A Phytochrome Sensory Domain Permits Receptor Activation by Red Light.
Abstract: Optogenetics and photopharmacology enable the spatio-temporal control of cell and animal behavior by light. Although red light offers deep-tissue penetration and minimal phototoxicity, very few red-light-sensitive optogenetic methods are currently available. We have now developed a red-light-induced homodimerization domain. We first showed that an optimized sensory domain of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 can be expressed robustly and without cytotoxicity in human cells. We then applied this domain to induce the dimerization of two receptor tyrosine kinases-the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 and the neurotrophin receptor trkB. This new optogenetic method was then used to activate the MAPK/ERK pathway non-invasively in mammalian tissue and in multicolor cell-signaling experiments. The light-controlled dimerizer and red-light-activated receptor tyrosine kinases will prove useful to regulate a variety of cellular processes with light.