Showing 1 - 25 of 72 results
Light-inducible T cell engagers trigger, tune, and shape the activation of primary T cells.
To mount appropriate responses, T cells integrate complex sequences of receptor stimuli perceived during transient interactions with antigen-presenting cells. Although it has been hypothesized that the dynamics of these interactions influence the outcome of T cell activation, methodological limitations have hindered its formal demonstration. Here, we have engineered the Light-inducible T cell engager (LiTE) system, a recombinant optogenetics-based molecular tool targeting the T cell receptor (TCR). The LiTE system constitutes a reversible molecular switch displaying exquisite reactivity. As proof of concept, we dissect how specific temporal patterns of TCR stimulation shape T cell activation. We established that CD4+ T cells respond to intermittent TCR stimulation more efficiently than their CD8+ T cells counterparts and provide evidence that distinct sequences of TCR stimulation encode different cytokine programs. Finally, we show that the LiTE system could be exploited to create light-activated bispecific T cell engagers and manipulate tumor cell killing. Overall, the LiTE system provides opportunities to understand how T cells integrate TCR stimulations and to trigger T cell cytotoxicity with high spatiotemporal control.
Light-activated microtubule-based two-dimensional active nematic.
We assess the ability of two light responsive kinesin motor clusters to drive dynamics of microtubule-based active nematics: opto-K401, a processive motor, and opto-K365, a non-processive motor. Measurements reveal an order of magnitude improvement in the contrast of nematic flow speeds between maximally- and minimally-illuminated states for opto-K365 motors when compared to opto-K401 construct. For opto-K365 nematics, we characterize both the steady-state flow and defect density as a function of applied light. We also examine the transient behavior as the system switches between steady-states upon changes in light intensities. Although nematic flows reach a steady state within tens of seconds, the defect density exhibits transient behavior for up to 10 minutes, showing a separation between small-scale active flows and system-scale structural states. Our work establishes an experimental platform that can exploit spatiotemporally-heterogeneous patterns of activity to generate targeted dynamical states.
A Photoreceptor-Based Hydrogel with Red Light-Responsive Reversible Sol-Gel Transition as Transient Cellular Matrix.
Hydrogels with adjustable mechanical properties have been engineered as matrices for mammalian cells and allow the dynamic, mechano-responsive manipulation of cell fate and function. Recent research yields hydrogels, where biological photoreceptors translated optical signals into a reversible and adjustable change in hydrogel mechanics. While their initial application provides important insights into mechanobiology, broader implementation is limited by a small dynamic range of addressable stiffness. Herein, this limitation is overcome by developing a photoreceptor-based hydrogel with reversibly adjustable stiffness from ≈800 Pa to the sol state. The hydrogel is based on star-shaped polyethylene glycol, functionalized with the red/far-red light photoreceptor phytochrome B (PhyB), or phytochrome-interacting factor 6 (PIF6). Upon illumination with red light, PhyB heterodimerizes with PIF6, thus crosslinking the polymers and resulting in gelation. However, upon illumination with far-red light, the proteins dissociate and trigger a complete gel-to-sol transition. The hydrogel's light-responsive mechanical properties are comprehensively characterized and it is applied as a reversible extracellular matrix for the spatiotemporally controlled deposition of mammalian cells within a microfluidic chip. It is anticipated that this technology will open new avenues for the site- and time-specific positioning of cells and will contribute to overcome spatial restrictions.
A photoreceptor-based hydrogel with red light-responsive reversible sol-gel transition as transient cellular matrix.
Hydrogels with adjustable mechanical properties have been engineered as matrices for mammalian cells and allow the dynamic, mechano-responsive manipulation of cell fate and function. Recent research yielded hydrogels, where biological photoreceptors translated optical signals into a reversible and adjustable change in hydrogel mechanics. While their initial application provided important insights into mechanobiology, broader implementation is limited by a small dynamic range of addressable stiffness. Here, we overcome this limitation by developing a photoreceptor-based hydrogel with reversibly adjustable stiffness from 800 Pa to the sol state. The hydrogel is based on star-shaped polyethylene glycol, functionalized with the red/far-red light photoreceptor phytochrome B (PhyB), or phytochrome-interacting factor 6 (PIF6). Upon illumination with red light, PhyB heterodimerizes with PIF6, thus crosslinking the polymers and resulting in gelation. However, upon illumination with far-red light, the proteins dissociate and trigger a complete gel-to-sol transition. We comprehensively characterize the hydrogel’s light-responsive mechanical properties and apply it as reversible extracellular matrix for the spatiotemporally controlled deposition of mammalian cells within a microfluidic chip. We anticipate that this technology will open new avenues for the site- and time-specific positioning of cells and will contribute to overcome spatial restrictions.
Self-Regulated and Bidirectional Communication in Synthetic Cell Communities.
Cell-to-cell communication is not limited to a sender releasing a signaling molecule and a receiver perceiving it but is often self-regulated and bidirectional. Yet, in communities of synthetic cells, such features that render communication efficient and adaptive are missing. Here, we report the design and implementation of adaptive two-way signaling with lipid-vesicle-based synthetic cells. The first layer of self-regulation derives from coupling the temporal dynamics of the signal, H2O2, production in the sender to adhesions between sender and receiver cells. This way the receiver stays within the signaling range for the duration sender produces the signal and detaches once the signal fades. Specifically, H2O2 acts as both a forward signal and a regulator of the adhesions by activating photoswitchable proteins at the surface for the duration of the chemiluminescence. The second layer of self-regulation arises when the adhesions render the receiver permeable and trigger the release of a backward signal, resulting in bidirectional exchange. These design rules provide a concept for engineering multicellular systems with adaptive communication.
Opto-APC: Engineering of cells that display phytochrome B on their surface for optogenetic studies of cell-cell interactions.
The kinetics of a ligand-receptor interaction determine the responses of the receptor-expressing cell. One approach to experimentally and reversibly change this kinetics on demand is optogenetics. We have previously developed a system in which the interaction of a modified receptor with an engineered ligand can be controlled by light. In this system the ligand is a soluble Phytochrome B (PhyB) tetramer and the receptor is fused to a mutated PhyB-interacting factor (PIFS). However, often the natural ligand is not soluble, but expressed as a membrane protein on another cell. This allows ligand-receptor interactions in two dimensions. Here, we developed a strategy to generate cells that display PhyB as a membrane-bound protein by expressing the SpyCatcher fused to a transmembrane domain in HEK-293T cells and covalently coupling purified PhyB-SpyTag to these cells. As proof-of-principle, we use Jurkat T cells that express a GFP-PIFS-T cell receptor and show that these cells can be stimulated by the PhyB-coupled HEK-293T cells in a light dependent manner. Thus, we call the PhyB-coupled cells opto-antigen presenting cells (opto-APCs). Our work expands the toolbox of optogenetic technologies, allowing two-dimensional ligand-receptor interactions to be controlled by light.
Orthogonal Light-Dependent Membrane Adhesion Induces Social Self-Sorting and Member-Specific DNA Communication in Synthetic Cell Communities.
Developing orthogonal chemical communication pathways in diverse synthetic cell communities is a considerable challenge due to the increased crosstalk and interference associated with large numbers of different types of sender-receiver pairs. Herein, the authors control which sender-receiver pairs communicate in a three-membered community of synthetic cells through red and blue light illumination. Semipermeable protein-polymer-based synthetic cells (proteinosomes) with complementary membrane-attached protein adhesion communicate through single-stranded DNA oligomers and synergistically process biochemical information within a community consisting of one sender and two different receiver populations. Different pairs of red and blue light-responsive protein-protein interactions act as membrane adhesion mediators between the sender and receivers such that they self-assemble and socially self-sort into different multicellular structures under red and blue light. Consequently, distinct sender-receiver pairs come into the signaling range depending on the light illumination and are able to communicate specifically without activation of the other receiver population. Overall, this work shows how photoswitchable membrane adhesion gives rise to different self-sorting protocell patterns that mediate member-specific DNA-based communication in ternary populations of synthetic cells and provides a step towards the design of orthogonal chemical communication networks in diverse communities of synthetic cells.
Progressive enhancement of kinetic proofreading in T cell antigen discrimination from receptor activation to DAG generation.
T cells use kinetic proofreading to discriminate antigens by converting small changes in antigen binding lifetime into large differences in cell activation, but where in the signaling cascade this computation is performed is unknown. Previously, we developed a light-gated immune receptor to probe the role of ligand kinetics in T cell antigen signaling. We found significant kinetic proofreading at the level of the signaling lipid diacylglycerol (DAG) but lacked the ability to determine where the multiple signaling steps required for kinetic discrimination originate in the upstream signaling cascade (Tischer and Weiner, 2019). Here we uncover where kinetic proofreading is executed by adapting our optogenetic system for robust activation of early signaling events. We find the strength of kinetic proofreading progressively increases from Zap70 recruitment to LAT clustering to downstream DAG generation. Leveraging the ability of our system to rapidly disengage ligand binding, we also measure slower reset rates for downstream signaling events. These data suggest a distributed kinetic proofreading mechanism, with proofreading steps both at the receptor and at slower resetting downstream signaling complexes that could help balance antigen sensitivity and discrimination.
Synthetic cells with self-activating optogenetic proteins communicate with natural cells.
Development of regulated cellular processes and signaling methods in synthetic cells is essential for their integration with living materials. Light is an attractive tool to achieve this, but the limited penetration depth into tissue of visible light restricts its usability for in-vivo applications. Here, we describe the design and implementation of bioluminescent intercellular and intracellular signaling mechanisms in synthetic cells, dismissing the need for an external light source. First, we engineer light generating SCs with an optimized lipid membrane and internal composition, to maximize luciferase expression levels and enable high-intensity emission. Next, we show these cells' capacity to trigger bioprocesses in natural cells by initiating asexual sporulation of dark-grown mycelial cells of the fungus Trichoderma atroviride. Finally, we demonstrate regulated transcription and membrane recruitment in synthetic cells using bioluminescent intracellular signaling with self-activating fusion proteins. These functionalities pave the way for deploying synthetic cells as embeddable microscale light sources that are capable of controlling engineered processes inside tissues.
Motor processivity and speed determine structure and dynamics of microtubule-motor assemblies.
Active matter systems can generate highly ordered structures, avoiding equilibrium through the consumption of energy by individual constituents. How the microscopic parameters that characterize the active agents are translated to the observed mesoscopic properties of the assembly has remained an open question. These active systems are prevalent in living matter; for example, in cells, the cytoskeleton is organized into structures such as the mitotic spindle through the coordinated activity of many motor proteins walking along microtubules. Here, we investigate how the microscopic motor-microtubule interactions affect the coherent structures formed in a reconstituted motor-microtubule system. This question is of deeper evolutionary significance as we suspect motor and microtubule type contribute to the shape and size of resulting structures. We explore key parameters experimentally and theoretically, using a variety of motors with different speeds, proces-sivities, and directionalities. We demonstrate that aster size depends on the motor used to create the aster, and develop a model for the distribution of motors and microtubules in steady-state asters that depends on parameters related to motor speed and processivity. Further, we show that network contraction rates scale linearly with the single-motor speed in quasi one-dimensional contraction experiments. In all, this theoretical and experimental work helps elucidate how microscopic motor properties are translated to the much larger scale of collective motor-microtubule assemblies.
B12-induced reassembly of split photoreceptor protein enables photoresponsive hydrogels with tunable mechanics.
Although the tools based on split proteins have found broad applications, ranging from controlled biological signaling to advanced molecular architectures, many of them suffer from drawbacks such as background reassembly, low thermodynamic stability, and static structural features. Here, we present a chemically inducible protein assembly method enabled by the dissection of the carboxyl-terminal domain of a B12-dependent photoreceptor, CarHC. The resulting segments reassemble efficiently upon addition of cobalamin (AdoB12, MeB12, or CNB12). Photolysis of the cofactors such as AdoB12 and MeB12 further leads to stable protein adducts harboring a bis-His-ligated B12. Split CarHC enables the creation of a series of protein hydrogels, of which the mechanics can be either photostrengthened or photoweakened, depending on the type of B12. These materials are also well suited for three dimensional cell culturing. Together, this new protein chemistry, featuring negligible background autoassembly, stable conjugation, and phototunability, has opened up opportunities for designing smart materials.
A novel mechanism of bulk cytoplasmic transport by cortical dynein in Drosophila ovary.
Cytoplasmic dynein, a major minus-end directed microtubule motor, plays essential roles in eukaryotic cells. Drosophila oocyte growth is mainly dependent on the contribution of cytoplasmic contents from the interconnected sister cells, nurse cells. We have previously shown that cytoplasmic dynein is required for Drosophila oocyte growth, and assumed that it transports cargoes along microtubule tracks from nurse cells to the oocyte. Here we report that instead transporting cargoes along microtubules into the oocyte, cortical dynein actively moves microtubules in nurse cells and from nurse cells to the oocyte via the cytoplasmic bridges, the ring canals. We demonstrate this microtubule movement is sufficient to drag even inert cytoplasmic particles through the ring canals to the oocyte. Furthermore, replacing dynein with a minus-end directed plant kinesin linked to the actin cortex is sufficient for transporting organelles and cytoplasm to the oocyte and driving its growth. These experiments show that cortical dynein can perform bulk cytoplasmic transport by gliding microtubules along the cell cortex and through the ring canals to the oocyte. We propose that the dynein-driven microtubule flow could serve as a novel mode of cargo transport for fast cytoplasmic transfer to support rapid oocyte growth.
OptoAssay - Light-controlled Dynamic Bioassay Using Optogenetic Switches.
Circumventing the limitations of current bioassays, we introduce the first light-controlled assay, the OptoAssay, towards wash- and pump-free point-of-care diagnostics. Extending the capabilities of standard bioassays with light-dependent and reversible interaction of optogenetic switches, OptoAssays enable a bi-directional movement of assay components, only by changing the wavelength of light. Combined with smartphones, OptoAssays obviate the need for external flow control systems like pumps or valves and signal readout devices.
Gigavalent display of proteins on monodisperse polyacrylamide hydrogels as a versatile modular platform for functional assays and protein engineering.
The robust modularity of biological components that are assembled into complex functional systems is central to synthetic biology. Here we apply modular “plug and play” design principles to a microscale solid phase protein display system that enables protein purification and functional assays for biotherapeutics. Specifically, we capture protein molecules from cell lysates on polyacrylamide hydrogel display beads (‘PHD beads’), made in microfluidic droplet generators. These monodisperse PHD beads are decorated with predefined amounts of anchors, methacrylate-PEG-benzylguanine (BG) and methacrylate-PEG-chloroalkane (CA). Anchors form covalent bonds with fusion proteins bearing cognate tag recognition (SNAP and Halo-tags) in specific, orthogonal and stable fashion. Given that these anchors are copolymerised throughout the 3D structure of the beads, proteins are also distributed across the entire bead sphere, allowing attachment of ∼109 protein molecules per bead (Ø 20 μm). This mode of attachment reaches a higher density than possible on widely used surface-modified beads, and additionally mitigates surface effects that often complicate studies with proteins on beads. We showcase a diverse array of protein modules that enable the secondary capture of proteins, either non-covalently (IgG and SUMO-tag) or covalently (SpyCatcher, SpyTag, SnpCatcher and SnpTag). Proteins can be displayed in their monomeric forms, but also reformatted as a multivalent display (using secondary capture modules that create branches) to test the contributions of avidity and multivalency towards protein function. Finally, controlled release of modules by irradiation of light is achieved by incorporating the photocleavable protein PhoCl: irradiation severs the displayed protein from the solid support, so that functional assays can be carried out in solution. As a demonstration of the utility of valency engineering, an antibody drug screen is performed, in which an anti-TRAIL-R1 scFv protein is released into solution as monomers-hexamers, showing a ∼50-fold enhanced potency in the pentavalent format. The ease of protein purification on solid support, quantitative control over presentation and release of proteins and choice of valency make this experimental format a versatile, modular platform for large scale functional analysis of proteins, in bioassays of protein-protein interactions, enzymatic catalysis and bacteriolysis.
Engineering Photoresponsive Ligand Tethers for Mechanical Regulation of Stem Cells.
Regulating stem cell functions by precisely controlling the nanoscale presentation of bioactive ligands has a substantial impact on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine but remains a major challenge. Here it is shown that bioactive ligands can become mechanically "invisible" by increasing their tether lengths to the substrate beyond a critical length, providing a way to regulate mechanotransduction without changing the biochemical conditions. Building on this finding, light switchable tethers are rationally designed, whose lengths can be modulated reversibly by switching a light-responsive protein, pdDronpa, in between monomer and dimer states. This allows the regulation of the adhesion, spreading, and differentiation of stem cells by light on substrates of well-defined biochemical and physical properties. Spatiotemporal regulation of differential cell fates on the same substrate is further demonstrated, which may represent an important step toward constructing complex organoids or mini tissues by spatially defining the mechanical cues of the cellular microenvironment with light.
Light-Responsive Dynamic Protein Hydrogels Based on LOVTRAP.
Protein-based hydrogels can mimic many aspects of native extracellular matrices (ECMs) and are promising biomedical materials that find various applications in cell proliferation, drug/cell delivery, and tissue engineering. To be adapted for different tasks, it is important that the mechanical and/or biochemical properties of protein-based hydrogels can be regulated by external stimuli. Light as a regulation stimulus is of advantage because it can be easily applied in demanded spatiotemporal manners. The noncovalent binding between the light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domain 2 (LOV2) and its binding partner ZDark1 (zdk1), named as LOVTRAP, is a light-responsive interaction. The binding affinity of LOVTRAP is much higher in dark than that under blue light irradiation. Taking advantage of these light-responsive interactions, herein we endeavored to use LOVTRAP as a crosslinking mechanism to engineer light-responsive protein hydrogels. Using LOV2-containing and zdk1-containing multifunctional protein building blocks, we successfully engineered a light-responsive protein hydrogel whose viscoelastic properties can change in response to light: in the dark, the hydrogel showed higher storage modulus; under blue light irradiation, the storage modulus decreased. Due to the noncovalent nature of the LOVTRAP, the engineered LOVTRAP protein hydrogels displayed shear-thinning and self-healing properties and served as an excellent injectable protein hydrogel. We anticipated that this new class of light-responsive protein hydrogels will broaden the scope of dynamic protein hydrogels and help develop other light-responsive protein hydrogels for biomedical applications.
Cell to Cell Signaling through Light in Artificial Cell Communities: Glowing Predator Lures Prey.
Cells commonly communicate with each other through diffusible molecules but nonchemical communication remains elusive. While bioluminescent organisms communicate through light to find prey or attract mates, it is still under debate if signaling through light is possible at the cellular level. Here, we demonstrate that cell to cell signaling through light is possible in artificial cell communities derived from biomimetic vesicles. In our design, artificial sender cells produce an intracellular light signal, which triggers the adhesion to receiver cells. Unlike soluble molecules, the light signal propagates fast, independent of diffusion and without the need for a transporter across membranes. To obtain a predator-prey relationship, the luminescence predator cells is loaded with a secondary diffusible poison, which is transferred to the prey cell upon adhesion and leads to its lysis. This design provides a blueprint for light based intercellular communication, which can be used for programing artificial and natural cell communities.
Spatiotemporally confined red light-controlled gene delivery at single-cell resolution using adeno-associated viral vectors.
Methodologies for the controlled delivery of genetic information into target cells are of utmost importance for genetic engineering in both fundamental and applied research. However, available methods for efficient gene transfer into user-selected or even single cells suffer from low throughput, the need for complicated equipment, high invasiveness, or side effects by off-target viral uptake. Here, we engineer an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector system that transfers genetic information into native target cells upon illumination with cell-compatible red light. This OptoAAV system allows adjustable and spatially resolved gene transfer down to single-cell resolution and is compatible with different cell lines and primary cells. Moreover, the sequential application of multiple OptoAAVs enables spatially resolved transduction with different transgenes. The approach presented is likely extendable to other classes of viral vectors and is expected to foster advances in basic and applied genetic research.
Engineering a Blue Light Inducible SpyTag System (BLISS).
The SpyCatcher/SpyTag protein conjugation system has recently exploded in popularity due to its fast kinetics and high yield under biologically favorable conditions in both in vitro and intracellular settings. The utility of this system could be expanded by introducing the ability to spatially and temporally control the conjugation event. Taking inspiration from photoreceptor proteins in nature, we designed a method to integrate light dependency into the protein conjugation reaction. The light-oxygen-voltage domain 2 of Avena sativa (AsLOV2) undergoes a dramatic conformational change in its c-terminal Jα-helix in response to blue light. By inserting SpyTag into the different locations of the Jα-helix, we created a blue light inducible SpyTag system (BLISS). In this design, the SpyTag is blocked from reacting with the SpyCatcher in the dark, but upon irradiation with blue light, the Jα-helix of the AsLOV2 undocks to expose the SpyTag. We tested several insertion sites and characterized the kinetics. We found three variants with dynamic ranges over 15, which were active within different concentration ranges. These could be tuned using SpyCatcher variants with different reaction kinetics. Further, the reaction could be instantaneously quenched by removing light. We demonstrated the spatial aspect of this light control mechanism through photopatterning of two fluorescent proteins. This system offers opportunities for many other biofabrication and optogenetics applications.
Bioluminescent Synthetic Cells Communicate with Natural Cells and Self-Activate Light-Responsive Proteins.
Development of regulated cellular processes and signaling methods in synthetic cells is essential for their integration with living materials. Light is an attractive tool to achieve this, but the limited penetration depth into tissue of visible light restricts its usability for in-vivo applications. Here, we describe the synthesis and application of blue-light-generating synthetic cells using bioluminescence, dismissing the need for an external light source. First, the lipid membrane and internal composition of light-producing synthetic cells were optimized to enable high-intensity emission. Next, we show these cells’ capacity for triggering bioprocesses in natural cells by initiating asexual sporulation of dark-grown mycelial cells of the fungus Trichoderma atroviride in a quorum-sensing like mechanism. Finally, we demonstrate regulated transcription and membrane recruitment in synthetic cells using bioluminescent self-activating fusion proteins. These functionalities pave the way for deploying synthetic cells as embeddable microscale light sources that are capable of activating engineered processes inside tissues.
Spatiotemporal Control Over Multicellular Migration Using Green Light Reversible Cell–Cell Interactions.
The regulation of cell–cell adhesions in space and time plays a crucial role in cell biology, especially in the coordination of multicellular behavior. Therefore, tools that allow for the modulation of cell–cell interactions with high precision are of great interest to a better understanding of their roles and building tissue‐like structures. Herein, the green light‐responsive protein CarH is expressed at the plasma membrane of cells as an artificial cell adhesion receptor, so that upon addition of its cofactor vitamin B12 specific cell–cell interactions form and lead to cell clustering in a concentration‐dependent manner. Upon green light illumination, the CarH based cell–cell interactions disassemble and allow for their reversion with high spatiotemporal control. Moreover, these artificial cell–cell interactions impact cell migration, as observed in a wound‐healing assay. When the cells interact with each other in the presence of vitamin B12 in the dark, the cells form on a solid front and migrate collectively; however, under green light illumination, individual cells migrate randomly out of the monolayer. Overall, the possibility of precisely controlling cell–cell interactions and regulating multicellular behavior is a potential pathway to gaining more insight into cell–cell interactions in biological processes.
An Optogenetic Platform to Dynamically Control the Stiffness of Collagen Hydrogels.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) comprises a meshwork of biomacromolecules whose composition, architecture, and macroscopic properties, such as mechanics, instruct cell fate decisions during development and disease progression. Current methods implemented in mechanotransduction studies either fail to capture real-time mechanical dynamics or utilize synthetic polymers that lack the fibrillar nature of their natural counterparts. Here we present an optogenetic-inspired tool to construct light-responsive ECM mimetic hydrogels comprised exclusively of natural ECM proteins. Optogenetic tools offer seconds temporal resolution and submicron spatial resolution, permitting researchers to probe cell signaling dynamics with unprecedented precision. Here we demonstrated our approach of using SNAP-tag and its thiol-targeted substrate, benzylguanine-maleimide, to covalently attach blue-light-responsive proteins to collagen hydrogels. The resulting material (OptoGel), in addition to encompassing the native biological activity of collagen, stiffens upon exposure to blue light and softens in the dark. Optogels have immediate use in dissecting the cellular response to acute mechanical inputs and may also have applications in next-generation biointerfacing prosthetics.
Photobiologically Directed Assembly of Gold Nanoparticles.
In nature, photoreceptor proteins undergo molecular responses to light, that exhibit supreme fidelity in time and space and generally occur under mild reaction conditions. To unlock these traits for material science, the light‐induced homodimerization of light‐oxygen‐voltage (LOV) photoreceptors is leveraged to control the assembly of gold nanoparticles. Conjugated to genetically encodable LOV proteins, the nanoparticles are monodispersed in darkness but rapidly assemble into large aggregates upon blue‐light exposure. The work establishes a new modality for reaction control in macromolecular chemistry and thus augurs enhanced precision in space and time in diverse applications of gold nanoparticles.
Dynamically tunable light responsive silk-elastin-like proteins.
Dynamically tunable biomaterials are of particular interest in the field of biomedical engineering because of the potential utility for shape-change materials, drug and cell delivery and tissue regeneration. Stimuli-responsive proteins formed into hydrogels are potential candidates for such systems, due to the genetic tailorability and control over structure-function relationships. Here we report the synthesis of genetically engineered Silk-Elastin-Like Protein (SELP) photoresponsive hydrogels. Polymerization of the SELPs and monomeric adenosylcobalamin (AdoB12)-dependent photoreceptor C-terminal adenosylcobalamin binding domain (CarHC) was achieved using genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher peptide-protein pairs under mild physiological conditions. The hydrogels exhibited a partial collapse of the crosslinked molecular network with both decreased loss and storage moduli upon exposure to visible light. The materials were also evaluated for cytotoxicity and the encapsulation and release of L929 murine fibroblasts from 3D cultures. The design of these photo-responsible proteins provides new stimuli-responsive SELP-CarHC hydrogels for dynamically tunable protein-based materials.
Injectable, photoresponsive hydrogels for delivering neuroprotective proteins enabled by metal-directed protein assembly.
Axon regeneration constitutes a fundamental challenge for regenerative neurobiology, which necessitates the use of tailor-made biomaterials for controllable delivery of cells and biomolecules. An increasingly popular approach for creating these materials is to directly assemble engineered proteins into high-order structures, a process that often relies on sophisticated protein chemistry. Here, we present a simple approach for creating injectable, photoresponsive hydrogels via metal-directed assembly of His6-tagged proteins. The B12-dependent photoreceptor protein CarHC can complex with transition metal ions through an amino-terminal His6-tag, which can further undergo a sol-gel transition upon addition of AdoB12, leading to the formation of hydrogels with marked injectability and photodegradability. The inducible phase transitions further enabled facile encapsulation and release of cells and proteins. Injecting the Zn2+-coordinated gels decorated with leukemia inhibitory factor into injured mouse optic nerves led to prolonged cellular signaling and enhanced axon regeneration. This study illustrates a powerful strategy for designing injectable biomaterials.