Showing 1 - 12 of 12 results
Cross-TCR Antagonism Revealed by Optogenetically Tuning the Half-Life of the TCR Ligand Binding.
Activation of T cells by agonistic peptide-MHC can be inhibited by antagonistic ones. However, the exact mechanism remains elusive. We used Jurkat cells expressing two different TCRs and tested whether stimulation of the endogenous TCR by agonistic anti-Vβ8 antibodies can be modulated by ligand-binding to the second, optogenetic TCR. The latter TCR uses phytochrome B tetramers (PhyBt) as ligand, the binding half-life of which can be altered by light. We show that this half-life determined whether the PhyBt acted as a second agonist (long half-life), an antagonist (short half-life) or did not have any influence (very short half-life) on calcium influx. A mathematical model of this cross-antagonism shows that a mechanism based on an inhibitory signal generated by early recruitment of a phosphatase and an activating signal by later recruitment of a kinase explains the data.
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Optogenetic control of gene expression in plants in the presence of ambient white light.
Optogenetics is the genetic approach for controlling cellular processes with light. It provides spatiotemporal, quantitative and reversible control over biological signaling and metabolic processes, overcoming limitations of chemically inducible systems. However, optogenetics lags in plant research because ambient light required for growth leads to undesired system activation. We solved this issue by developing plant usable light-switch elements (PULSE), an optogenetic tool for reversibly controlling gene expression in plants under ambient light. PULSE combines a blue-light-regulated repressor with a red-light-inducible switch. Gene expression is only activated under red light and remains inactive under white light or in darkness. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we characterized PULSE in protoplasts and achieved high induction rates, and we combined it with CRISPR-Cas9-based technologies to target synthetic signaling and developmental pathways. We applied PULSE to control immune responses in plant leaves and generated Arabidopsis transgenic plants. PULSE opens broad experimental avenues in plant research and biotechnology.
Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Tunable Mechanical Properties.
Interrogation and control of cellular fate and function using optogenetics is providing revolutionary insights into biology. Optogenetic control of cells is achieved by coupling genetically encoded photoreceptors to cellular effectors and enables unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Here, a fast and reversibly switchable photoreceptor is used to tune the mechanical properties of polymer materials in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose- and space-controlled manner. By integrating engineered cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 into a poly(ethylene glycol) matrix, hydrogel materials responsive to light in the cell-compatible red/far-red spectrum are synthesized. These materials are applied to study in human mesenchymal stem cells how different mechanosignaling pathways respond to changing mechanical environments and to control the migration of primary immune cells in 3D. This optogenetics-inspired matrix allows fundamental questions of how cells react to dynamic mechanical environments to be addressed. Further, remote control of such matrices can create new opportunities for tissue engineering or provide a basis for optically stimulated drug depots.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
A green light-responsive system for the control of transgene expression in mammalian and plant cells.
The ever-increasing complexity of synthetic gene networks and applications of synthetic biology requires precise and orthogonal gene expression systems. Of particular interest are systems responsive to light as they enable the control of gene expression dynamics with unprecedented resolution in space and time. While broadly used in mammalian backgrounds, however, optogenetic approaches in plant cells are still limited due to interference of the activating light with endogenous photoreceptors. Here, we describe the development of the first synthetic light-responsive system for the targeted control of gene expression in mammalian and plant cells that responds to the green range of the light spectrum in which plant photoreceptors have minimal activity. We first engineered a system based on the light-sensitive bacterial transcription factor CarH6 and its cognate DNA operator sequence CarO from Thermus thermophilus to control gene expression in mammalian cells. The system was functional in various mammalian cell lines, showing high induction (up to 350-fold) along with low leakiness, as well as high reversibility. We quantitatively described the systems characteristics by the development and experimental validation of a mathematical model. Finally, we transferred the system into A. thaliana protoplasts and demonstrated gene expression in response to green light. We expect that this system will provide new opportunities in applications based on synthetic gene networks and will open up perspectives for optogenetic studies in mammalian and plant cells.
Synthetic Biology Makes Polymer Materials Count.
Synthetic biology applies engineering concepts to build cellular systems that perceive and process information. This is achieved by assembling genetic modules according to engineering design principles. Recent advance in the field has contributed optogenetic switches for controlling diverse biological functions in response to light. Here, the concept is introduced to apply synthetic biology switches and design principles for the synthesis of multi-input-processing materials. This is exemplified by the synthesis of a materials system that counts light pulses. Guided by a quantitative mathematical model, functional synthetic biology-derived modules are combined into a polymer framework resulting in a biohybrid materials system that releases distinct output molecules specific to the number of input light pulses detected. Further demonstration of modular extension yields a light pulse-counting materials system to sequentially release different enzymes catalyzing a multistep biochemical reaction. The resulting smart materials systems can provide novel solutions as integrated sensors and actuators with broad perspectives in fundamental and applied research.
Orthogonal optogenetic triple-gene control in Mammalian cells.
Optogenetic gene switches allow gene expression control at an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Recently, light-responsive transgene expression systems that are activated by UV-B, blue, or red light have been developed. These systems perform well on their own, but their integration into genetic networks has been hampered by the overlapping absorbance spectra of the photoreceptors. We identified a lack of orthogonality between UV-B and blue light-controlled gene expression as the bottleneck and employed a model-based approach that identified the need for a blue light-responsive gene switch that is insensitive to low-intensity light. Based on this prediction, we developed a blue light-responsive and rapidly reversible expression system. Finally, we employed this expression system to demonstrate orthogonality between UV-B, blue, and red/far-red light-responsive gene switches in a single mammalian cell culture. We expect this approach to enable the spatiotemporal control of gene networks and to expand the applications of optogenetics in synthetic biology.
Synthesis of phycocyanobilin in mammalian cells.
The chromophore 3-Z phycocyanobilin (PCB, (2R,3Z)-8,12-bis(2-carboxyethyl)-18-ethyl-3-ethylidene-2,7,13,17-tetramethyl-2,3-dihydrobilin-1,19(21H,24H)-dione) mediates red and far-red light perception in natural and synthetic biological systems. Here we describe a PCB synthesis strategy in mammalian cells. We optimize the production by co-localizing the biocatalysts to the substrate source, by coordinating the availability of the biocatalysts and by reducing the degradation of the reaction product. We show that the resulting PCB levels of 2 μM are sufficient to sustain the functionality of red light-responsive optogenetic tools suitable for the light-inducible control of gene expression in mammalian cells.
Multi-chromatic control of mammalian gene expression and signaling.
The emergence and future of mammalian synthetic biology depends on technologies for orchestrating and custom tailoring complementary gene expression and signaling processes in a predictable manner. Here, we demonstrate for the first time multi-chromatic expression control in mammalian cells by differentially inducing up to three genes in a single cell culture in response to light of different wavelengths. To this end, we developed an ultraviolet B (UVB)-inducible expression system by designing a UVB-responsive split transcription factor based on the Arabidopsis thaliana UVB receptor UVR8 and the WD40 domain of COP1. The system allowed high (up to 800-fold) UVB-induced gene expression in human, monkey, hamster and mouse cells. Based on a quantitative model, we determined critical system parameters. By combining this UVB-responsive system with blue and red light-inducible gene control technology, we demonstrate multi-chromatic multi-gene control by differentially expressing three genes in a single cell culture in mammalian cells, and we apply this system for the multi-chromatic control of angiogenic signaling processes. This portfolio of optogenetic tools enables the design and implementation of synthetic biological networks showing unmatched spatiotemporal precision for future research and biomedical applications.
A red/far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch to control gene expression in mammalian cells.
Growth and differentiation of multicellular systems is orchestrated by spatially restricted gene expression programs in specialized subpopulations. The targeted manipulation of such processes by synthetic tools with high-spatiotemporal resolution could, therefore, enable a deepened understanding of developmental processes and open new opportunities in tissue engineering. Here, we describe the first red/far-red light-triggered gene switch for mammalian cells for achieving gene expression control in time and space. We show that the system can reversibly be toggled between stable on- and off-states using short light pulses at 660 or 740 nm. Red light-induced gene expression was shown to correlate with the applied photon number and was compatible with different mammalian cell lines, including human primary cells. The light-induced expression kinetics were quantitatively analyzed by a mathematical model. We apply the system for the spatially controlled engineering of angiogenesis in chicken embryos. The system's performance combined with cell- and tissue-compatible regulating red light will enable unprecedented spatiotemporally controlled molecular interventions in mammalian cells, tissues and organisms.
An integrative model for phytochrome B mediated photomorphogenesis: from protein dynamics to physiology.
Plants have evolved various sophisticated mechanisms to respond and adapt to changes of abiotic factors in their natural environment. Light is one of the most important abiotic environmental factors and it regulates plant growth and development throughout their entire life cycle. To monitor the intensity and spectral composition of the ambient light environment, plants have evolved multiple photoreceptors, including the red/far-red light-sensing phytochromes.