Showing 1 - 25 of 42 results
Optogenetic lac operon to control chemical and protein production in Escherichia coli with light.
Control of the lac operon with IPTG has been used for decades to regulate gene expression in E. 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 developed an optogenetic lac operon in a series of circuits we call OptoLAC. With these circuits, we 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 2L bioreactors. Furthermore, OptoLAC circuits enable light control of recombinant protein production, reaching yields comparable to IPTG induction, but with enhanced tunability of expression and spatial control. OptoLAC circuits are potentially useful to confer light controls over other cell functions originally engineered to be IPTG-inducible.
Optogenetic control of mesenchymal cell fate towards precise bone regeneration.
Rationale: Spatial-temporal control of cell fate in vivo is of great importance for regenerative medicine. Currently, there remain no practical strategies to tune cell-fate spatial-temporally. Optogenetics is a biological technique that widely used to control cell activity in genetically defined neurons in a spatiotemporal-specific manner by light. In this study, optogenetics was repurposed for precise bone tissue regeneration. Methods: Lhx8 and BMP2 genes, which are considered as the master genes for mesenchymal stem cell proliferation and differentiation respectively, were recombined into a customized optogenetic control system. In the system, Lhx8 was constitutively expressed, while BMP2 together with shLhx8 expression was driven by blue light. Results: As expected, blue light induced BMP2 expression and inactivated Lhx8 expression in cells infected with the optogenetic control system. Optogenetic control of BMP2 and Lhx8 expression inversely regulates MSC fate in vitro. By animal study, we found that blue light could fine-tune the regeneration in vivo. Blue light illumination significantly promotes bone regeneration when the scaffold was loaded with MSCs infected with adeno-Lhx8, GI-Gal4DBD, LOV-VP16, and BMP2-shLhx8. Conclusions: Together, our study revealed that optogenetic control of the master genes for mesenchymal stem cell proliferation and differentiation would be such a candidate strategy for precise regenerative medicine.
Light-inducible flux control of triosephosphate isomerase on glycolysis in Escherichia coli.
An engineering tool for controlling flux distribution on metabolic pathways to an appropriate state is highly desirable in bio-production. An optogenetic switch, which regulates gene expression by light illumination is an attractive on/off switchable system, and is a promising way for flux control with an external stimulus. We demonstrated a light-inducible flux control between glycolysis and the methylglyoxal (MGO) pathway in Escherichia coli using a CcaS/CcaR system. CcaR is phosphorylated by green light and is dephosphorylated by red light. Phosphorylated CcaR induces gene expression under the cpcG2 promoter. The tpiA gene was expressed under the cpcG2 promoter in a genomic tpiA deletion strain. The strain was then cultured with glucose minimum medium under green or red light. We found that tpiA mRNA level under green light was four times higher than that under red light. The repression of tpiA expression led to a decrease in glycolytic flux, resulting in slower growth under red light (0.25 h-1 ) when compared to green light (0.37 h-1 ). The maximum extracellular MGO concentration under red light (0.2 mM) was higher than that under green light (0.05 mM). These phenotypes confirm that the MGO pathway flux was enhanced under red light. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Targeted cell ablation in zebrafish using optogenetic transcriptional control.
Cell ablation is a powerful method forelucidatingthe contributions of individual cell populations toembryonicdevelopment and tissue regeneration. Targeted cell lossin whole organisms has been typically achieved through expression of a cytotoxic or prodrug-activating gene productin the cell type of interest. This approach depends on the availability of tissue-specific promoters, and it does not allow further spatial selectivity within the promoter-defined region(s). To address this limitation, we have developedablative methodsthat combine genetically encoded toxins, thetissue specificity afforded by cis-regulatory elements,and the conditionalityof optogenetics.Using this integrative approach, we have ablated cellsin zebrafish embryoswith spatial and temporal precision.
Optogenetic control of Bacillus subtilis gene expression.
The Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis exhibits complex spatial and temporal gene expression signals. Although optogenetic tools are ideal for studying such processes, none has been engineered for this organism. Here, we port a cyanobacterial light sensor pathway comprising the green/red photoreversible two-component system CcaSR, two metabolic enzymes for production of the chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), and an output promoter to control transcription of a gene of interest into B. subtilis. Following an initial non-functional design, we optimize expression of pathway genes, enhance PCB production via a translational fusion of the biosynthetic enzymes, engineer a strong chimeric output promoter, and increase dynamic range with a miniaturized photosensor kinase. Our final design exhibits over 70-fold activation and rapid response dynamics, making it well-suited to studying a wide range of gene regulatory processes. In addition, the synthetic biology methods we develop to port this pathway should make B. subtilis easier to engineer in the future.
Noise-reducing optogenetic negative-feedback gene circuits in human cells.
Gene autorepression is widely present in nature and is also employed in synthetic biology, partly to reduce gene expression noise in cells. Optogenetic systems have recently been developed for controlling gene expression levels in mammalian cells, but most have utilized activator-based proteins, neglecting negative feedback except for in silico control. Here, we engineer optogenetic gene circuits into mammalian cells to achieve noise-reduction for precise gene expression control by genetic, in vitro negative feedback. We build a toolset of these noise-reducing Light-Inducible Tuner (LITer) gene circuits using the TetR repressor fused with a Tet-inhibiting peptide (TIP) or a degradation tag through the light-sensitive LOV2 protein domain. These LITers provide a range of nearly 4-fold gene expression control and up to 5-fold noise reduction from existing optogenetic systems. Moreover, we use the LITer gene circuit architecture to control gene expression of the cancer oncogene KRAS(G12V) and study its downstream effects through phospho-ERK levels and cellular proliferation. Overall, these novel LITer optogenetic platforms should enable precise spatiotemporal perturbations for studying multicellular phenotypes in developmental biology, oncology and other biomedical fields of research.
Optogenetic switch for controlling the central metabolic flux of Escherichia coli.
Dynamically controlling cellular metabolism can improve a cell's yield and productivity towards a target compound. However, the application of this strategy is currently limited by the availability of reversible metabolic switches. Unlike chemical inducers, light can readily be applied and removed from the medium multiple times without causing chemical changes. This makes light-inducible systems a potent tool to dynamically control cellular metabolism. Here we describe the construction of a light-inducible metabolic switch to regulate flux distribution between two glycolytic pathways, the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) and oxidative pentose phosphate (oxPP) pathways. This was achieved by using chromatic acclimation sensor/regulator (CcaSR) optogenetic system to control the expression of pgi, a metabolic gene which expression determines flux distribution between EMP and oxPP pathways. Control over these pathways may allow us to maximize Escherichia coli's yield on highly-reduced compounds such as mevalonate. Background pgi expression of the initial CcaSR construct was too high to significantly reduce pgi expression during the OFF-state. Therefore, we attenuated the system's output leakage by adjusting plasmid copy number and by tagging Pgi with ssRA protein degradation signal. Using our CcaSR-pgi ver.3, we could control EMP:oxPP flux ratio to 50:49 and 0.5:99 (of total glycolytic flux) by exposure to green and red light, respectively.
Optogenomic Interfaces: Bridging Biological Networks With the Electronic Digital World.
The development of optical nano-bio interfaces is a fundamental step toward connecting biological networks and traditional electronic computing systems. Compared to conventional chemical and electrical nano-bio interfaces, the use of light as a mediator enables new type of interfaces with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. In this paper, the state of the art and future research directions in optogenomic interfaces are discussed. Optogenomic interfaces are light-mediated nano-bio interfaces that allow the control of the genome, i.e., the genes and their interactions in the cell nucleus (and, thus, of all the cell functionalities) with (sub) cellular resolution and high temporal accuracy. Given its fundamental role in the process of cell development, the study is focused on the interactions with the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) gene and the integrative nuclear FGFR1 signaling (INFS) module in stem cells and in neuronal cells, whose control opens the door to transformative applications, including reconstructive medicine and cancer therapy. Three stages of optogenomic interfaces are described, ranging from already experimentally validated interfaces activating broad cellular responses and expressing individual genes to more advanced interfaces able to regulate and correct DNA topology, chromatin structure, and cellular development.
Optogenetic downregulation of protein levels with an ultrasensitive switch.
Optogenetic control of protein activity is a versatile technique to gain control over cellular processes, e.g. for biomedical and biotechnological applications. Among other techniques, the regulation of protein abundance by controlling either transcription or protein stability found common use as this controls the activity of any type of target protein. Here, we report modules of an improved variant of the photosensitive degron module and a light-sensitive transcription factor, which we compared to doxycycline-dependent transcriptional control. Given their modularity the combined control of synthesis and stability of a given target protein resulted in the synergistic down regulation of its abundance by light. This combined module exhibits very high switching ratios, profound downregulation of protein abundance at low light-fluxes as well as fast protein depletion kinetics. Overall, this synergistic optogenetic multistep control (SOMCo) module is easy to implement and results in a regulation of protein abundance superior to each individual component.
Optical induction of autophagy via Transcription factor EB (TFEB) reduces pathological tau in neurons.
Aggregation and accumulation of microtubule associated protein tau in neurons is major neuropathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related tauopathies. Attempts have been made to promote clearance of pathological tau (p-Tau) from neurons via autophagy. Over expression of transcription factor EB (TFEB), has shown to clear pTau from neurons via autophagy. However, sustained TFEB activation and/or autophagy can create burden on cellular bioenergetics and can be deleterious. Thus, we engineered a minimally invasive optical system that could transiently alter autophagic flux. We optimized and testedan optogenetic gene expression system derived from apreviouslyengineered bacterial transcription factor, EL222. For the first time, our group utilized this system not only to spatial-temporally control nuclear TFEB expression, we also show light-induced TFEB has the capacity to reduce p-Tau burden in AD patient-derived human iPSC-neurons. Together, these results suggest that optically-regulatable gene expression of TFEB unlocks opto-therapeutics to treat AD and other dementias.
Optoregulated Drug Release from an Engineered Living Material: Self-Replenishing Drug Depots for Long-Term, Light-Regulated Delivery.
On-demand and long-term delivery of drugs are common requirements in many therapeutic applications, not easy to be solved with available smart polymers for drug encapsulation. This work presents a fundamentally different concept to address such scenarios using a self-replenishing and optogenetically controlled living material. It consists of a hydrogel containing an active endotoxin-free Escherichia coli strain. The bacteria are metabolically and optogenetically engineered to secrete the antimicrobial and antitumoral drug deoxyviolacein in a light-regulated manner. The permeable hydrogel matrix sustains a viable and functional bacterial population and permits diffusion and delivery of the synthesized drug to the surrounding medium at quantities regulated by light dose. Using a focused light beam, the site for synthesis and delivery of the drug can be freely defined. The living material is shown to maintain considerable levels of drug production and release for at least 42 days. These results prove the potential and flexibility that living materials containing engineered bacteria can offer for advanced therapeutic applications.
High-resolution Patterned Biofilm Deposition Using pDawn-Ag43.
Spatial structure and patterning play an important role in bacterial biofilms. Here we demonstrate an accessible method for culturing E. coli biofilms into arbitrary spatial patterns at high spatial resolution. The technique uses a genetically encoded optogenetic construct-pDawn-Ag43-that couples biofilm formation in E. coli to optical stimulation by blue light. We detail the process for transforming E. coli with pDawn-Ag43, preparing the required optical set-up, and the protocol for culturing patterned biofilms using pDawn-Ag43 bacteria. Using this protocol, biofilms with a spatial resolution below 25 μm can be patterned on various surfaces and environments, including enclosed chambers, without requiring microfabrication, clean-room facilities, or surface pretreatment. The technique is convenient and appropriate for use in applications that investigate the effect of biofilm structure, providing tunable control over biofilm patterning. More broadly, it also has potential applications in biomaterials, education, and bio-art.
A Single-Component Optogenetic System Allows Stringent Switch of Gene Expression in Yeast Cells.
Light is a highly attractive actuator that allows spatiotemporal control of diverse cellular activities. In this study, we developed a single-component light-switchable gene expression system for yeast cells, termed yLightOn system. The yLightOn system is independent of exogenous cofactors, and exhibits more than a 500-fold ON/OFF ratio, extremely low leakage, fast expression kinetics, and high spatial resolution. We demonstrated the usefulness of the yLightOn system in regulating cell growth and cell cycle by stringently controlling the expression of His3 and ΔN Sic1 genes, respectively. Furthermore, we engineered a bidirectional expression module that allows the simultaneous control of the expression of two genes by light. With ClpX and ClpP as the reporters, the fast, quantitative, and spatially specific degradation of ssrA-tagged protein was observed. We suggest that this single-component optogenetic system will be immensely helpful in understanding cellular gene regulatory networks and in the design of robust genetic circuits for synthetic biology.
Spatiotemporal control of zebrafish (Danio rerio) gene expression using a light-activated CRISPR activation system.
CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) system is the convenient tool for targeted-gene activation, it has been developed and combined with a lighting-based system that can control transcription initiation spatially and temporally by utilizing photoreceptor derived from plant Arabidopsis thaliana. A blue light photoreceptor the Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), and its binding partner CIB1 will dimerize by exposure to the blue light and it has been applied to human cells. However, the application of a combination of these two systems to zebrafish cell is still not explored. We performed zebrafish gene activation using p65 and VP64 activators in the zebrafish cells (ZF4). Our study demonstrated that we have successfully controlled the transcription level of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes using blue light-activated CRISPR activation system. The result showed that using this system, mRNA level expression of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes increased after irradiated under blue light for several hours and significantly different to those which treated in the dark.
Fungal Light-Oxygen-Voltage Domains for Optogenetic Control of Gene Expression and Flocculation in Yeast.
Optogenetic switches permit accurate control of gene expression upon light stimulation. These synthetic switches have become a powerful tool for gene regulation, allowing modulation of customized phenotypes, overcoming the obstacles of chemical inducers, and replacing their use by an inexpensive resource: light. In this work, we implemented FUN-LOV, an optogenetic switch based on the photon-regulated interaction of WC-1 and VVD, two LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) blue-light photoreceptors from the fungus Neurospora crassa When tested in yeast, FUN-LOV yields light-controlled gene expression with exquisite temporal resolution and a broad dynamic range of over 1,300-fold, as measured by a luciferase reporter. We also tested the FUN-LOV switch for heterologous protein expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, where Western blot analysis confirmed strong induction upon light stimulation, surpassing by 2.5 times the levels achieved with a classic GAL4/galactose chemical-inducible system. Additionally, we utilized FUN-LOV to control the ability of yeast cells to flocculate. Light-controlled expression of the flocculin-encoding gene FLO1, by the FUN-LOV switch, yielded flocculation in light (FIL), whereas the light-controlled expression of the corepressor TUP1 provided flocculation in darkness (FID). Altogether, the results reveal the potential of the FUN-LOV optogenetic switch to control two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes such as heterologous protein expression and flocculation, paving the road for the engineering of new yeast strains for industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV's ability to accurately manipulate gene expression, with a high temporal dynamic range, can be exploited in the analysis of diverse biological processes in various organisms.IMPORTANCE Optogenetic switches are molecular devices which allow the control of different cellular processes by light, such as gene expression, providing a versatile alternative to chemical inducers. Here, we report a novel optogenetic switch (FUN-LOV) based on the LOV domain interaction of two blue-light photoreceptors (WC-1 and VVD) from the fungus N. crassa In yeast cells, FUN-LOV allowed tight regulation of gene expression, with low background in darkness and a highly dynamic and potent control by light. We used FUN-LOV to optogenetically manipulate, in yeast, two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes, heterologous protein expression and flocculation, resulting in strains with potential industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV can be implemented in diverse biological platforms to orthogonally control a multitude of cellular processes.
A light-controlled cell lysis system in bacteria.
Intracellular products (e.g., insulin), which are obtained through cell lysis, take up a big share of the biotech industry. It is often time-consuming, laborious, and environment-unfriendly to disrupt bacterial cells with traditional methods. In this study, we developed a molecular device for controlling cell lysis with light. We showed that intracellular expression of a single lysin protein was sufficient for efficient bacterial cell lysis. By placing the lysin-encoding gene under the control of an improved light-controlled system, we successfully controlled cell lysis by switching on/off light: OD600 of the Escherichia coli cell culture was decreased by twofold when the light-controlled system was activated under dark condition. We anticipate that our work would not only pave the way for cell lysis through a convenient biological way in fermentation industry, but also provide a paradigm for applying the light-controlled system in other fields of biotech industry.
Optogenetic regulation of engineered cellular metabolism for microbial chemical production.
The optimization of engineered metabolic pathways requires careful control over the levels and timing of metabolic enzyme expression. Optogenetic tools are ideal for achieving such precise control, as light can be applied and removed instantly without complex media changes. Here we show that light-controlled transcription can be used to enhance the biosynthesis of valuable products in engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We introduce new optogenetic circuits to shift cells from a light-induced growth phase to a darkness-induced production phase, which allows us to control fermentation with only light. Furthermore, optogenetic control of engineered pathways enables a new mode of bioreactor operation using periodic light pulses to tune enzyme expression during the production phase of fermentation to increase yields. Using these advances, we control the mitochondrial isobutanol pathway to produce up to 8.49 ± 0.31 g l-1of isobutanol and 2.38 ± 0.06 g l-1of 2-methyl-1-butanol micro-aerobically from glucose. These results make a compelling case for the application of optogenetics to metabolic engineering for the production of valuable products.
Biofilm Lithography enables high-resolution cell patterning via optogenetic adhesin expression.
Bacterial biofilms represent a promising opportunity for engineering of microbial communities. However, our ability to control spatial structure in biofilms remains limited. Here we engineerEscherichia coliwith a light-activated transcriptional promoter (pDawn) to optically regulate expression of an adhesin gene (Ag43). When illuminated with patterned blue light, long-term viable biofilms with spatial resolution down to 25 μm can be formed on a variety of substrates and inside enclosed culture chambers without the need for surface pretreatment. A biophysical model suggests that the patterning mechanism involves stimulation of transiently surface-adsorbed cells, lending evidence to a previously proposed role of adhesin expression during natural biofilm maturation. Overall, this tool-termed "Biofilm Lithography"-has distinct advantages over existing cell-depositing/patterning methods and provides the ability to grow structured biofilms, with applications toward an improved understanding of natural biofilm communities, as well as the engineering of living biomaterials and bottom-up approaches to microbial consortia design.
Light induced expression of β-glucosidase in Escherichia coli with autolysis of cell.
β-Glucosidase has attracted substantial attention in the scientific community because of its pivotal role in cellulose degradation, glycoside transformation and many other industrial processes. However, the tedious and costly expression and purification procedures have severely thwarted the industrial applications of β-glucosidase. Thus development of new strategies to express β-glucosidases with cost-effective and simple procedure to meet the increasing demands on enzymes for biocatalysis is of paramount importance.
Optogenetic regulation of artificial microRNA improves H2 production in green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an ideal model organism not only for the study of basic metabolic processes in both plants and animals but also the production of biofuels including hydrogen. Transgenic analysis of C. reinhardtii is now well established and very convenient, but inducible exogenous gene expression systems remain under-studied. The most commonly used heat shock-inducible system has serious effects on algal cell growth and is difficult and costly to control in large-scale culture. Previous studies of hydrogen photoproduction in Chlamydomonas also use this heat-inducible system to activate target gene transcription and hydrogen synthesis.
Optogenetics Manipulation Enables Prevention of Biofilm Formation of Engineered Pseudomonas aeruginosa on Surfaces.
Synthetic biologists have attempted to solve real-world problems, such as those of bacterial biofilms, that are involved in the pathogenesis of many clinical infections and difficult to eliminate. To address this, we employed a blue light responding system and integrated it into the chromosomes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. With making rational adaptions and improvements of the light-activated system, we provided a robust and convenient means to spatiotemporally control gene expression and manipulate biological processes with minimal perturbation in P. aeruginosa. It increased the light-induced gene expression up to 20-fold. Moreover, we deliberately introduced a functional protein gene PA2133 containing an EAL domain to degrade c-di-GMP into the modified system, and showed that the optimally engineered optogenetic tool inhibited the formation of P. aeruginosa biofilms through the induction of blue light, resulting in much sparser and thinner biofilms. Our approach establishes a methodology for leveraging the tools of synthetic biology to guide biofilm formation and engineer biofilm patterns with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the synthetic optogenetic system may provide a promising strategy that could be applied to control and fight biofilms.
Optimized light-inducible transcription in mammalian cells using Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box1/GIGANTEA and CRY2/CIB1.
Light-inducible systems allow spatiotemporal control of a variety of biological activities. Here, we report newly optimized optogenetic tools to induce transcription with light in mammalian cells, using the Arabidopsis photoreceptor Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box 1 (FKF1) and its binding partner GIGANTEA (GI) as well as CRY2/CIB1. By combining the mutagenesis of FKF1 with the optimization of a split FKF1/GI dimerized Gal4-VP16 transcriptional system, we identified constructs enabling significantly improved light-triggered transcriptional induction. In addition, we have improved the CRY2/CIB1-based light-inducible transcription with split construct optimization. The improvements regarding the FKF1/GI- and CRY2/CIB1-based systems will be widely applicable for the light-dependent control of transcription in mammalian cells.
An Engineered Optogenetic Switch for Spatiotemporal Control of Gene Expression, Cell Differentiation, and Tissue Morphogenesis.
The precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression, cell differentiation, and tissue morphogenesis has widespread application in regenerative medicine and the study of tissue development. In this work, we applied optogenetics to control cell differentiation and new tissue formation. Specifically, we engineered an optogenetic "on" switch that provides permanent transgene expression following a transient dose of blue light illumination. To demonstrate its utility in controlling cell differentiation and reprogramming, we incorporated an engineered form of the master myogenic factor MyoD into this system in multipotent cells. Illumination of cells with blue light activated myogenic differentiation, including upregulation of myogenic markers and fusion into multinucleated myotubes. Cell differentiation was spatially patterned by illumination of cell cultures through a photomask. To demonstrate the application of the system to controlling in vivo tissue development, the light inducible switch was used to control the expression of VEGF and angiopoietin-1, which induced angiogenic sprouting in a mouse dorsal window chamber model. Live intravital microscopy showed illumination-dependent increases in blood-perfused microvasculature. This optogenetic switch is broadly useful for applications in which sustained and patterned gene expression is desired following transient induction, including tissue engineering, gene therapy, synthetic biology, and fundamental studies of morphogenesis.
A calcium- and light-gated switch to induce gene expression in activated neurons.
Despite recent advances in optogenetics, it remains challenging to manipulate gene expression in specific populations of neurons. We present a dual-protein switch system, Cal-Light, that translates neuronal-activity-mediated calcium signaling into gene expression in a light-dependent manner. In cultured neurons and brain slices, we show that Cal-Light drives expression of the reporter EGFP with high spatiotemporal resolution only in the presence of both blue light and calcium. Delivery of the Cal-Light components to the motor cortex of mice by viral vectors labels a subset of excitatory and inhibitory neurons related to learned lever-pressing behavior. By using Cal-Light to drive expression of the inhibitory receptor halorhodopsin (eNpHR), which responds to yellow light, we temporarily inhibit the lever-pressing behavior, confirming that the labeled neurons mediate the behavior. Thus, Cal-Light enables dissection of neural circuits underlying complex mammalian behaviors with high spatiotemporal precision.
A light- and calcium-gated transcription factor for imaging and manipulating activated neurons.
Activity remodels neurons, altering their molecular, structural, and electrical characteristics. To enable the selective characterization and manipulation of these neurons, we present FLARE, an engineered transcription factor that drives expression of fluorescent proteins, opsins, and other genetically encoded tools only in the subset of neurons that experienced activity during a user-defined time window. FLARE senses the coincidence of elevated cytosolic calcium and externally applied blue light, which together produce translocation of a membrane-anchored transcription factor to the nucleus to drive expression of any transgene. In cultured rat neurons, FLARE gives a light-to-dark signal ratio of 120 and a high- to low-calcium signal ratio of 10 after 10 min of stimulation. Opsin expression permitted functional manipulation of FLARE-marked neurons. In adult mice, FLARE also gave light- and motor-activity-dependent transcription in the cortex. Due to its modular design, minute-scale temporal resolution, and minimal dark-state leak, FLARE should be useful for the study of activity-dependent processes in neurons and other cells that signal with calcium.