Showing 1 - 21 of 21 results
Deconstructing and repurposing the light-regulated interplay between Arabidopsis phytochromes and interacting factors.
Phytochrome photoreceptors mediate adaptive responses of plants to red and far-red light. These responses generally entail light-regulated association between phytochromes and other proteins, among them the phytochrome-interacting factors (PIF). The interaction with Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome B (AtPhyB) localizes to the bipartite APB motif of the A. thaliana PIFs (AtPIF). To address a dearth of quantitative interaction data, we construct and analyze numerous AtPIF3/6 variants. Red-light-activated binding is predominantly mediated by the APB N-terminus, whereas the C-terminus modulates binding and underlies the differential affinity of AtPIF3 and AtPIF6. We identify AtPIF variants of reduced size, monomeric or homodimeric state, and with AtPhyB affinities between 10 and 700 nM. Optogenetically deployed in mammalian cells, the AtPIF variants drive light-regulated gene expression and membrane recruitment, in certain cases reducing basal activity and enhancing regulatory response. Moreover, our results provide hitherto unavailable quantitative insight into the AtPhyB:AtPIF interaction underpinning vital light-dependent responses in plants.
Optogenetic control shows that kinetic proofreading regulates the activity of the T cell receptor.
The immune system distinguishes between self and foreign antigens. The kinetic proofreading (KPR) model proposes that T cells discriminate self from foreign ligands by the different ligand binding half-lives to the T cell receptor (TCR). It is challenging to test KPR as the available experimental systems fall short of only altering the binding half-lives and keeping other parameters of the interaction unchanged. We engineered an optogenetic system using the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B (PhyB) as a ligand to selectively control the dynamics of ligand binding to the TCR by light. This opto-ligand-TCR system was combined with the unique property of PhyB to continuously cycle between the binding and non-binding states under red light, with the light intensity determining the cycling rate and thus the binding duration. Mathematical modeling of our experimental datasets showed that indeed the ligand-TCR interaction half-life is the decisive factor for activating downstream TCR signaling, substantiating KPR.
Synthetic switches and regulatory circuits in plants.
Synthetic biology is an established but ever-growing interdisciplinary field of research currently revolutionizing biomedicine studies and the biotech industry. The engineering of synthetic circuitry in bacterial, yeast, and animal systems prompted considerable advances for the understanding and manipulation of genetic and metabolic networks; however, their implementation in the plant field lags behind. Here, we review theoretical-experimental approaches to the engineering of synthetic chemical- and light-regulated (optogenetic) switches for the targeted interrogation and control of cellular processes, including existing applications in the plant field. We highlight the strategies for the modular assembly of genetic parts into synthetic circuits of different complexity, ranging from Boolean logic gates and oscillatory devices up to semi- and fully synthetic open- and closed-loop molecular and cellular circuits. Finally, we explore potential applications of these approaches for the engineering of novel functionalities in plants, including understanding complex signaling networks, improving crop productivity, and the production of biopharmaceuticals.
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.
Generic and reversible opto-trapping of biomolecules.
Molecular traps can control activity and abundance of many biological factors. Here, we report the development of a generic opto-trap to reversibly bind and release biomolecules with high spatiotemporal control by illumination with noninvasive and cell-compatible red and far-red light. We use the Arapidopsis thaliana photoreceptor phytochrome B to regulate the release of diverse proteins from a variety of material scaffolds. Fusion of a short 100 amino acids "PIF-tag", derived from the phytochrome interacting factor 6, renders arbitrary molecules opto-trap-compatible. Reversible opto-trapping of target molecules enables novel possibilities for future developments in diagnostics, therapeutics and basic research.
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.
Synthetic strategies for plant signalling studies: molecular toolbox and orthogonal platforms.
Plants deploy a wide array of signalling networks integrating environmental cues with growth, defence and developmental responses. The high level of complexity, redundancy and connection between several pathways hampers a comprehensive understanding of involved functional and regulatory mechanisms. The implementation of synthetic biology approaches is revolutionizing experimental biology in prokaryotes, yeasts and animal systems and can likewise contribute to a new era in plant biology. This review gives an overview on synthetic biology approaches for the development and implementation of synthetic molecular tools and techniques to interrogate, understand and control signalling events in plants, ranging from strategies for the targeted manipulation of plant genomes up to the spatiotemporally resolved control of gene expression using optogenetic approaches. We also describe strategies based on the partial reconstruction of signalling pathways in orthogonal platforms, like yeast, animal and in vitro systems. This allows a targeted analysis of individual signalling hubs devoid of interconnectivity with endogenous interacting components. Implementation of the interdisciplinary synthetic biology tools and strategies is not exempt of challenges and hardships but simultaneously most rewarding in terms of the advances in basic and applied research. As witnessed in other areas, these original theoretical-experimental avenues will lead to a breakthrough in the ability to study and comprehend plant signalling networks.
Optogenetics in Plants: Red/Far-Red Light Control of Gene Expression.
Optogenetic tools to control gene expression have many advantages over the classical chemically inducible systems, overcoming intrinsic limitations of chemical inducers such as solubility, diffusion, and cell toxicity. They offer an unmatched spatiotemporal resolution and permit quantitative and noninvasive control of the gene expression. Here we describe a protocol of a synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). The synthetic toggle switch system is in the ON state when plant protoplasts are illuminated with red light (660 nm) and can be returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (760 nm). In this protocol, the implementation of a red light-inducible expression system in plants using Light-Emitting Diode (LED) illumination boxes is described, including the isolation and transient transformation of plant protoplasts from Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana tabacum.
Signalling to the nucleus under the control of light and small molecules.
One major regulatory mechanism in cell signalling is the spatio-temporal control of the localization of signalling molecules. We synthetically designed an entire cell signalling pathway, which allows controlling the transport of signalling molecules from the plasma membrane to the nucleus, by using light and small molecules.
Red Light-Regulated Reversible Nuclear Localization of Proteins in Mammalian Cells and Zebrafish.
Protein trafficking in and out of the nucleus represents a key step in controlling cell fate and function. Here we report the development of a red light-inducible and far-red light-reversible synthetic system for controlling nuclear localization of proteins in mammalian cells and zebrafish. First, we synthetically reconstructed and validated the red light-dependent Arabidopsis phytochrome B nuclear import mediated by phytochrome-interacting factor 3 in a nonplant environment and support current hypotheses on the import mechanism in planta. On the basis of this principle we next regulated nuclear import and activity of target proteins by the spatiotemporal projection of light patterns. A synthetic transcription factor was translocated into the nucleus of mammalian cells and zebrafish to drive transgene expression. These data demonstrate the first in vivo application of a plant phytochrome-based optogenetic tool in vertebrates and expand the repertoire of available light-regulated molecular devices.
An optogenetic upgrade for the Tet-OFF system.
The rapid development of mammalian optogenetics has produced an expanding number of gene switches that can be controlled with the unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution of light. However, in the "pre-optogenetic" era many networks, cell lines and transgenic organisms have been engineered that rely on chemically-inducible transgene expression systems but would benefit from the advantages of the traceless inducer light. To open the possibility for the effortless upgrade of such systems from chemical inducers to light, we capitalized on the specific Med25VBD inhibitor of the VP16/VP64 transactivation domain. In a first step, we demonstrated the efficiency and selectivity of Med25VBD in the inhibition of VP16/VP64-based transgene expression systems. Then, we fused the inhibitor to the blue light-responsive B-LID degron and optimized the performance of this construct with regard to the number of Med25VBD repeats. This approach resulted in an optogenetic upgrade of the popular Tet-OFF (TetR-VP64, tetO7 -PhCMVmin ) system that allows tunable, blue light-inducible transgene expression in HEK-293T cells.
Optogenetics for gene expression in mammalian cells.
Molecular switches that are controlled by chemicals have evolved as central research instruments in mammalian cell biology. However, these tools are limited in terms of their spatiotemporal resolution due to freely diffusing inducers. These limitations have recently been addressed by the development of optogenetic, genetically encoded, and light-responsive tools that can be controlled with the unprecedented spatiotemporal precision of light. In this article, we first provide a brief overview of currently available optogenetic tools that have been designed to control diverse cellular processes. Then, we focus on recent developments in light-controlled gene expression technologies and provide the reader with a guideline for choosing the most suitable gene expression system.
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.
Control of gene expression using a red- and far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch.
Light-triggered gene expression systems offer an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution that cannot be achieved with classical chemically inducible genetic tools. Here we describe a protocol for red light-responsive gene expression in mammalian cells. This system can be toggled between stable ON and OFF states by short pulses of red and far-red light, respectively. In the protocol, CHO-K1 cells are transfected to allow red light-inducible expression of the secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) reporter, and gene expression is tuned by illumination with light of increasing wavelengths. As a starting point for elaborate red light-responsive gene expression, we outline the reversible activation of gene expression and describe how a spatial pattern can be 'printed' on a monolayer of cells by using a photomask. The core protocol requires only 4 d from seeding of the cells to reporter quantification, and other than light-emitting diode (LED) illumination boxes no elaborate equipment is required.
A red light-controlled synthetic gene expression switch for plant systems.
On command control of gene expression in time and space is required for the comprehensive analysis of key plant cellular processes. Even though some chemical inducible systems showing satisfactory induction features have been developed, they are inherently limited in terms of spatiotemporal resolution and may be associated with toxic effects. We describe here the first synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants. For this purpose, we applied an interdisciplinary synthetic biology approach comprising mammalian and plant cell systems to customize and optimize a split transcription factor based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). Implementation of the system in transient assays in tobacco protoplasts resulted in strong (95-fold) induction in red light (660 nm) and could be instantaneously returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (740 nm). Capitalizing on this toggle switch-like characteristic, we demonstrate that the system can be kept in the OFF state in the presence of 740 nm-supplemented white light, opening up perspectives for future application of the system in whole plants. Finally we demonstrate the system's applicability in basic research, by the light-controlled tuning of auxin signalling networks in N. tabacum protoplasts, as well as its biotechnological potential for the chemical-inducer free production of therapeutic proteins in the moss P. patens.
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.
Optogenetic control of protein kinase activity in mammalian cells.
Light-dependent dimerization is the basis for recently developed noninvasive optogenetic tools. Here we present a novel tool combining optogenetics with the control of protein kinase activity to investigate signal transduction pathways. Mediated by Arabidopsis thaliana photoreceptor cryptochrome 2, we activated the protein kinase C-RAF by blue light-dependent dimerization, allowing for decoupling from upstream signaling events induced by surface receptors. The activation by light is fast, reversible, and not only time but also dose dependent as monitored by phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Additionally, light-activated C-RAF controls serum response factor-mediated gene expression. Light-induced heterodimerization of C-RAF with a kinase-dead mutant of B-RAF demonstrates the enhancing role of B-RAF as a scaffold for C-RAF activity, which leads to the paradoxical activation of C-RAF found in human cancers. This optogenetic tool enables reversible control of protein kinase activity in signal duration and strength. These properties can help to shed light onto downstream signaling processes of protein kinases in living 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.