Showing 1 - 25 of 27 results
Engineered Cas9 extracellular vesicles as a novel gene editing tool.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have shown promise as biological delivery vehicles, but therapeutic applications require efficient cargo loading. Here, we developed new methods for CRISPR/Cas9 loading into EVs through reversible heterodimerization of Cas9-fusions with EV sorting partners. Cas9-loaded EVs were collected from engineered Expi293F cells using standard methodology, characterized using nanoparticle tracking analysis, western blotting, and transmission electron microscopy and analysed for CRISPR/Cas9-mediated functional gene editing in a Cre-reporter cellular assay. Light-induced dimerization using Cryptochrome 2 combined with CD9 or a Myristoylation-Palmitoylation-Palmitoylation lipid modification resulted in efficient loading with approximately 25 Cas9 molecules per EV and high functional delivery with 51% gene editing of the Cre reporter cassette in HEK293 and 25% in HepG2 cells, respectively. This approach was also effective for targeting knock-down of the therapeutically relevant PCSK9 gene with 6% indel efficiency in HEK293. Cas9 transfer was detergent-sensitive and associated with the EV fractions after size exclusion chromatography, indicative of EV-mediated transfer. Considering the advantages of EVs over other delivery vectors we envision that this study will prove useful for a range of therapeutic applications, including CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing.
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.
A far-red light-inducible CRISPR-Cas12a platform for remote-controlled genome editing and gene activation.
The CRISPR-Cas12a has been harnessed as a powerful tool for manipulating targeted gene expression. The possibility to manipulate the activity of CRISPR-Cas12a with a more precise spatiotemporal resolution and deep tissue permeability will enable targeted genome engineering and deepen our understanding of the gene functions underlying complex cellular behaviors. However, currently available inducible CRISPR-Cas12a systems are limited by diffusion, cytotoxicity, and poor tissue permeability. Here, we developed a far-red light (FRL)–inducible CRISPR-Cas12a (FICA) system that can robustly induce gene editing in mammalian cells, and an FRL-inducible CRISPR-dCas12a (FIdCA) system based on the protein-tagging system SUperNova (SunTag) that can be used for gene activation under light-emitting diode–based FRL. Moreover, we show that the FIdCA system can be deployed to activate target genes in mouse livers. These results demonstrate that these systems developed here provide robust and efficient platforms for programmable genome manipulation in a noninvasive and spatiotemporal fashion.
Repetitive short-pulsed illumination efficiently activates photoactivatable-Cre as continuous illumination in embryonic stem cells and pre-implantation embryos of transgenic mouse.
The Cre-loxP system has been widely used for specific DNA recombination which induces gene inactivation or expression. Recently, photoactivatable-Cre (PA-Cre) proteins have been developed as a tool for spatiotemporal control of the enzymatic activity of Cre recombinase. Here, we generated transgenic mice bearing a PA-Cre gene and systematically investigated the conditions of photoactivation for the PA-Cre in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from the transgenic mice and in a simple mathematical model. Cre-mediated DNA recombination was induced in 16% of the PA-Cre ESCs by 6 hr continuous illumination. We show that repetitive pulsed illumination efficiently induced DNA recombination with low light energy as efficient as continuous illumination in the ESCs (96 ± 15% of continuous illumination when pulse cycle was 2 s), which was also supported by a minimal mathematical model. DNA recombination by the PA-Cre was also successfully induced in the transgenic mouse pre-implantation embryos under the developed conditions. These results suggest that strategies based on repetitive pulsed illumination are efficient for the activation of photoactivatable Cre and, possibly other photo-switchable proteins.
A small and highly sensitive red/far-red optogenetic switch for applications in mammals.
Optogenetic technologies have transformed our ability to precisely control biological processes in time and space. Yet, current eukaryotic optogenetic systems are limited by large or complex optogenetic modules, long illumination times, low tissue penetration or slow activation and deactivation kinetics. Here, we report a red/far-red light-mediated and miniaturized Δphytochrome A (ΔPhyA)-based photoswitch (REDMAP) system based on the plant photoreceptor PhyA, which rapidly binds the shuttle protein far-red elongated hypocotyl 1 (FHY1) under illumination with 660-nm light with dissociation occurring at 730 nm. We demonstrate multiple applications of REDMAP, including dynamic on/off control of the endogenous Ras/Erk mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade and control of epigenetic remodeling using a REDMAP-mediated CRISPR-nuclease-deactivated Cas9 (CRISPR-dCas9) (REDMAPcas) system in mice. We also demonstrate the utility of REDMAP tools for in vivo applications by activating the expression of transgenes delivered by adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) or incorporated into cells in microcapsules implanted into mice, rats and rabbits illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Further, we controlled glucose homeostasis in type 1 diabetic (T1D) mice and rats using REDMAP to trigger insulin expression. REDMAP is a compact and sensitive tool for the precise spatiotemporal control of biological activities in animals with applications in basic biology and potentially therapy.
Optogenetic control of Neisseria meningitidis Cas9 genome editing using an engineered, light-switchable anti-CRISPR protein.
Optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9 systems has significantly improved our ability to perform genome perturbations in living cells with high precision in time and space. As new Cas orthologues with advantageous properties are rapidly being discovered and engineered, the need for straightforward strategies to control their activity via exogenous stimuli persists. The Cas9 from Neisseria meningitidis (Nme) is a particularly small and target-specific Cas9 orthologue, and thus of high interest for in vivo genome editing applications. Here, we report the first optogenetic tool to control NmeCas9 activity in mammalian cells via an engineered, light-dependent anti-CRISPR (Acr) protein. Building on our previous Acr engineering work, we created hybrids between the NmeCas9 inhibitor AcrIIC3 and the LOV2 blue light sensory domain from Avena sativa. Two AcrIIC3-LOV2 hybrids from our collection potently blocked NmeCas9 activity in the dark, while permitting robust genome editing at various endogenous loci upon blue light irradiation. Structural analysis revealed that, within these hybrids, the LOV2 domain is located in striking proximity to the Cas9 binding surface. Together, our work demonstrates optogenetic regulation of a type II-C CRISPR effector and might suggest a new route for the design of optogenetic Acrs.
CRISPR-dcas9 Optogenetic Nanosystem for the Blue Light-Mediated Treatment of Neovascular Lesions.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the key regulator in neovascular lesions. The anti-VEGF injection is a major way to relieve retinal neovascularization and treat these diseases. However, current anti-VEGF therapeutics show significant drawbacks. The reason is the inability to effectively control its therapeutic effect. Therefore, how to controllably inhibit the VEGF target is a key point for preventing angiogenesis. Here, a CRISPR-dCas9 optogenetic nanosystem was designed for the precise regulation of pathologic neovascularization. This system is composed of a light-controlled regulatory component and transcription inhibition component. They work together to controllably and effectively inhibit the target gene's VEGF. The opto-CRISPR nanosystem achieved precise regulation according to individual differences, whereby the expression and interaction of gene was activated by light. The following representative model laser-induced choroid neovascularization and oxygen-induced retinopathy were taken as examples to verify the effect of this nanosystem. The results showed that the opto-CRISPR nanosystem was more efficacious in the light control group (NV area effectively reduced by 41.54%) than in the dark control group without light treatment. This strategy for the CRISPR-optogenetic gene nanosystem led to the development of approaches for treating severe eye diseases. Besides, any target gene of interest can be designed by merely replacing the guide RNA sequences in this system, which provided a method for light-controlled gene transcriptional repression.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
Design of Smart Antibody Mimetics with Photosensitive Switches.
As two prominent examples of intracellular single-domain antibodies or antibody mimetics derived from synthetic protein scaffolds, monobodies and nanobodies are gaining wide applications in cell biology, structural biology, synthetic immunology, and theranostics. Herein, a generally applicable method to engineer light-controllable monobodies and nanobodies, designated as moonbody and sunbody, respectively, is introduced. These engineered antibody-like modular domains enable rapid and reversible antibody-antigen recognition by utilizing light. By the paralleled insertion of two light-oxygen-voltage domain 2 modules into a single sunbody and the use of bivalent sunbodies, the range of dynamic changes of photoswitchable sunbodies is substantially enhanced. Furthermore, the use of moonbodies or sunbodies to precisely control protein degradation, gene transcription, and base editing by harnessing the power of light is demonstrated.
A CRISPR-Cas9-Based Near-Infrared Upconversion-Activated DNA Methylation Editing System.
DNA methylation is a kind of a crucial epigenetic marker orchestrating gene expression, molecular function, and cellular phenotype. However, manipulating the methylation status of specific genes remains challenging. Here, a clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats-Cas9-based near-infrared upconversion-activated DNA methylation editing system (CNAMS) was designed for the optogenetic editing of DNA methylation. The fusion proteins of photosensitive CRY2PHR, the catalytic domain of DNMT3A or TET1, and the fusion proteins for CIBN and catalytically inactive Cas9 (dCas9) were engineered. The CNAMS could control DNA methylation editing in response to blue light, thus allowing methylation editing in a spatiotemporal manner. Furthermore, after combination with upconversion nanoparticles, the spectral sensitivity of DNA methylation editing was extended from the blue light to near-infrared (NIR) light, providing the possibility for remote DNA methylation editing. These results demonstrated a meaningful step forward toward realizing the specific editing of DNA methylation, suggesting the wide utility of our CNAMS for functional studies on epigenetic regulation and potential therapeutic strategies for related diseases.
A Light-Inducible Split-dCas9 System for Inhibiting the Progression of Bladder Cancer Cells by Activating p53 and E-cadherin.
Optogenetic systems have been increasingly investigated in the field of biomedicine. Previous studies had found the inhibitory effect of the light-inducible genetic circuits on cancer cell growth. In our study, we applied an AND logic gates to the light-inducible genetic circuits to inhibit the cancer cells more specifically. The circuit would only be activated in the presence of both the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) and the human uroplakin II (hUPII) promoter. The activated logic gate led to the expression of the p53 or E-cadherin protein, which could inhibit the biological function of tumor cells. In addition, we split the dCas9 protein to reduce the size of the synthetic circuit compared to the full-length dCas9. This light-inducible system provides a potential therapeutic strategy for future bladder cancer.
Efficient photoactivatable Dre recombinase for cell type-specific spatiotemporal control of genome engineering in the mouse.
Precise genetic engineering in specific cell types within an intact organism is intriguing yet challenging, especially in a spatiotemporal manner without the interference caused by chemical inducers. Here we engineered a photoactivatable Dre recombinase based on the identification of an optimal split site and demonstrated that it efficiently regulated transgene expression in mouse tissues spatiotemporally upon blue light illumination. Moreover, through a double-floxed inverted open reading frame strategy, we developed a Cre-activated light-inducible Dre (CALID) system. Taking advantage of well-defined cell-type-specific promoters or a well-established Cre transgenic mouse strain, we demonstrated that the CALID system was able to activate endogenous reporter expression for either bulk or sparse labeling of CaMKIIα-positive excitatory neurons and parvalbumin interneurons in the brain. This flexible and tunable system could be a powerful tool for the dissection and modulation of developmental and genetic complexity in a wide range of biological systems.
Design of smart antibody mimetics with photosensitive switches.
As two prominent examples of intracellular single-domain antibodies or antibody mimetics derived from synthetic protein scaffolds, monobodies and nanobodies are gaining wide applications in cell biology, structural biology, synthetic immunology, and theranostics. We introduce herein a generally-applicable method to engineer light-controllable monobodies and nanobodies, designated as moonbody and sunbody, respectively. These engineered antibody-like modular domains enable rapid and reversible antibody-antigen recognition by utilizing light. By paralleled insertion of two LOV2 modules into a single sunbody and the use of bivalent sunbodies, we substantially enhance the range of dynamic changes of photo-switchable sunbodies. Furthermore, we demonstrate the use of moonbodies or sunbodies to precisely control protein degradation, gene transcription, and base editing by harnessing the power of light.
Optogenetic regulation of embryo implantation in mice using photoactivatable CRISPR-Cas9.
Embryo implantation is achieved upon successful interaction between a fertilized egg and receptive endometrium and is mediated by spatiotemporal expression of implantation-associated molecules including leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF). Here we demonstrate, in mice, that LIF knockdown via a photoactivatable CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system and illumination with a light-emitting diode can spatiotemporally disrupt fertility. This system enables dissection of spatiotemporal molecular mechanisms associated with embryo implantation and provides a therapeutic strategy for temporal control of reproductive functions in vivo.
A non-invasive far-red light-induced split-Cre recombinase system for controllable genome engineering in mice.
The Cre-loxP recombination system is a powerful tool for genetic manipulation. However, there are widely recognized limitations with chemically inducible Cre-loxP systems, and the UV and blue-light induced systems have phototoxicity and minimal capacity for deep tissue penetration. Here, we develop a far-red light-induced split Cre-loxP system (FISC system) based on a bacteriophytochrome optogenetic system and split-Cre recombinase, enabling optogenetical regulation of genome engineering in vivo solely by utilizing a far-red light (FRL). The FISC system exhibits low background and no detectable photocytotoxicity, while offering efficient FRL-induced DNA recombination. Our in vivo studies showcase the strong organ-penetration capacity of FISC system, markedly outperforming two blue-light-based Cre systems for recombination induction in the liver. Demonstrating its strong clinical relevance, we successfully deploy a FISC system using adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery. Thus, the FISC system expands the optogenetic toolbox for DNA recombination to achieve spatiotemporally controlled, non-invasive genome engineering in living systems.
Engineering a far-red light–activated split-Cas9 system for remote-controlled genome editing of internal organs and tumors.
It is widely understood that CRISPR-Cas9 technology is revolutionary, with well-recognized issues including the potential for off-target edits and the attendant need for spatiotemporal control of editing. Here, we describe a far-red light (FRL)–activated split-Cas9 (FAST) system that can robustly induce gene editing in both mammalian cells and mice. Through light-emitting diode–based FRL illumination, the FAST system can efficiently edit genes, including nonhomologous end joining and homology-directed repair, for multiple loci in human cells. Further, we show that FAST readily achieves FRL-induced editing of internal organs in tdTomato reporter mice. Finally, FAST was demonstrated to achieve FRL-triggered editing of the PLK1 oncogene in a mouse xenograft tumor model. Beyond extending the spectrum of light energies in optogenetic toolbox for CRISPR-Cas9 technologies, this study demonstrates how FAST system can be deployed for programmable deep tissue gene editing in both biological and biomedical contexts toward high precision and spatial specificity.
RecV recombinase system for in vivo targeted optogenomic modifications of single cells or cell populations.
Brain circuits comprise vast numbers of interconnected neurons with diverse molecular, anatomical and physiological properties. To allow targeting of individual neurons for structural and functional studies, we created light-inducible site-specific DNA recombinases based on Cre, Dre and Flp (RecVs). RecVs can induce genomic modifications by one-photon or two-photon light induction in vivo. They can produce targeted, sparse and strong labeling of individual neurons by modifying multiple loci within mouse and zebrafish genomes. In combination with other genetic strategies, they allow intersectional targeting of different neuronal classes. In the mouse cortex they enable sparse labeling and whole-brain morphological reconstructions of individual neurons. Furthermore, these enzymes allow single-cell two-photon targeted genetic modifications and can be used in combination with functional optical indicators with minimal interference. In summary, RecVs enable spatiotemporally precise optogenomic modifications that can facilitate detailed single-cell analysis of neural circuits by linking genetic identity, morphology, connectivity and function.
Establishment of a tTA-dependent photoactivatable Cre recombinase knock-in mouse model for optogenetic genome engineering.
The Cre-loxP recombination system is widely used to generate genetically modified mice for biomedical research. Recently, a highly efficient photoactivatable Cre (PA-Cre) based on reassembly of split Cre fragments has been established. This technology enables efficient DNA recombination that is activated upon blue light illumination with spatiotemporal precision. In this study, we generated a tTA-dependent photoactivatable Cre-loxP recombinase knock-in mouse model (TRE-PA-Cre mice) using a CRISPR/Cas9 system. These mice were crossed with ROSA26-tdTomato mice (Cre reporter mouse) to visualize DNA recombination as marked by tdTomato expression. We demonstrated that external noninvasive LED blue light illumination allows efficient DNA recombination in the liver of TRE-PA-Cre:ROSA26-tdTomato mice transfected with tTA expression vectors using hydrodynamic tail vein injection. The TRE-PA-Cre mouse established here promises to be useful for optogenetic genome engineering in a noninvasive, spatiotemporal, and cell-type specific manner in vivo.
Light-Inducible Recombinases for Bacterial Optogenetics.
Optogenetic tools can provide direct and programmable control of gene expression. Light-inducible recombinases, in particular, offer a powerful method for achieving precise spatiotemporal control of DNA modification. However, to-date this technology has been largely limited to eukaryotic systems. Here, we develop optogenetic recombinases for Escherichia coli that activate in response to blue light. Our approach uses a split recombinase coupled with photodimers, where blue light brings the split protein together to form a functional recombinase. We tested both Cre and Flp recombinases, Vivid and Magnet photodimers, and alternative protein split sites in our analysis. The optimal configuration, Opto-Cre-Vvd, exhibits strong blue light-responsive excision and low ambient light sensitivity. For this system we characterize the effect of light intensity and the temporal dynamics of light-induced recombination. These tools expand the microbial optogenetic toolbox, offering the potential for precise control of DNA excision with light-inducible recombinases in bacteria.
A split CRISPR-Cpf1 platform for inducible genome editing and gene activation.
The CRISPR-Cpf1 endonuclease has recently been demonstrated as a powerful tool to manipulate targeted gene sequences. Here, we performed an extensive screening of split Cpf1 fragments and identified a pair that, combined with inducible dimerization domains, enables chemical- and light-inducible genome editing in human cells. We also identified another split Cpf1 pair that is spontaneously activated. The newly generated amino and carboxyl termini of the spontaneously activated split Cpf1 can be repurposed as de novo fusion sites of artificial effector domains. Based on this finding, we generated an improved split dCpf1 activator, which has the potential to activate endogenous genes more efficiently than a previously established dCas9 activator. Finally, we showed that the split dCpf1 activator can efficiently activate target genes in mice. These results demonstrate that the present split Cpf1 provides an efficient and sophisticated genome manipulation in the fields of basic research and biotechnological applications.
Mononegaviruses are promising tools as oncolytic vectors and transgene delivery vectors for gene therapy and regenerative medicine. By using the Magnet proteins, which reversibly heterodimerize upon blue light illumination, photocontrollable mononegaviruses (measles and rabies viruses) were generated. The Magnet proteins were inserted into the flexible domain of viral polymerase, and viruses showed strong replication and oncolytic activities only when the viral polymerases were activated by blue light illumination.
Noninvasive optical activation of Flp recombinase for genetic manipulation in deep mouse brain regions.
Spatiotemporal control of gene expression or labeling is a valuable strategy for identifying functions of genes within complex neural circuits. Here, we develop a highly light-sensitive and efficient photoactivatable Flp recombinase (PA-Flp) that is suitable for genetic manipulation in vivo. The highly light-sensitive property of PA-Flp is ideal for activation in deep mouse brain regions by illumination with a noninvasive light-emitting diode. In addition, PA-Flp can be extended to the Cre-lox system through a viral vector as Flp-dependent Cre expression platform, thereby activating both Flp and Cre. Finally, we demonstrate that PA-Flp-dependent, Cre-mediated Cav3.1 silencing in the medial septum increases object-exploration behavior in mice. Thus, PA-Flp is a noninvasive, highly efficient, and easy-to-use optogenetic module that offers a side-effect-free and expandable genetic manipulation tool for neuroscience research.
Engineered anti-CRISPR proteins for optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9.
Anti-CRISPR proteins are powerful tools for CRISPR-Cas9 regulation; the ability to precisely modulate their activity could facilitate spatiotemporally confined genome perturbations and uncover fundamental aspects of CRISPR biology. We engineered optogenetic anti-CRISPR variants comprising hybrids of AcrIIA4, a potent Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 inhibitor, and the LOV2 photosensor from Avena sativa. Coexpression of these proteins with CRISPR-Cas9 effectors enabled light-mediated genome and epigenome editing, and revealed rapid Cas9 genome targeting in human cells.
Rapid Integration of Multi-copy Transgenes Using Optogenetic Mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Stably transmitted transgenes are indispensable for labeling cellular components and manipulating cellular functions. In Caenorhabditis elegans, transgenes are generally generated as inheritable multi-copy extrachromosomal arrays, which can be stabilized in the genome through a mutagenesis-mediated integration process. Standard methods to integrate extrachromosomal arrays primarily use protocols involving ultraviolet light plus trimethylpsoralen or gamma- or X-ray irradiation, which are laborious and time-consuming. Here, we describe a one-step integration method, following germline-mutagenesis induced by mini Singlet Oxygen Generator (miniSOG). Upon blue light treatment, miniSOG tagged to histone (Histone-miniSOG) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) and induces heritable mutations, including DNA double-stranded breaks. We demonstrate that we can bypass the need to first establish extrachromosomal transgenic lines by coupling microinjection of desired plasmids with blue light illumination on Histone-miniSOG worms to obtain integrants in the F3 progeny. We consistently obtained more than one integrant from 12 injected animals in two weeks. This optogenetic approach significantly reduces the amount of time and labor for transgene integration. Moreover, it enables to generate stably expressed transgenes that cause toxicity in animal growth.
A single-chain photoswitchable CRISPR-Cas9 architecture for light-inducible gene editing and transcription.
Optical control of CRISPR-Cas9-derived proteins would be useful for restricting gene editing or transcriptional regulation to desired times and places. Optical control of Cas9 functions has been achieved with photouncageable unnatural amino acids or by using light-induced protein interactions to reconstitute Cas9-mediated functions from two polypeptides. However, these methods have only been applied to one Cas9 species and have not been used for optical control of different perturbations at two genes. Here, we use photodissociable dimeric fluorescent protein domains to engineer single-chain photoswitchable Cas9 (ps-Cas9) proteins in which the DNA-binding cleft is occluded at baseline and opened upon illumination. This design successfully controlled different species and functional variants of Cas9, mediated transcriptional activation more robustly than previous optogenetic methods, and enabled light-induced transcription of one gene and editing of another in the same cells. Thus, a single-chain photoswitchable architecture provides a general method to control a variety of Cas9-mediated functions.