Showing 1 - 5 of 5 results
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.
B12-dependent photoreceptor protein as an emerging tool for materials synthetic biology.
Controlling biomolecular interactions with light has gained traction among biomedical researchers due to its high spatiotemporal precision. Although a variety of photoresponsive chemical moieties are readily available thanks to the efforts made by chemists, genetically encoded photoswitches, also known as optogenetic tools, that are compatible with complex biological systems remain highly desirable. Recently, detailed mechanistic studies of the B12-dependent bacterial photoreceptor CarH have provided researchers with some new approaches to materials synthetic biology. Further development of this emerging molecular tool will continue to benefit future materials science and optogenetics.
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.
Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration.
Synthetic hydrogels are widely used as biomimetic in vitro model systems to understand how cells respond to complex microenvironments. The mechanical properties of hydrogels are deterministic for many cellular behaviors, including cell migration, spreading, and differentiation. However, it remains a major challenge to engineer hydrogels that recapture the dynamic mechanical properties of native extracellular matrices. Here, we provide a new hydrogel platform with spatiotemporally tunable mechanical properties to assay and define cellular behaviors under light. The change in the mechanical properties of the hydrogel is effected by a photo-induced switch of the cross-linker fluorescent protein, Dronpa145N, between the tetrameric and monomeric states, which causes minimal changes to the chemical properties of the hydrogel. The mechanical properties can be rapidly and reversibly tuned for multiple cycles using visible light, as confirmed by rheological measurements and atomic force microscopybased nano-indentation. We further demonstrated real-time and reversible modulation of cell migration behaviors on the hydrogels through photo-induced stiffness switching, with minimal invasion to the cultured cells. Hydrogels with a programmable mechanical history and a spatially defined mechanical hierarchy might serve as an ideal model system to better understand complex cellular functions.
B12-dependent photoresponsive protein hydrogels for controlled stem cell/protein release.
Thanks to the precise control over their structural and functional properties, genetically engineered protein-based hydrogels have emerged as a promising candidate for biomedical applications. Given the growing demand for creating stimuli-responsive "smart" hydrogels, here we show the synthesis of entirely protein-based photoresponsive hydrogels by covalently polymerizing the adenosylcobalamin (AdoB12)-dependent photoreceptor C-terminal adenosylcobalamin binding domain (CarHC) proteins using genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher chemistry under mild physiological conditions. The resulting hydrogel composed of physically self-assembled CarHC polymers exhibited a rapid gel-sol transition on light exposure, which enabled the facile release/recovery of 3T3 fibroblasts and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) from 3D cultures while maintaining their viability. A covalently cross-linked CarHC hydrogel was also designed to encapsulate and release bulky globular proteins, such as mCherry, in a light-dependent manner. The direct assembly of stimuli-responsive proteins into hydrogels represents a versatile strategy for designing dynamically tunable materials.