Showing 1 - 18 of 18 results
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
Optical control of ERK and AKT signaling promotes axon regeneration and functional recovery of PNS and CNS in Drosophila.
Neuroregeneration is a dynamic process synergizing the functional outcomes of multiple signaling circuits. Channelrhodopsin-based optogenetics shows the feasibility of stimulating neural repair but does not pin down specific signaling cascades. Here, we utilized optogenetic systems, optoRaf and optoAKT, to delineate the contribution of the ERK and AKT signaling pathways to neuroregeneration in live Drosophila larvae. We showed that optoRaf or optoAKT activation not only enhanced axon regeneration in both regeneration-competent and -incompetent sensory neurons in the peripheral nervous system but also allowed temporal tuning and proper guidance of axon regrowth. Furthermore, optoRaf and optoAKT differ in their signaling kinetics during regeneration, showing a gated versus graded response, respectively. Importantly in the central nervous system, their activation promotes axon regrowth and functional recovery of the thermonociceptive behavior. We conclude that non-neuronal optogenetics target damaged neurons and signaling subcircuits, providing a novel strategy in the intervention of neural damage with improved precision.
Optogenetically Controlled TrkA Activity Improves the Regenerative Capacity of Hair-Follicle-Derived Stem Cells to Differentiate into Neurons and Glia.
Hair-follicle-derived stem cells (HSCs) originating from the bulge region of the mouse vibrissa hair follicle are able to differentiate into neuronal and glial lineage cells. The tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA) receptor that is expressed on these cells plays key roles in mediating the survival and differentiation of neural progenitors as well as in the regulation of the growth and regeneration of different neural systems. In this study, the OptoTrkA system is introduced, which is able to stimulate TrkA activity via blue-light illumination in HSCs. This allows to determine whether TrkA signaling is capable of influencing the proliferation, migration, and neural differentiation of these somatic stem cells. It is found that OptoTrkA is able to activate downstream molecules such as ERK and AKT with blue-light illumination, and subsequently able to terminate this kinase activity in the dark. HSCs with OptoTrkA activity show an increased ability for proliferation and migration and also exhibited accelerated neuronal and glial cell differentiation. These findings suggest that the precise control of TrkA activity using optogenetic tools is a viable strategy for the regeneration of neurons from HSCs, and also provides a novel insight into the clinical application of optogenetic tools in cell-transplantation therapy.
Syntaxin Clustering and Optogenetic Control for Synaptic Membrane Fusion.
Membrane fusion during synaptic transmission mediates the trafficking of chemical signals and neuronal communication. The fast kinetics of membrane fusion on the order of millisecond is precisely regulated by the assembly of SNAREs and accessory proteins. It is believed that the formation of the SNARE complex is a key step during membrane fusion. Little is known, however, about the molecular machinery that mediates the formation of a large pre-fusion complex, including multiple SNAREs and accessory proteins. Syntaxin, a transmembrane protein on the plasma membrane, has been observed to undergo oligomerization to form clusters. Whether this clustering plays a critical role in membrane fusion is poorly understood in live cells. Optogenetics is an emerging biotechnology armed with the capacity to precisely modulate protein-protein interaction in time and space. Here, we propose an experimental scheme that combines optogenetics with single-vesicle membrane fusion, aiming to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which the syntaxin cluster regulates membrane fusion. We envision that newly developed optogenetic tools could facilitate the mechanistic understanding of synaptic transmission in live cells and animals.
Early But Not Delayed Optogenetic RAF Activation Promotes Astrocytogenesis in Mouse Neural Progenitors.
The RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway promotes gliogenesis but the kinetic role of RAF1, a key RAF kinase, in the induction of astrocytogenesis remains to be elucidated. To address this challenge, we determine the temporal functional outcome of RAF1 during mouse neural progenitor cell differentiation using an optogenetic RAF1 system (OptoRAF1). OptoRAF1 allows for reversible activation of the RAF/MEK/ERK pathway via plasma membrane recruitment of RAF1 based on blue light-sensitive protein dimerizer CRY2/CIB1. We found that early light-induced OptoRAF1 activation in neural progenitor cells promotes cell proliferation and increased expression of glial markers and glia-enriched genes. However, delayed OptoRAF1 activation in differentiated neural progenitor had little effect on glia marker expression, suggesting that RAF1 is required to promote astrocytogenesis only within a short time window. In addition, activation of OptoRAF1 did not have a significant effect on neurogenesis, but was able to promote neuronal neurite growth.
A Generalizable Optogenetic Strategy to Regulate Receptor Tyrosine Kinases during Vertebrate Embryonic Development.
Ligand-independent activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) allows for dissecting out the receptor-specific signaling outcomes from the pleiotropic effects of the ligands. In this regard, RTK intracellular domains (ICD) are of interest due to their ability to recapitulate signaling activity in a ligand-independent manner when fused to chemical and optical dimerizing domains. A common strategy for synthetic activation of RTKs involves membrane tethering of dimerizer-RTK ICD fusions. Depending on the intrinsic signaling capacity, however, this approach could entail undesirable baseline signaling activity in the absence of stimulus, thereby diminishing the system's sensitivity. Here, we observed toxicity in early Xenopus laevis embryos when using such a conventional optogenetic design for the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR). To surpass this challenge, we developed a cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation approach, where FGFR ICD is recruited from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane by light, followed by its subsequent activation via homo-association. This strategy results in the optical activation of FGFR with low background activity and high sensitivity, which allows for the light-mediated formation of ectopic tail-like structure in developing Xenopus laevis embryos. We further generalized this strategy by developing optogenetic platforms to control three neurotrophic tropomyosin receptor kinases, TrkA, TrkB, and TrkC. We envision that these ligand-independent optogenetic RTKs will provide useful toolsets for the delineation of signaling sub-circuits in developing vertebrate embryos.
Repurposing protein degradation for optogenetic modulation of protein activities.
Non-neuronal optogenetic approaches empower precise regulation of protein dynamics in live cells but often require target-specific protein engineering. To address this challenge, we developed a generalizable light-modulated protein stabilization system (GLIMPSe) to control intracellular protein level independent of its functionality. We applied GLIMPSe to control two distinct classes of proteins: mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 3 (MKP3), a negative regulator of the extracellu-lar signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, as well as a constitutively active form of MEK (CA MEK), a positive regulator of the same pathway. Kinetics study showed that light-induced protein stabilization could be achieved within 30 minutes of blue light stimulation. GLIMPSe enables target-independent optogenetic control of protein activities and therefore minimizes the systematic variation embedded within different photoactivatable proteins. Overall, GLIMPSe promises to achieve light-mediated post-translational stabilization of a wide array of target proteins in live cells.
Reversible Optogenetic Control of Growth Factor Signaling During Cell Differentiation and Vertebrate Embryonic Development.
To decipher the kinetic regulation of growth factor signaling outcomes, I will introduce our recently developed non-neuronal optogenetic strategies that enable reversible control of growth factor signaling during cell differentiation and embryonic development.
Optogenetic Delineation of Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Subcircuits in PC12 Cell Differentiation.
Nerve growth factor elicits signaling outcomes by interacting with both its high-affinity receptor, TrkA, and its low-affinity receptor, p75NTR. Although these two receptors can regulate distinct cellular outcomes, they both activate the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway upon nerve growth factor stimulation. To delineate TrkA subcircuits in PC12 cell differentiation, we developed an optogenetic system whereby light was used to specifically activate TrkA signaling in the absence of nerve growth factor. By using tyrosine mutants of the optogenetic TrkA in combination with pathway-specific pharmacological inhibition, we find that Y490 and Y785 each contributes to PC12 cell differentiation through the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway in an additive manner. Optogenetic activation of TrkA eliminates the confounding effect of p75NTR and other potential off-target effects of the ligand. This approach can be generalized for the mechanistic study of other receptor-mediated signaling pathways.
Applications of optobiology in intact cells and multi-cellular organisms.
Temporal kinetics and spatial coordination of signal transduction in cells are vital for cell fate determination. Tools that allow for precise modulation of spatiotemporal regulation of intracellular signaling in intact cells and multicellular organisms remain limited. The emerging optobiological approaches use light to control protein-protein interaction in live cells and multicellular organisms. Optobiology empowers light-mediated control of diverse cellular and organismal functions such as neuronal activity, intracellular signaling, gene expression, cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. In this review, we highlight recent developments in optobiology, focusing on new features of second-generation optobiological tools. We cover applications of optobiological approaches in the study of cellular and organismal functions, discuss current challenges, and present our outlook. Taking advantage of the high spatial and temporal resolution of light control, optobiology promises to provide new insights into the coordination of signaling circuits in intact cells and multicellular organisms.
Light-mediated Reversible Modulation of the Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase Pathway during Cell Differentiation and Xenopus Embryonic Development.
Kinase activity is crucial for a plethora of cellular functions, including cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. During early embryonic development, kinase activity is highly dynamic and widespread across the embryo. Pharmacological and genetic approaches are commonly used to probe kinase activities. Unfortunately, it is challenging to achieve superior spatial and temporal resolution using these strategies. Furthermore, it is not feasible to control the kinase activity in a reversible fashion in live cells and multicellular organisms. Such a limitation remains a bottleneck for achieving a quantitative understanding of kinase activity during development and differentiation. This work presents an optogenetic strategy that takes advantage of a bicistronic system containing photoactivatable proteins Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and the N-terminal domain of cryptochrome-interacting basic-helix-loop-helix (CIBN). Reversible activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway is achieved through light-mediated protein translocation in live cells. This approach can be applied to mammalian cell cultures and live vertebrate embryos. This bicistronic system can be generalized to control the activity of other kinases with similar activation mechanisms and can be applied to other model systems.
Drive the Car(go)s-New Modalities to Control Cargo Trafficking in Live Cells.
Synaptic transmission is a fundamental molecular process underlying learning and memory. Successful synaptic transmission involves coupled interaction between electrical signals (action potentials) and chemical signals (neurotransmitters). Defective synaptic transmission has been reported in a variety of neurological disorders such as Autism and Alzheimer's disease. A large variety of macromolecules and organelles are enriched near functional synapses. Although a portion of macromolecules can be produced locally at the synapse, a large number of synaptic components especially the membrane-bound receptors and peptide neurotransmitters require active transport machinery to reach their sites of action. This spatial relocation is mediated by energy-consuming, motor protein-driven cargo trafficking. Properly regulated cargo trafficking is of fundamental importance to neuronal functions, including synaptic transmission. In this review, we discuss the molecular machinery of cargo trafficking with emphasis on new experimental strategies that enable direct modulation of cargo trafficking in live cells. These strategies promise to provide insights into a quantitative understanding of cargo trafficking, which could lead to new intervention strategies for the treatment of neurological diseases.
Reversible optogenetic control of kinase activity during differentiation and embryonic development.
A limited number of signaling pathways are repeatedly used to regulate a wide variety of processes during development and differentiation. The lack of tools to manipulate signaling pathways dynamically in space and time has been a major technical challenge for biologists. Optogenetic techniques, which utilize light to control protein functions in a reversible fashion, hold promise for modulating intracellular signaling networks with high spatial and temporal resolution. Applications of optogenetics in multicellular organisms, however, have not been widely reported. Here, we create an optimized bicistronic optogenetic system using Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) protein and the N-terminal domain of cryptochrome-interacting basic-helix-loop-helix (CIBN). In a proof-of-principle study, we develop an optogenetic Raf kinase that allows reversible light-controlled activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling cascade. In PC12 cells, this system significantly improves light-induced cell differentiation compared with co-transfection. When applied to Xenopus embryos, this system enables blue light-dependent reversible Raf activation at any desired developmental stage in specific cell lineages. Our system offers a powerful optogenetic tool suitable for manipulation of signaling pathways with high spatial and temporal resolution in a wide range of experimental settings.
The Timing of Raf/ERK and AKT Activation in Protecting PC12 Cells against Oxidative Stress.
Acute brain injuries such as ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury often cause massive neural death and irreversible brain damage with grave consequences. Previous studies have established that a key participant in the events leading to neural death is the excessive production of reactive oxygen species. Protecting neuronal cells by activating their endogenous defense mechanisms is an attractive treatment strategy for acute brain injuries. In this work, we investigate how the precise timing of the Raf/ERK and the AKT pathway activation affects their protective effects against oxidative stress. For this purpose, we employed optogenetic systems that use light to precisely and reversibly activate either the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway. We find that preconditioning activation of the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway immediately before oxidant exposure provides significant protection to cells. Notably, a 15-minute transient activation of the Raf/ERK pathway is able to protect PC12 cells against oxidant strike that is applied 12 hours later, while the transient activation of the AKT pathway fails to protect PC12 cells in such a scenario. On the other hand, if the pathways are activated after the oxidative insult, i.e. postconditioning, the AKT pathway conveys greater protective effect than the Raf/ERK pathway. We find that postconditioning AKT activation has an optimal delay period of 2 hours. When the AKT pathway is activated 30min after the oxidative insult, it exhibits very little protective effect. Therefore, the precise timing of the pathway activation is crucial in determining its protective effect against oxidative injury. The optogenetic platform, with its precise temporal control and its ability to activate specific pathways, is ideal for the mechanistic dissection of intracellular pathways in protection against oxidative stress.
The Dual Characteristics of Light-Induced Cryptochrome 2, Homo-oligomerization and Heterodimerization, for Optogenetic Manipulation in Mammalian Cells.
The photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) has become a powerful optogenetic tool that allows light-inducible manipulation of various signaling pathways and cellular processes in mammalian cells with high spatiotemporal precision and ease of application. However, it has also been shown that the behavior of CRY2 under blue light is complex, as the photoexcited CRY2 can both undergo homo-oligomerization and heterodimerization by binding to its dimerization partner CIB1. To better understand the light-induced CRY2 activities in mammalian cells, this article systematically characterizes CRY2 homo-oligomerization in different cellular compartments, as well as how CRY2 homo-oligomerization and heterodimerization activities affect each other. Quantitative analysis reveals that membrane-bound CRY2 has drastically enhanced oligomerization activity compared to that of its cytoplasmic form. While CRY2 homo-oligomerization and CRY2-CIB1 heterodimerization could happen concomitantly, the presence of certain CIB1 fusion proteins can suppress CRY2 homo-oligomerization. However, the homo-oligomerization of cytoplasmic CRY2 can be significantly intensified by its recruitment to the membrane via interaction with the membrane-bound CIB1. These results contribute to the understanding of the light-inducible CRY2-CRY2 and CRY2-CIB1 interaction systems and can be used as a guide to establish new strategies utilizing the dual optogenetic characteristics of CRY2 to probe cellular processes.
Optogenetic control of molecular motors and organelle distributions in cells.
Intracellular transport and distribution of organelles play important roles in diverse cellular functions, including cell polarization, intracellular signaling, cell survival, and apoptosis. Here, we report an optogenetic strategy to control the transport and distribution of organelles by light. This is achieved by optically recruiting molecular motors onto organelles through the heterodimerization of Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and its interacting partner CIB1. CRY2 and CIB1 dimerize within subseconds upon exposure to blue light, which requires no exogenous ligands and low intensity of light. We demonstrate that mitochondria, peroxisomes, and lysosomes can be driven toward the cell periphery upon light-induced recruitment of kinesin, or toward the cell nucleus upon recruitment of dynein. Light-induced motor recruitment and organelle movements are repeatable, reversible, and can be achieved at subcellular regions. This light-controlled organelle redistribution provides a new strategy for studying the causal roles of organelle transport and distribution in cellular functions in living cells.
Optogenetic control of intracellular signaling pathways.
Cells employ a plethora of signaling pathways to make their life-and-death decisions. Extensive genetic, biochemical, and physiological studies have led to the accumulation of knowledge about signaling components and their interactions within signaling networks. These conventional approaches, although useful, lack the ability to control the spatial and temporal aspects of signaling processes. The recently emerged optogenetic tools open exciting opportunities by enabling signaling regulation with superior temporal and spatial resolution, easy delivery, rapid reversibility, fewer off-target side effects, and the ability to dissect complex signaling networks. Here we review recent achievements in using light to control intracellular signaling pathways and discuss future prospects for the field, including integration of new genetic approaches into optogenetics.
Light-mediated kinetic control reveals the temporal effect of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway in PC12 cell neurite outgrowth.
It has been proposed that differential activation kinetics allows cells to use a common set of signaling pathways to specify distinct cellular outcomes. For example, nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) induce different activation kinetics of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway and result in differentiation and proliferation, respectively. However, a direct and quantitative linkage between the temporal profile of Raf/MEK/ERK activation and the cellular outputs has not been established due to a lack of means to precisely perturb its signaling kinetics. Here, we construct a light-gated protein-protein interaction system to regulate the activation pattern of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway. Light-induced activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK cascade leads to significant neurite outgrowth in rat PC12 pheochromocytoma cell lines in the absence of growth factors. Compared with NGF stimulation, light stimulation induces longer but fewer neurites. Intermittent on/off illumination reveals that cells achieve maximum neurite outgrowth if the off-time duration per cycle is shorter than 45 min. Overall, light-mediated kinetic control enables precise dissection of the temporal dimension within the intracellular signal transduction network.