategies. MRTF‐A rapidly shuttles between cytoplasmic and nuclear compartment via dynamic actin interactions within its N‐terminal RPEL domain. Here, optogenetics is used to spatiotemporally control MRTF‐A nuclear localization by blue light using the light‐oxygen‐voltage‐sensing domain 2‐domain based system LEXY (light‐inducible nuclear export system). It is found that light‐regulated nuclear export of MRTF‐A occurs within 10–20 min. Importantly, MRTF‐A‐LEXY shuttling is independent of perturbations of actin dynamics. Furthermore, light‐regulation of MRTF‐A‐LEXY is reversible and repeatable for several cycles of illumination and its subcellular localization correlates with SRF transcriptional activity. As a consequence, optogenetic control of MRTF‐A subcellular localization determines subsequent cytoskeletal dynamics such as non‐apoptotic plasma membrane blebbing as well as invasive tumor‐cell migration through 3D collagen matrix. This data demonstrate robust optogenetic regulation of MRTF as a powerful tool to control SRF‐dependent transcription as well as cell motile behavior.

Design and Characterization of Rapid Optogenetic Circuits for Dynamic Control in Yeast Metabolic Engineering.

blue EL222 S. cerevisiae Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
ACS Synth Biol, 24 Nov 2020 DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.0c00305 Link to full text
Abstract: The use of optogenetics in metabolic engineering for light-controlled microbial chemical production raises the prospect of utilizing control and optimization techniques routinely deployed in traditional chemical manufacturing. However, such mechanisms require well-characterized, customizable tools that respond fast enough to be used as real-time inputs during fermentations. Here, we present OptoINVRT7, a new rapid optogenetic inverter circuit to control gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The circuit induces gene expression in only 0.6 h after switching cells from light to darkness, which is at least 6 times faster than previous OptoINVRT optogenetic circuits used for chemical production. In addition, we introduce an engineered inducible GAL1 promoter (PGAL1-S), which is stronger than any constitutive or inducible promoter commonly used in yeast. Combining OptoINVRT7 with PGAL1-S achieves strong and light-tunable levels of gene expression with as much as 132.9 ± 22.6-fold induction in darkness. The high performance of this new optogenetic circuit in controlling metabolic enzymes boosts production of lactic acid and isobutanol by more than 50% and 15%, respectively. The strength and controllability of OptoINVRT7 and PGAL1-S open the door to applying process control tools to engineered metabolisms to improve robustness and yields in microbial fermentations for chemical production.

Optogenetic investigation of BMP target gene expression diversity.

blue VfAU1-LOV zebrafish in vivo Endogenous gene expression Developmental processes
Elife, 11 Nov 2020 DOI: 10.7554/elife.58641 Link to full text
Abstract: 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.

Nucleated transcriptional condensates amplify gene expression.

blue CRY2olig NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression Organelle manipulation
Nat Cell Biol, 14 Sep 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41556-020-00578-6 Link to full text
Abstract: Membraneless organelles or condensates form through liquid-liquid phase separation1-4, which is thought to underlie gene transcription through condensation of the large-scale nucleolus5-7 or in smaller assemblies known as transcriptional condensates8-11. Transcriptional condensates have been hypothesized to phase separate at particular genomic loci and locally promote the biomolecular interactions underlying gene expression. However, there have been few quantitative biophysical tests of this model in living cells, and phase separation has not yet been directly linked with dynamic transcriptional outputs12,13. Here, we apply an optogenetic approach to show that FET-family transcriptional regulators exhibit a strong tendency to phase separate within living cells, a process that can drive localized RNA transcription. We find that TAF15 has a unique charge distribution among the FET family members that enhances its interactions with the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Nascent C-terminal domain clusters at primed genomic loci lower the energetic barrier for nucleation of TAF15 condensates, which in turn further recruit RNA polymerase II to drive transcriptional output. These results suggest that positive feedback between interacting transcriptional components drives localized phase separation to amplify gene expression.

Optogenetic control of the lac operon for bacterial chemical and protein production.

blue YtvA E. coli Transgene expression Endogenous gene expression
Nat Chem Biol, 7 Sep 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41589-020-0639-1 Link to full text
Abstract: Control of the lac operon with isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) has been used to regulate gene expression in Escherichia coli for countless applications, including metabolic engineering and recombinant protein production. However, optogenetics offers unique capabilities, such as easy tunability, reversibility, dynamic induction strength and spatial control, that are difficult to obtain with chemical inducers. We have developed a series of circuits for optogenetic regulation of the lac operon, which we call OptoLAC, to control gene expression from various IPTG-inducible promoters using only blue light. Applying them to metabolic engineering improves mevalonate and isobutanol production by 24% and 27% respectively, compared to IPTG induction, in light-controlled fermentations scalable to at least two-litre bioreactors. Furthermore, OptoLAC circuits enable control of recombinant protein production, reaching yields comparable to IPTG induction but with easier tunability of expression. OptoLAC circuits are potentially useful to confer light control over other cell functions originally designed to be IPTG-inducible.

Light-powered Escherichia coli cell division for chemical production.

blue red BphS EL222 E. coli Cell cycle control Endogenous gene expression Immediate control of second messengers Multichromatic
Nat Commun, 8 May 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-16154-3 Link to full text
Abstract: Cell division can perturb the metabolic performance of industrial microbes. The C period of cell division starts from the initiation to the termination of DNA replication, whereas the D period is the bacterial division process. Here, we first shorten the C and D periods of E. coli by controlling the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdAB and division proteins FtsZA through blue light and near-infrared light activation, respectively. It increases the specific surface area to 3.7 μm-1 and acetoin titer to 67.2 g·L-1. Next, we prolong the C and D periods of E. coli by regulating the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdA and division protein inhibitor SulA through blue light activation-repression and near-infrared (NIR) light activation, respectively. It improves the cell volume to 52.6 μm3 and poly(lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) titer to 14.31 g·L-1. Thus, the optogenetic-based cell division regulation strategy can improve the efficiency of microbial cell factories.

Blue Light-Directed Cell Migration, Aggregation, and Patterning.

blue EL222 E. coli Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape Endogenous gene expression
J Mol Biol, 2 Apr 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2020.03.029 Link to full text
Abstract: Bacterial motility is related to many cellular activities, such as cell migration, aggregation, and biofilm formations. The ability to control motility and direct the bacteria to certain location could be used to guide the bacteria in applications such as seeking for and killing pathogen, forming various population-level patterns, and delivering of drugs and vaccines. Currently, bacteria motility is mainly controlled by chemotaxis (prescribed chemical stimuli), which needs physical contact with the chemical inducer. This lacks the flexibility for pattern formation as it has limited spatial control. To overcome the limitations, we developed blue light-regulated synthetic genetic circuit to control bacterial directional motility, by taking the advantage that light stimulus can be delivered to cells in different patterns with precise spatial control. The circuit developed enables programmed Escherichia coli cells to increase directional motility and move away from the blue light, i.e., that negative phototaxis is utilized. This further allows the control of the cells to form aggregation with different patterns. Further, we showed that the circuit can be used to separate two different strains. The demonstrated ability of blue light-controllable gene circuits to regulate a CheZ expression could give researchers more means to control bacterial motility and pattern formation.

Rapid Dynamics of Signal-Dependent Transcriptional Repression by Capicua.

blue iLID D. melanogaster in vivo Endogenous gene expression Developmental processes
Dev Cell, 26 Feb 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2020.02.004 Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetic perturbations, live imaging, and time-resolved ChIP-seq assays in Drosophila embryos were used to dissect the ERK-dependent control of the HMG-box repressor Capicua (Cic), which plays critical roles in development and is deregulated in human spinocerebellar ataxia and cancers. We established that Cic target genes are activated before significant downregulation of nuclear localization of Cic and demonstrated that their activation is preceded by fast dissociation of Cic from the regulatory DNA. We discovered that both Cic-DNA binding and repression are rapidly reinstated in the absence of ERK activation, revealing that inductive signaling must be sufficiently sustained to ensure robust transcriptional response. Our work provides a quantitative framework for the mechanistic analysis of dynamics and control of transcriptional repression in development.

Engineering light-controllable CAR T cells for cancer immunotherapy.

blue AsLOV2 CRY2/CIB1 HEK293T human T cells Jurkat mouse in vivo Endogenous gene expression
Sci Adv, 19 Feb 2020 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay9209 Link to full text
Abstract: T cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) can recognize and engage with target cancer cells with redirected specificity for cancer immunotherapy. However, there is a lack of ideal CARs for solid tumor antigens, which may lead to severe adverse effects. Here, we developed a light-inducible nuclear translocation and dimerization (LINTAD) system for gene regulation to control CAR T activation. We first demonstrated light-controllable gene expression and functional modulation in human embryonic kidney 293T and Jurkat T cell lines. We then improved the LINTAD system to achieve optimal efficiency in primary human T cells. The results showed that pulsed light stimulations can activate LINTAD CAR T cells with strong cytotoxicity against target cancer cells, both in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, our LINTAD system can serve as an efficient tool to noninvasively control gene activation and activate inducible CAR T cells for precision cancer immunotherapy.

Optogenetic control of mRNA localization and translation in live cells.

blue CRY2/CIB1 HeLa NIH/3T3 rat hippocampal neurons Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape Endogenous gene expression
Nat Cell Biol, 17 Feb 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41556-020-0468-1 Link to full text
Abstract: Despite efforts to visualize the spatio-temporal dynamics of single messenger RNAs, the ability to precisely control their function has lagged. This study presents an optogenetic approach for manipulating the localization and translation of specific mRNAs by trapping them in clusters. This clustering greatly amplified reporter signals, enabling endogenous RNA-protein interactions to be clearly visualized in single cells. Functionally, this sequestration reduced the ability of mRNAs to access ribosomes, markedly attenuating protein synthesis. A spatio-temporally resolved analysis indicated that sequestration of endogenous β-actin mRNA attenuated cell motility through the regulation of focal-adhesion dynamics. These results suggest a mechanism highlighting the indispensable role of newly synthesized β-actin protein for efficient cell migration. This platform may be broadly applicable for use in investigating the spatio-temporal activities of specific mRNAs in various biological processes.

A time-dependent role for the transcription factor CREB in neuronal allocation to an engram underlying a fear memory revealed using a novel in vivo optogenetic tool to modulate CREB function.

blue PYP HEK293T mouse in vivo primary mouse hippocampal neurons Endogenous gene expression
Neuropsychopharmacology, 14 Dec 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41386-019-0588-0 Link to full text
Abstract: The internal representation of an experience is thought to be encoded by long-lasting physical changes to the brain ("engrams") (Josselyn et al. Nat Rev Neurosci 16:521-534, 2015; Josselyn et al. J Neurosci 37:4647-4657, 2017; Schacter. 2001; Tonegawa et al. Neuron 87:918-931, 2015). Previously, we (Han et al. Science 316:457-460, 2007) and others (Zhou et al. Nat Neurosci 12:1438-1443, 2009) showed within the lateral amygdala (LA), a region critical for auditory conditioned fear, eligible neurons compete against one other for allocation to an engram. Neurons with relatively higher function of the transcription factor CREB were more likely to be allocated to the engram. In these studies, though, CREB function was artificially increased for several days before training. Precisely when increased CREB function is important for allocation remains an unanswered question. Here, we took advantage of a novel optogenetic tool (opto-DN-CREB) (Ali et al. Chem Biol 22:1531-1539, 2015) to gain spatial and temporal control of CREB function in freely behaving mice. We found increasing CREB function in a small, random population of LA principal neurons in the minutes-hours, but not 24 h, before training was sufficient to enhance memory, likely because these neurons were preferentially allocated to the underlying engram. However, similarly increasing CREB activity in a small population of random LA neurons immediately after training disrupted subsequent memory retrieval, likely by disrupting the precise spatial and temporal patterns of offline post-training neuronal activity and/or function required for consolidation. These findings reveal the importance of the timing of CREB activity in regulating allocation and subsequent memory retrieval, and further, highlight the potential of optogenetic approaches to control protein function with temporal specificity in behaving animals.

Directed evolution improves the catalytic efficiency of TEV protease.

blue AsLOV2 CRY2/CIB1 HEK293T rat cortical neurons S. cerevisiae Endogenous gene expression
Nat Methods, 9 Dec 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41592-019-0665-7 Link to full text
Abstract: Tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) is one of the most widely used proteases in biotechnology because of its exquisite sequence specificity. A limitation, however, is its slow catalytic rate. We developed a generalizable yeast-based platform for directed evolution of protease catalytic properties. Protease activity is read out via proteolytic release of a membrane-anchored transcription factor, and we temporally regulate access to TEV's cleavage substrate using a photosensory LOV domain. By gradually decreasing light exposure time, we enriched faster variants of TEV over multiple rounds of selection. Our TEV-S153N mutant (uTEV1Δ), when incorporated into the calcium integrator FLARE, improved the signal/background ratio by 27-fold, and enabled recording of neuronal activity in culture with 60-s temporal resolution. Given the widespread use of TEV in biotechnology, both our evolved TEV mutants and the directed-evolution platform used to generate them could be beneficial across a wide range of applications.

LADL: light-activated dynamic looping for endogenous gene expression control.

blue CRY2/CIB1 CRY2olig mESCs Epigenetic modification Endogenous gene expression
Nat Methods, 24 Jun 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41592-019-0436-5 Link to full text
Abstract: Mammalian genomes are folded into tens of thousands of long-range looping interactions. The cause-and-effect relationship between looping and genome function is poorly understood, and the extent to which loops are dynamic on short time scales remains an unanswered question. Here, we engineer a new class of synthetic architectural proteins for directed rearrangement of the three-dimensional genome using blue light. We target our light-activated-dynamic-looping (LADL) system to two genomic anchors with CRISPR guide RNAs and induce their spatial colocalization via light-induced heterodimerization of cryptochrome 2 and a dCas9-CIBN fusion protein. We apply LADL to redirect a stretch enhancer (SE) away from its endogenous Klf4 target gene and to the Zfp462 promoter. Using single-molecule RNA-FISH, we demonstrate that de novo formation of the Zfp462-SE loop correlates with a modest increase in Zfp462 expression. LADL facilitates colocalization of genomic loci without exogenous chemical cofactors and will enable future efforts to engineer reversible and oscillatory loops on short time scales.

Engineering Optogenetic Control of Endogenous p53 Protein Levels.

blue AsLOV2 HCT116 Endogenous gene expression
Appl Sci, 21 May 2019 DOI: 10.3390/app9102095 Link to full text
Abstract: The transcription factor p53 is a stress sensor that turns specific sets of genes on to allow the cell to respond to the stress depending on its severity and type. p53 is classified as tumor suppressor because its function is to maintain genome integrity promoting cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, or senescence to avoid proliferation of cells with damaged DNA. While in many human cancers the p53 gene is itself mutated, there are some in which the dysfunction of the p53 pathway is caused by the overexpression of negative regulators of p53, such as Mdm2, that keep it at low levels at all times. Here we develop an optogenetic approach to control endogenous p53 levels with blue light. Specifically, we control the nuclear localization of the Mmd2-binding PMI peptide using the light-inducible export system LEXY. In the dark, the PMI-LEXY fusion is nuclear and binds to Mdm2, consenting to p53 to accumulate and transcribe the target gene p21. Blue light exposure leads to the export of the PMI-LEXY fusion into the cytosol, thereby Mdm2 is able to degrade p53 as in the absence of the peptide. This approach may be useful to study the effect of localized p53 activation within a tissue or organ.
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