Optogenetic apoptosis: light-triggered cell death.
Abstract: An optogenetic Bax has been designed that facilitates light-induced apoptosis. We demonstrate that mitochondrial recruitment of a genetically encoded light-responsive Bax results in the release of mitochondrial proteins, downstream caspase-3 cleavage, changes in cellular morphology, and ultimately cell death. Mutagenesis of a key phosphorylatable residue or modification of the C-terminus mitigates background (dark) levels of apoptosis that result from Bax overexpression. The mechanism of optogenetic Bax-mediated apoptosis was explored using a series of small molecules known to interfere with various steps in programmed cell death. Optogenetic Bax appears to form a mitochondrial apoptosis-induced channel analogous to that of endogenous Bax.