A single-component light sensor system allows highly tunable and direct activation of gene expression in bacterial cells.
Abstract: Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behaviour with precise spatial and temporal resolution. Among a variety of bacterial light-switchable gene expression systems, single-component systems consisting of single transcription factors would be more useful due to the advantages of speed, simplicity, and versatility. In the present study, we developed a single-component light-activated bacterial gene expression system (eLightOn) based on a novel LOV domain from Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RsLOV). The eLightOn system showed significant improvements over the existing single-component bacterial light-activated expression systems, with benefits including a high ON/OFF ratio of >500-fold, a high activation level, fast activation kinetics, and/or good adaptability. Additionally, the induction characteristics, including regulatory windows, activation kinetics and light sensitivities, were highly tunable by altering the expression level of LexRO. We demonstrated the usefulness of the eLightOn system in regulating cell division and swimming by controlling the expression of the FtsZ and CheZ genes, respectively, as well as constructing synthetic Boolean logic gates using light and arabinose as the two inputs. Taken together, our data indicate that the eLightOn system is a robust and highly tunable tool for quantitative and spatiotemporal control of bacterial gene expression.