Showing 1 - 25 of 30 results
Optogenetic Methods in Plant Biology.
Optogenetics is a technique employing natural or genetically engineered photoreceptors in transgene organisms to manipulate biological activities with light. Light can be turned on or off, and adjusting its intensity and duration allows optogenetic fine-tuning of cellular processes in a noninvasive and spatiotemporally resolved manner. Since the introduction of Channelrhodopsin-2 and phytochrome-based switches nearly 20 years ago, optogenetic tools have been applied in a variety of model organisms with enormous success, but rarely in plants. For a long time, the dependence of plant growth on light and the absence of retinal, the rhodopsin chromophore, prevented the establishment of plant optogenetics until recent progress overcame these difficulties. We summarize the recent results of work in the field to control plant growth and cellular motion via green light-gated ion channels and present successful applications to light-control gene expression with single or combined photoswitches in plants. Furthermore, we highlight the technical requirements and options for future plant optogenetic research.
Engineering of bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s.
Optogenetic tools for controlling protein-protein interactions (PPIs) have been developed from a small number of photosensory modules that respond to a limited selection of wavelengths. Cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) GAF domain variants respond to an unmatched array of colors; however, their natural molecular mechanisms of action cannot easily be exploited for optogenetic control of PPIs. Here we developed bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s by engineering synthetic light-dependent interactors for a red/green GAF domain. The systematic approach enables the future engineering of the broad chromatic palette of CBCRs for optogenetics use. BICYCLs are among the smallest optogenetic tools for controlling PPIs and enable either green-ON/red-OFF (BICYCL-Red) or red-ON/green-OFF (BICYCL-Green) control with up to 800-fold state selectivity. The access to green wavelengths creates new opportunities for multiplexing with existing tools. We demonstrate the utility of BICYCLs for controlling protein subcellular localization and transcriptional processes in mammalian cells and for multiplexing with existing blue-light tools.
The Red Edge: Bilin-Binding Photoreceptors as Optogenetic Tools and Fluorescence Reporters.
This review adds the bilin-binding phytochromes to the Chemical Reviews thematic issue "Optogenetics and Photopharmacology". The work is structured into two parts. We first outline the photochemistry of the covalently bound tetrapyrrole chromophore and summarize relevant spectroscopic, kinetic, biochemical, and physiological properties of the different families of phytochromes. Based on this knowledge, we then describe the engineering of phytochromes to further improve these chromoproteins as photoswitches and review their employment in an ever-growing number of different optogenetic applications. Most applications rely on the light-controlled complex formation between the plant photoreceptor PhyB and phytochrome-interacting factors (PIFs) or C-terminal light-regulated domains with enzymatic functions present in many bacterial and algal phytochromes. Phytochrome-based optogenetic tools are currently implemented in bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals to achieve light control of a wide range of biological activities. These cover the regulation of gene expression, protein transport into cell organelles, and the recruitment of phytochrome- or PIF-tagged proteins to membranes and other cellular compartments. This compilation illustrates the intrinsic advantages of phytochromes compared to other photoreceptor classes, e.g., their bidirectional dual-wavelength control enabling instant ON and OFF regulation. In particular, the long wavelength range of absorption and fluorescence within the "transparent window" makes phytochromes attractive for complex applications requiring deep tissue penetration or dual-wavelength control in combination with blue and UV light-sensing photoreceptors. In addition to the wide variability of applications employing natural and engineered phytochromes, we also discuss recent progress in the development of bilin-based fluorescent proteins.
Spatiotemporally confined red light-controlled gene delivery at single-cell resolution using adeno-associated viral vectors.
Methodologies for the controlled delivery of genetic information into target cells are of utmost importance for genetic engineering in both fundamental and applied research. However, available methods for efficient gene transfer into user-selected or even single cells suffer from low throughput, the need for complicated equipment, high invasiveness, or side effects by off-target viral uptake. Here, we engineer an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector system that transfers genetic information into native target cells upon illumination with cell-compatible red light. This OptoAAV system allows adjustable and spatially resolved gene transfer down to single-cell resolution and is compatible with different cell lines and primary cells. Moreover, the sequential application of multiple OptoAAVs enables spatially resolved transduction with different transgenes. The approach presented is likely extendable to other classes of viral vectors and is expected to foster advances in basic and applied genetic research.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
Green Light-Controlled Gene Switch for Mammalian and Plant Cells.
The quest to engineer increasingly complex synthetic gene networks in mammalian and plant cells requires an ever-growing portfolio of orthogonal gene expression systems. To control gene expression, light is of particular interest due to high spatial and temporal resolution, ease of dosage and simplicity of administration, enabling increasingly sophisticated man-machine interfaces. However, the majority of applied optogenetic switches are crowded in the UVB, blue and red/far-red light parts of the optical spectrum, limiting the number of simultaneously applicable stimuli. This problem is even more pertinent in plant cells, in which UV-A/B, blue, and red light-responsive photoreceptors are already expressed endogenously. To alleviate these challenges, we developed a green light responsive gene switch, based on the light-sensitive bacterial transcription factor CarH from Thermus thermophilus and its cognate DNA operator sequence CarO. The switch is characterized by high reversibility, high transgene expression levels, and low leakiness, leading to up to 350-fold induction ratios in mammalian cells. In this chapter, we describe the essential steps to build functional components of the green light-regulated gene switch, followed by detailed protocols to quantify transgene expression over time in mammalian cells. In addition, we expand this protocol with a description of how the optogenetic switch can be implemented in protoplasts of A. thaliana.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Optogenetic Downregulation of Protein Levels to Control Programmed Cell Death in Mammalian Cells with a Dual Blue-Light Switch.
Optogenetic approaches facilitate the study of signaling and metabolic pathways in animal cell systems. In the past 10 years, a plethora of light-regulated switches for the targeted control over the induction of gene expression, subcellular localization of proteins, membrane receptor activity, and other cellular processes have been developed and successfully implemented. However, only a few tools have been engineered toward the quantitative and spatiotemporally resolved downregulation of proteins. Here we present a protocol for reversible and rapid blue light-induced reduction of protein levels in mammalian cells. By implementing a dual-regulated optogenetic switch (Blue-OFF), both repression of gene expression and degradation of the target protein are triggered simultaneously. We apply this system for the blue light-mediated control of programmed cell death. HEK293T cells are transfected with the proapoptotic proteins PUMA and BID integrated into the Blue-OFF system. Overexpression of these proteins leads to programmed cell death, which can be prevented by irradiation with blue light. This experimental approach is very straightforward, requires just simple hardware, and therefore can be easily implemented in state-of-the-art equipped mammalian cell culture labs. The system can be used for targeted cell signaling studies and biotechnological applications.
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.
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.