Curated Optogenetic Publication Database

Search precisely and efficiently by using the advantage of the hand-assigned publication tags that allow you to search for papers involving a specific trait, e.g. a particular optogenetic switch or a host organism.

Showing 1 - 25 of 25 results

Optogenetic inhibition and activation of Rac and Rap1 using a modified iLID system.

blue iLID HEK293T HeLa
bioRxiv, 11 Dec 2020 DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.11.421990 Link to full text
Abstract: The small GTPases Rac1 and Rap1 can fulfill multiple cellular functions because their activation kinetics and localization are precisely controlled. To probe the role of their spatio-temporal dynamics, we generated optogenetic tools that activate or inhibit endogenous Rac and Rap1 in living cells. An improved version of the light-induced dimerization (iLID) system [1] was used to control plasma membrane localization of protein domains that specifically activate or inactivate Rap1 and Rac (Tiam1 and Chimerin for Rac, RasGRP2 and Rap1GAP for Rap1 [2–5]). Irradiation yielded a 50-230% increase in the concentration of these domains at the membrane, leading to effects on cell morphodynamics consistent with the known roles of Rac1 and Rap1.

Engineering Optogenetic Protein Analogs.

blue LOV domains Review
Methods Mol Biol, 11 Jul 2020 DOI: 10.1007/978-1-0716-0755-8_7 Link to full text
Abstract: This chapter provides an overview of the technologies we have developed to control proteins with light. First, we focus on the LOV domain, a versatile building block with reversible photo-response, kinetics tunable through mutagenesis, and ready expression in a broad range of cells and animals. Incorporation of LOV into proteins produced a variety of approaches: simple steric block of the active site released when irradiation lengthened a linker (PA-GTPases), reversible release from sequestration at mitochondria (LOVTRAP), and Z-lock, a method in which a light-cleavable bridge is placed where it occludes the active site. The latter two methods make use of Zdk, small engineered proteins that bind selectively to the dark state of LOV. In order to control endogenous proteins, inhibitory peptides are embedded in the LOV domain where they are exposed only upon irradiation (PKA and MLCK inhibition). Similarly, controlled exposure of a nuclear localization sequence and nuclear export sequence is used to reversibly send proteins into the nucleus. Another avenue of engineering makes use of the heterodimerization of FKBP and FRB proteins, induced by the small molecule rapamycin. We control rapamycin with light or simply add it to target cells. Incorporation of fused FKBP-FRB into kinases, guanine exchange factors, or GTPases leads to rapamycin-induced protein activation. Kinases are engineered so that they can interact with only a specific substrate upon activation. Recombination of split proteins using rapamycin-induced conformational changes minimizes spontaneous reassembly. Finally, we explore the insertion of LOV or rapamycin-responsive domains into proteins such that light-induced conformational changes exert allosteric control of the active site. We hope these design ideas will inspire new applications and broaden our reach towards dynamic biological processes that unfold when studied in vivo.

An optogenetic method for interrogating YAP1 and TAZ nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling.

bioRxiv, 9 Jun 2020 DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.08.140228 Link to full text
Abstract: The shuttling of transcription factors and transcriptional regulators in and out of the nucleus is central to the regulation of many biological processes. Here we describe a new method for studying the rates of nuclear entry and exit of transcriptional regulators. A photo-responsive AsLOV (Avena sativa Light Oxygen Voltage) domain is used to sequester the transcriptional regulators, YAP1 and TAZ/WWTR1, on the surface of mitochondria. Illumination with blue light is used to release fluorophore-tagged YAP1 and TAZ from mitochondria and their entry into the nucleus can be observed. Cessation of blue light illumination leads to re-sequestration on the surface of mitochondria. This method generates three distinct curves that are then used to fit ordinary differential equations for the rates of nuclear entry and exit. Using this method, we demonstrate that phosphorylation of YAP1 on sites of canonical regulation by LATS1/2 enhances its rate of nuclear export. Moreover, we provide evidences that YAP1 import and export rates, despite high intercellular variability, are correlated within the same cell. Interestingly, the ratio of import and export rates correlated with nuclear-cytoplasmic (NC) distribution of YAP1 and TAZ proteins at steady state.

A Computational Protocol for Regulating Protein Binding Reactions with a Light-Sensitive Protein Dimer.

J Mol Biol, 27 Dec 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2019.12.033 Link to full text
Abstract: Light-sensitive proteins can be used to perturb signaling networks in living cells and animals with high spatiotemporal resolution. We recently engineered a protein heterodimer that dissociates when irradiated with blue light and demonstrated that by fusing each half of the dimer to termini of a protein that it is possible to selectively block binding surfaces on the protein when in the dark. On activation with light, the dimer dissociates and exposes the binding surface, allowing the protein to bind its partner. Critical to the success of this system, called Z-lock, is that the linkers connecting the dimer components to the termini are engineered so that the dimer forms over the appropriate binding surface. Here, we develop and test a protocol in the Rosetta molecular modeling program for designing linkers for Z-lock. We show that the protocol can predict the most effective linker sets for three different light-sensitive switches, including a newly designed switch that binds the Rho-family GTPase Cdc42 on stimulation with blue light. This protocol represents a generalized computational approach to placing a wide variety of proteins under optogenetic control with Z-lock.

Optogenetic control of cofilin and αTAT in living cells using Z-lock.

blue LOVTRAP HEK293T HeLa MTLn3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nat Chem Biol, 18 Nov 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41589-019-0405-4 Link to full text
Abstract: Here we introduce Z-lock, an optogenetic approach for reversible, light-controlled steric inhibition of protein active sites. The light oxygen voltage (LOV) domain and Zdk, a small protein that binds LOV selectively in the dark, are appended to the protein of interest where they sterically block the active site. Irradiation causes LOV to change conformation and release Zdk, exposing the active site. Computer-assisted protein design was used to optimize linkers and Zdk-LOV affinity, for both effective binding in the dark, and effective light-induced release of the intramolecular interaction. Z-lock cofilin was shown to have actin severing ability in vitro, and in living cancer cells it produced protrusions and invadopodia. An active fragment of the tubulin acetylase αTAT was similarly modified and shown to acetylate tubulin on irradiation.

VIEW-MOD: a versatile illumination engine with a modular optical design for fluorescence microscopy.

blue AsLOV2 MEF-1 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Opt Express, 8 Jul 2019 DOI: 10.1364/oe.27.019950 Link to full text
Abstract: We developed VIEW-MOD (Versatile Illumination Engine with a Modular Optical Design): a compact, multi-modality microscope, which accommodates multiple illumination schemes including variable angle total internal reflection, point scanning and vertical/horizontal light sheet. This system allows combining and flexibly switching between different illuminations and imaging modes by employing three electrically tunable lenses and two fast-steering mirrors. This versatile optics design provides control of 6 degrees of freedom of the illumination source (3 translation, 2 tilt, and beam shape) plus the axial position of the imaging plane. We also developed standalone software with an easy-to-use GUI to calibrate and control the microscope. We demonstrate the applications of this system and software in biosensor imaging, optogenetics and fast 3D volume imaging. This system is ready to fit into complex imaging circumstances requiring precise control of illumination and detection paths, and has a broad scope of usability for a myriad of biological applications.

Engineering proteins for allosteric control by light or ligands.

blue AsLOV2 HEK293T HeLa
Nat Protoc, 10 May 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41596-019-0165-3 Link to full text
Abstract: Control of protein activity in living cells can reveal the role of spatiotemporal dynamics in signaling circuits. Protein analogs with engineered allosteric responses can be particularly effective in the interrogation of protein signaling, as they can replace endogenous proteins with minimal perturbation of native interactions. However, it has been a challenge to identify allosteric sites in target proteins where insertion of responsive domains produces an allosteric response comparable to the activity of native proteins. Here, we describe a detailed protocol to generate genetically encoded analogs of proteins that can be allosterically controlled by either rapamycin or blue light, as well as experimental procedures to produce and test these analogs in vitro and in mammalian cell lines. We describe computational methods, based on crystal structures or homology models, to identify effective sites for insertion of either an engineered rapamycin-responsive (uniRapR) domain or the light-responsive light-oxygen-voltage 2 (LOV2) domain. The inserted domains allosterically regulate the active site, responding to rapamycin with irreversible activation, or to light with reversible inactivation at higher spatial and temporal resolution. These strategies have been successfully applied to catalytic domains of protein kinases, Rho family GTPases, and guanine exchange factors (GEFs), as well as the binding domain of a GEF Vav2. Computational tasks can be completed within a few hours, followed by 1-2 weeks of experimental validation. We provide protocols for computational design, cloning, and experimental testing of the engineered proteins, using Src tyrosine kinase, GEF Vav2, and Rho GTPase Rac1 as examples.

Controlling protein conformation with light.

blue cyan Dronpa145KN Fluorescent proteins LOV domains Review
Curr Opin Struct Biol, 5 Mar 2019 DOI: 10.1016/ Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetics, genetically encoded engineering of proteins to respond to light, has enabled precise control of the timing and localization of protein activity in live cells and for specific cell types in animals. Light-sensitive ion channels have become well established tools in neurobiology, and a host of new methods have recently enabled the control of other diverse protein structures as well. This review focuses on approaches to switch proteins between physiologically relevant, naturally occurring conformations using light, accomplished by incorporating light-responsive engineered domains that sterically and allosterically control the active site.

Light-dependent cytoplasmic recruitment enhances the dynamic range of a nuclear import photoswitch.

blue LOVTRAP C. elegans in vivo HeLa S. cerevisiae Developmental processes
Chembiochem, 14 Feb 2018 DOI: 10.1002/cbic.201700681 Link to full text
Abstract: Cellular signal transduction is often regulated at multiple steps in order to achieve more complex logic or precise control of a pathway. For instance, some signaling mechanisms couple allosteric activation with localization to achieve high signal to noise. Here, we create a system for light activated nuclear import that incorporates two levels of control. It consists of a nuclear import photoswitch, Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS), and a protein engineered to preferentially interact with LANS in the dark, Zdk2. First, Zdk2 is tethered to a location in the cytoplasm, which sequesters LANS in the dark. Second, LANS incorporates a nuclear localization signal (NLS) that is sterically blocked from binding to the nuclear import machinery in the dark. When activated with light, LANS both dissociates from its tethered location and exposes its NLS, which leads to nuclear accumulation. We demonstrate that this coupled system improves the dynamic range of LANS in mammalian cells, yeast, and C. elegans and provides tighter control of transcription factors that have been fused to LANS.

Local control of intracellular microtubule dynamics by EB1 photodissociation.

blue LOVTRAP NCI-H1299 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nat Cell Biol, 29 Jan 2018 DOI: 10.1038/s41556-017-0028-5 Link to full text
Abstract: End-binding proteins (EBs) are adaptors that recruit functionally diverse microtubule plus-end-tracking proteins (+TIPs) to growing microtubule plus ends. To test with high spatial and temporal accuracy how, when and where +TIP complexes contribute to dynamic cell biology, we developed a photo-inactivated EB1 variant (π-EB1) by inserting a blue-light-sensitive protein–protein interaction module between the microtubule-binding and +TIP-binding domains of EB1. π-EB1 replaces endogenous EB1 function in the absence of blue light. By contrast, blue-light-mediated π-EB1 photodissociation results in rapid +TIP complex disassembly, and acutely and reversibly attenuates microtubule growth independent of microtubule end association of the microtubule polymerase CKAP5 (also known as ch-TOG and XMAP215). Local π-EB1 photodissociation allows subcellular control of microtubule dynamics at the second and micrometre scale, and elicits aversive turning of migrating cancer cells. Importantly, light-mediated domain splitting can serve as a template to optically control other intracellular protein activities.

Discovery of long-range inhibitory signaling to ensure single axon formation.

blue LOVTRAP Cos-7 HeLa primary mouse hippocampal neurons Neuronal activity control
Nat Commun, 26 Jun 2017 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00044-2 Link to full text
Abstract: A long-standing question in neurodevelopment is how neurons develop a single axon and multiple dendrites from common immature neurites. Long-range inhibitory signaling from the growing axon is hypothesized to prevent outgrowth of other immature neurites and to differentiate them into dendrites, but the existence and nature of this inhibitory signaling remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that axonal growth triggered by neurotrophin-3 remotely inhibits neurite outgrowth through long-range Ca2+ waves, which are delivered from the growing axon to the cell body. These Ca2+ waves increase RhoA activity in the cell body through calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase I. Optogenetic control of Rho-kinase combined with computational modeling reveals that active Rho-kinase diffuses to growing other immature neurites and inhibits their outgrowth. Mechanistically, calmodulin-dependent protein kinase I phosphorylates a RhoA-specific GEF, GEF-H1, whose phosphorylation enhances its GEF activity. Thus, our results reveal that long-range inhibitory signaling mediated by Ca2+ wave is responsible for neuronal polarization.Emerging evidence suggests that gut microbiota influences immune function in the brain and may play a role in neurological diseases. Here, the authors offer in vivo evidence from a Drosophila model that supports a role for gut microbiota in modulating the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Engineering extrinsic disorder to control protein activity in living cells.

blue AsLOV2 3T3MEF HEK293 HEK293T HeLa SYF Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Science, 16 Dec 2016 DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3404 Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetic and chemogenetic control of proteins has revealed otherwise inaccessible facets of signaling dynamics. Here, we use light- or ligand-sensitive domains to modulate the structural disorder of diverse proteins, thereby generating robust allosteric switches. Sensory domains were inserted into nonconserved, surface-exposed loops that were tight and identified computationally as allosterically coupled to active sites. Allosteric switches introduced into motility signaling proteins (kinases, guanosine triphosphatases, and guanine exchange factors) controlled conversion between conformations closely resembling natural active and inactive states, as well as modulated the morphodynamics of living cells. Our results illustrate a broadly applicable approach to design physiological protein switches.

LOVTRAP: A Versatile Method to Control Protein Function with Light.

blue LOVTRAP Cos-7 HEK293 HeLa
Curr Protoc Cell Biol, 1 Dec 2016 DOI: 10.1002/cpcb.12 Link to full text
Abstract: We describe a detailed procedure for the use of LOVTRAP, an approach to reversibly sequester and release proteins from cellular membranes using light. In the application described here, proteins that act at the plasma membrane are held at mitochondria in the dark, and reversibly released by irradiation. The technique relies on binding of an engineered Zdk domain to a LOV2 domain, with affinity <30 nM in the dark and >500 nM upon irradiation between 400 and 500 nm. LOVTRAP can be applied to diverse proteins, as it requires attaching only one member of the Zdk/LOV2 pair to the target protein, and the other to the membrane where the target protein is to be sequestered. Light-induced protein release occurs in less than a second, and the half-life of return can be adjusted using LOV point mutations (∼2 to 500 sec). © 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

LOVTRAP: an optogenetic system for photoinduced protein dissociation.

blue LOVTRAP HEK293 HeLa in vitro Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nat Methods, 18 Jul 2016 DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3926 Link to full text
Abstract: LOVTRAP is an optogenetic approach for reversible light-induced protein dissociation using protein A fragments that bind to the LOV domain only in the dark, with tunable kinetics and a >150-fold change in the dissociation constant (Kd). By reversibly sequestering proteins at mitochondria, we precisely modulated the proteins' access to the cell edge, demonstrating a naturally occurring 3-mHz cell-edge oscillation driven by interactions of Vav2, Rac1, and PI3K proteins.

Light-induced nuclear export reveals rapid dynamics of epigenetic modifications.

blue AsLOV2 iLID C. elegans in vivo Cos-7 HeLa mouse IA32 fibroblasts S. cerevisiae Epigenetic modification
Nat Chem Biol, 18 Apr 2016 DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2068 Link to full text
Abstract: We engineered a photoactivatable system for rapidly and reversibly exporting proteins from the nucleus by embedding a nuclear export signal in the LOV2 domain from phototropin 1. Fusing the chromatin modifier Bre1 to the photoswitch, we achieved light-dependent control of histone H2B monoubiquitylation in yeast, revealing fast turnover of the ubiquitin mark. Moreover, this inducible system allowed us to dynamically monitor the status of epigenetic modifications dependent on H2B ubiquitylation.

Labelling and optical erasure of synaptic memory traces in the motor cortex.

blue AsLOV2 HEK293 mouse in vivo rat cortical neurons rat hippocampal slices Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nature, 9 Sep 2015 DOI: 10.1038/nature15257 Link to full text
Abstract: Dendritic spines are the major loci of synaptic plasticity and are considered as possible structural correlates of memory. Nonetheless, systematic manipulation of specific subsets of spines in the cortex has been unattainable, and thus, the link between spines and memory has been correlational. We developed a novel synaptic optoprobe, AS-PaRac1 (activated synapse targeting photoactivatable Rac1), that can label recently potentiated spines specifically, and induce the selective shrinkage of AS-PaRac1-containing spines. In vivo imaging of AS-PaRac1 revealed that a motor learning task induced substantial synaptic remodelling in a small subset of neurons. The acquired motor learning was disrupted by the optical shrinkage of the potentiated spines, whereas it was not affected by the identical manipulation of spines evoked by a distinct motor task in the same cortical region. Taken together, our results demonstrate that a newly acquired motor skill depends on the formation of a task-specific dense synaptic ensemble.

Control of Protein Activity and Cell Fate Specification via Light-Mediated Nuclear Translocation.

blue AsLOV2 C. elegans in vivo Cos-7 HEK293 HeLa S. cerevisiae Developmental processes
PLoS ONE, 17 Jun 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128443 Link to full text
Abstract: Light-activatable proteins allow precise spatial and temporal control of biological processes in living cells and animals. Several approaches have been developed for controlling protein localization with light, including the conditional inhibition of a nuclear localization signal (NLS) with the Light Oxygen Voltage (AsLOV2) domain of phototropin 1 from Avena sativa. In the dark, the switch adopts a closed conformation that sterically blocks the NLS motif. Upon activation with blue light the C-terminus of the protein unfolds, freeing the NLS to direct the protein to the nucleus. A previous study showed that this approach can be used to control the localization and activity of proteins in mammalian tissue culture cells. Here, we extend this result by characterizing the binding properties of a LOV/NLS switch and demonstrating that it can be used to control gene transcription in yeast. Additionally, we show that the switch, referred to as LANS (light-activated nuclear shuttle), functions in the C. elegans embryo and allows for control of nuclear localization in individual cells. By inserting LANS into the C. elegans lin-1 locus using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination, we demonstrated control of cell fate via light-dependent manipulation of a native transcription factor. We conclude that LANS can be a valuable experimental method for spatial and temporal control of nuclear localization in vivo.

Optogenetic approaches to cell migration and beyond.

blue cyan red UV Cryptochromes Fluorescent proteins LOV domains Phytochromes UV receptors Review
Curr Opin Cell Biol, 15 Sep 2014 DOI: 10.1016/ Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetics, the use of genetically encoded tools to control protein function with light, can generate localized changes in signaling within living cells and animals. For years it has been focused on channel proteins for neurobiology, but has recently expanded to cover many different types of proteins, using a broad array of different protein engineering approaches. These methods have largely been directed at proteins involved in motility, cytoskeletal regulation and gene expression. This review provides a survey of non-channel proteins that have been engineered for optogenetics. Existing molecules are used to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of the many imaginative new approaches that the reader can use to create light-controlled proteins.

Manipulation of endogenous kinase activity in living cells using photoswitchable inhibitory peptides.

blue AsLOV2 Cos-7 HEK293 primary mouse cortical neurons Signaling cascade control Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
ACS Synth Biol, 13 Jun 2014 DOI: 10.1021/sb5001356 Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetic control of endogenous signaling can be an important tool for probing cell behavior. Using the photoresponse of the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1, we developed analogues of kinase inhibitors whose activity is light dependent. Inhibitory peptides were appended to the Jα helix, where they potently inhibited kinases in the light but were sterically blocked from kinase interaction in the dark. Photoactivatable inhibitors for cyclic-AMP dependent kinase (PKA) and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) are described, together with studies that shed light on proper positioning of the peptides in the LOV domain. These inhibitors altered endogenous signaling in living cells and produced light-dependent changes in cell morphodynamics.

An optogenetic tool for the activation of endogenous diaphanous-related formins induces thickening of stress fibers without an increase in contractility.

blue AsLOV2 HeLa NIH/3T3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Cytoskeleton (Hoboken), 24 May 2013 DOI: 10.1002/cm.21115 Link to full text
Abstract: We have developed an optogenetic technique for the activation of diaphanous-related formins. Our approach is based on fusion of the light-oxygen-voltage 2 domain of Avena sativa Phototrophin1 to an isolated Diaphanous Autoregulatory Domain from mDia1. This "caged" diaphanous auto-regulatory domain was inactive in the dark but in the presence of blue light rapidly activated endogenous diaphanous-related formins. Using an F-actin reporter, we observed filopodia and lamellipodia formation as well as a steady increase in F-actin along existing stress fibers, starting within minutes of photo-activation. Interestingly, we did not observe the formation of new stress fibers. Remarkably, a 1.9-fold increase in F-actin was not paralleled by an increase in myosin II along stress fibers and the amount of tension generated by the fibers, as judged by focal adhesion size, appeared unchanged. Our results suggest a decoupling between F-actin accumulation and contractility in stress fibers and demonstrate the utility of photoactivatable diaphanous autoregulatory domain for the study of diaphanous-related formin function in cells.

Rac1 is essential in cocaine-induced structural plasticity of nucleus accumbens neurons.

blue AsLOV2 mouse in vivo Neuronal activity control
Nat Neurosci, Jun 2012 DOI: 10.1038/nn.3094 Link to full text
Abstract: Repeated cocaine administration increases the dendritic arborization of nucleus accumbens neurons, but the underlying signaling events remain unknown. Here we show that repeated exposure to cocaine negatively regulates the active form of Rac1, a small GTPase that controls actin remodeling in other systems. Further, we show, using viral-mediated gene transfer, that overexpression of a dominant negative mutant of Rac1 or local knockout of Rac1 is sufficient to increase the density of immature dendritic spines on nucleus accumbens neurons, whereas overexpression of a constitutively active Rac1 or light activation of a photoactivatable form of Rac1 blocks the ability of repeated cocaine exposure to produce this effect. Downregulation of Rac1 activity likewise promotes behavioral responses to cocaine exposure, with activation of Rac1 producing the opposite effect. These findings establish that Rac1 signaling mediates structural and behavioral plasticity in response to cocaine exposure.

Designing photoswitchable peptides using the AsLOV2 domain.

blue AsLOV2 S. cerevisiae
Chem Biol, 20 Apr 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2012.02.006 Link to full text
Abstract: Photocontrol of functional peptides is a powerful tool for spatial and temporal control of cell signaling events. We show that the genetically encoded light-sensitive LOV2 domain of Avena Sativa phototropin 1 (AsLOV2) can be used to reversibly photomodulate the affinity of peptides for their binding partners. Sequence analysis and molecular modeling were used to embed two peptides into the Jα helix of the AsLOV2 domain while maintaining AsLOV2 structure in the dark but allowing for binding to effector proteins when the Jα helix unfolds in the light. Caged versions of the ipaA and SsrA peptides, LOV-ipaA and LOV-SsrA, bind their targets with 49- and 8-fold enhanced affinity in the light, respectively. These switches can be used as general tools for light-dependent colocalization, which we demonstrate with photo-activable gene transcription in yeast.

Spatiotemporal control of small GTPases with light using the LOV domain.

blue LOV domains Review
Meth Enzymol, 11 May 2011 DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-12-385075-1.00016-0 Link to full text
Abstract: Signaling networks in living systems are coordinated through subcellular compartmentalization and precise timing of activation. These spatiotemporal aspects ensure the fidelity of signaling while contributing to the diversity and specificity of downstream events. This is studied through development of molecular tools that generate localized and precisely timed protein activity in living systems. To study the molecular events responsible for cytoskeletal changes in real time, we generated versions of Rho family GTPases whose interactions with downstream effectors is controlled by light. GTPases were grafted to the phototropin LOV (light, oxygen, or voltage) domain (Huala, E., Oeller, P. W., Liscum, E., Han, I., Larsen, E., and Briggs, W. R. (1997). Arabidopsis NPH1: A protein kinase with a putative redox-sensing domain. Science278, 2120-2123.) via an alpha helix on the LOV C-terminus (Wu, Y. I., Frey, D., Lungu, O. I., Jaehrig, A., Schlichting, I., Kuhlman, B., and Hahn, K. M. (2009). A genetically encoded photoactivatable Rac controls the motility of living cells. Nature461, 104-108.). The LOV domain sterically blocked the GTPase active site until it was irradiated. Exposure to 400-500nm light caused unwinding of the helix linking the LOV domain to the GTPase, relieving steric inhibition. The change was reversible and repeatable, and the protein could be returned to its inactive state simply by turning off the light. The LOV domain incorporates a flavin as the active chromophore. This naturally occurring molecule is incorporated simply upon expression of the LOV fusion in cells or animals, permitting ready control of GTPase function in different systems. In cultured single cells, light-activated Rac leads to membrane ruffling, protrusion, and migration. In collectively migrating border cells in the Drosophila ovary, focal activation of photoactivatable Rac (PA-Rac) in a single cell is sufficient to redirect the entire group. PA-Rac in a single cell also rescues the phenotype caused by loss of endogenous guidance receptor signaling in the whole group. These findings demonstrate that cells within the border cell cluster communicate and are guided collectively. Here, we describe optimization and application of PA-Rac using detailed examples that we hope will help others apply the approach to different proteins and in a variety of different cells, tissues, and organisms.

Light-mediated activation reveals a key role for Rac in collective guidance of cell movement in vivo.

blue AsLOV2 D. melanogaster in vivo Schneider 2 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nat Cell Biol, 16 May 2010 DOI: 10.1038/ncb2061 Link to full text
Abstract: The small GTPase Rac induces actin polymerization, membrane ruffling and focal contact formation in cultured single cells but can either repress or stimulate motility in epithelial cells depending on the conditions. The role of Rac in collective epithelial cell movements in vivo, which are important for both morphogenesis and metastasis, is therefore difficult to predict. Recently, photoactivatable analogues of Rac (PA-Rac) have been developed, allowing rapid and reversible activation or inactivation of Rac using light. In cultured single cells, light-activated Rac leads to focal membrane ruffling, protrusion and migration. Here we show that focal activation of Rac is also sufficient to polarize an entire group of cells in vivo, specifically the border cells of the Drosophila ovary. Moreover, activation or inactivation of Rac in one cell of the cluster caused a dramatic response in the other cells, suggesting that the cells sense direction as a group according to relative levels of Rac activity. Communication between cells of the cluster required Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK) but not guidance receptor signalling. These studies further show that photoactivatable proteins are effective tools in vivo.

A genetically encoded photoactivatable Rac controls the motility of living cells.

blue AsLOV2 3T3MEF HEK293 HeLa in vitro Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Nature, 19 Aug 2009 DOI: 10.1038/nature08241 Link to full text
Abstract: The precise spatio-temporal dynamics of protein activity are often critical in determining cell behaviour, yet for most proteins they remain poorly understood; it remains difficult to manipulate protein activity at precise times and places within living cells. Protein activity has been controlled by light, through protein derivatization with photocleavable moieties or using photoreactive small-molecule ligands. However, this requires use of toxic ultraviolet wavelengths, activation is irreversible, and/or cell loading is accomplished via disruption of the cell membrane (for example, through microinjection). Here we have developed a new approach to produce genetically encoded photoactivatable derivatives of Rac1, a key GTPase regulating actin cytoskeletal dynamics in metazoan cells. Rac1 mutants were fused to the photoreactive LOV (light oxygen voltage) domain from phototropin, sterically blocking Rac1 interactions until irradiation unwound a helix linking LOV to Rac1. Photoactivatable Rac1 (PA-Rac1) could be reversibly and repeatedly activated using 458- or 473-nm light to generate precisely localized cell protrusions and ruffling. Localized Rac activation or inactivation was sufficient to produce cell motility and control the direction of cell movement. Myosin was involved in Rac control of directionality but not in Rac-induced protrusion, whereas PAK was required for Rac-induced protrusion. PA-Rac1 was used to elucidate Rac regulation of RhoA in cell motility. Rac and Rho coordinate cytoskeletal behaviours with seconds and submicrometre precision. Their mutual regulation remains controversial, with data indicating that Rac inhibits and/or activates Rho. Rac was shown to inhibit RhoA in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, with inhibition modulated at protrusions and ruffles. A PA-Rac crystal structure and modelling revealed LOV-Rac interactions that will facilitate extension of this photoactivation approach to other proteins.
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