Showing 1 - 15 of 15 results
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Synthesis of a Light-Controlled Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Adjustable Mechanical Properties.
Synthetic extracellular matrices with reversibly adjustable mechanical properties are essential for the investigation of how cells respond to dynamic mechanical cues as occurring in living organisms. One interesting approach to engineer dynamic biomaterials is the incorporation of photoreceptors from cyanobacteria or plants into polymer materials. Here, we give an overview of existing photoreceptor-based biomaterials and describe a detailed protocol for the synthesis of a phytochrome-based extracellular matrix (CyPhyGel). Using cell-compatible light in the red and far-red spectrum, the mechanical properties of this matrix can be adjusted in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose-dependent manner with high spatiotemporal control.
Optogenetic Tuning of Ligand Binding to The Human T cell Receptor Using The opto-ligand-TCR System.
T cells are one major cell type of the immune system that use their T cell antigen receptor (TCR) to bind and respond to foreign molecules derived from pathogens. The ligand-TCR interaction half-lives determine stimulation outcome. Until recently, scientists relied on mutating either the TCR or its ligands to investigate how varying TCR-ligand interaction durations impacted on T cell activation. Our newly created opto-ligand-TCR system allowed us to precisely and reversibly control ligand binding to the TCR by light illumination. This system uses phytochrome B (PhyB) tetramers as a light-regulated TCR ligand. PhyB can be photoconverted between a binding (ON) and non-binding (OFF) conformation by 660 nm and 740 nm light illumination, respectively. PhyB ON is able to bind to a synthetic TCR, generated by fusing the PhyB interacting factor (PIF) to the TCRβ chain. Switching PhyB to the OFF conformation disrupts this interaction. Sufficiently long binding of PhyB tetramers to the PIF-TCR led to T cell activation as measured by calcium influx. Here, we describe protocols for how to generate the tetrameric ligand for our opto-ligand-TCR system, how to measure ligand-TCR binding by flow cytometry and how to quantify T cell activation via calcium influx.
Production, Purification and Characterization of Recombinant Biotinylated Phytochrome B for Extracellular Optogenetics.
In the field of extracellular optogenetics, photoreceptors are applied outside of cells to obtain systems with a desired functionality. Among the diverse applied photoreceptors, phytochromes are the only ones that can be actively and reversibly switched between the active and inactive photostate by the illumination with cell-compatible red and far-red light. In this protocol, we describe the production of a biotinylated variant of the photosensory domain of A. thaliana phytochrome B (PhyB-AviTag) in E. coli with a single, optimized expression plasmid. We give detailed instructions for the purification of the protein by immobilized metal affinity chromatography and the characterization of the protein in terms of purity, biotinylation, spectral photoswitching and the light-dependent interaction with its interaction partner PIF6. In comparison to previous studies applying PhyB-AviTag, the optimized expression plasmid used in this protocol simplifies the production process and shows an increased yield and purity.
Production of Phytochromes by High-Cell-Density E. coli Fermentation.
Phytochromes are important photoreceptors of plants, bacteria, and fungi responsive to light in the red and far-red spectrum. For increasing applications in basic research, synthetic biology, and materials sciences, it is required to recombinantly produce and purify phytochromes in high amounts. An ideal host organism for this purpose is E. coli due to its widespread use, fast growth, and ability for high-cell-density fermentation. Here, we describe the development of a generic platform for the production of phytochromes in E. coli that is compatible with high-cell-density fermentation. We exemplify our approach by the production of the photosensory domains of phytochrome B (PhyB) from A. thaliana and of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 (Cph1) from Synechocystis PCC 6803 in the multigram scale per 10 L fermentation run.
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.
Light-Controlled Afﬁnity Puriﬁcation of Protein Complexes Exempliﬁed by the Resting ZAP70 Interactome.
Multiprotein complexes control the behavior of cells, such as of lymphocytes of the immune system. Methods to affinity purify protein complexes and to determine their interactome by mass spectrometry are thus widely used. One drawback of these methods is the presence of false positives. In fact, the elution of the protein of interest (POI) is achieved by changing the biochemical properties of the buffer, so that unspecifically bound proteins (the false positives) may also elute. Here, we developed an optogenetics-derived and light-controlled affinity purification method based on the light-regulated reversible protein interaction between phytochrome B (PhyB) and its phytochrome interacting factor 6 (PIF6). We engineered a truncated variant of PIF6 comprising only 22 amino acids that can be genetically fused to the POI as an affinity tag. Thereby the POI can be purified with PhyB-functionalized resin material using 660 nm light for binding and washing, and 740 nm light for elution. Far-red light-induced elution is effective but very mild as the same buffer is used for the wash and elution. As proof-of-concept, we expressed PIF-tagged variants of the tyrosine kinase ZAP70 in ZAP70-deficient Jurkat T cells, purified ZAP70 and associating proteins using our light-controlled system, and identified the interaction partners by quantitative mass spectrometry. Using unstimulated T cells, we were able to detect the know interaction partners, and could filter out all other proteins.
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.
Optogenetic control of integrin-matrix interaction.
Optogenetic approaches have gathered momentum in precisely modulating and interrogating cellular signalling and gene expression. The use of optogenetics on the outer cell surface to interrogate how cells receive stimuli from their environment, however, has so far not reached its full potential. Here we demonstrate the development of an optogenetically regulated membrane receptor-ligand pair exemplified by the optically responsive interaction of an integrin receptor with the extracellular matrix. The system is based on an integrin engineered with a phytochrome-interacting factor domain (OptoIntegrin) and a red light-switchable phytochrome B-functionalized matrix (OptoMatrix). This optogenetic receptor-ligand pair enables light-inducible and -reversible cell-matrix interaction, as well as the controlled activation of downstream mechanosensory signalling pathways. Pioneering the application of optogenetic switches in the extracellular environment of cells, this OptoMatrix–OptoIntegrin system may serve as a blueprint for rendering matrix–receptor interactions amendable to precise control with light.
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.
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.
Optogenetic control of focal adhesion kinase signaling.
Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) integrates signaling from integrins, growth factor receptors and mechanical stress to control cell adhesion, motility, survival and proliferation. Here, we developed a single-component, photo-activatable FAK, termed optoFAK, by using blue light-induced oligomerization of cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) to activate FAK-CRY2 fusion proteins. OptoFAK functions uncoupled from physiological stimuli and activates downstream signaling rapidly and reversibly upon blue light exposure. OptoFAK stimulates SRC creating a positive feedback loop on FAK activation, facilitating phosphorylation of paxillin and p130Cas in adherent cells. In detached cells or in mechanically stressed adherent cells, optoFAK is autophosphorylated upon exposure to blue light, however, downstream signaling is hampered indicating that the accessibility to these substrates is disturbed. OptoFAK may prove to be a useful tool to study the biological function of FAK in growth factor and integrin signaling, tension-mediated focal adhesion maturation or anoikis and could additionally serve as test system for kinase inhibitors.
Recent advances in the development of light-inducible transgene expression systems have overcome many inherent drawbacks of conventional chemically regulated systems. The latest generation of those light-regulated systems that are specifically responsive to different wavelengths allows spatiotemporal control of gene expression in a so far unprecedented manner.In this chapter, we first describe the available light-inducible gene expression systems compatible with mammalian cells and explain their underlying mechanisms. Afterward, we give a detailed protocol for the implementation of a UVB light-inducible expression system in mammalian cells.
Light-Regulated Protein Kinases Based on the CRY2-CIB1 System.
Optogenetic approaches enable the control of biological processes in a time- and space-resolved manner. These light-based methods are noninvasive and by using light as sole activator minimize side effects in contrast to chemical inducers. Here, we provide a protocol for the targeted control of the activity of protein kinases in mammalian cells based on the photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) of Arabidopsis thaliana and its interaction partner CIB1. Blue light (450 nm)-induced binding of CRY2 to CIB1 allows the recruitment of a chimeric cytosolic protein kinase AKT1 to the plasma membrane accompanied with stimulation of its kinase activity. This protocol comprises the transient and stable implementation of the light-regulated system into mammalian cells and its stimulation by blue light-emitting diodes (450 nm) irradiation as well as analysis of the light-activated AKT1.
Molecular switches in animal cells.
Molecular switches are the fundamental building blocks in the field of synthetic biology. The majority of these switches is based on protein-protein, protein-DNA or protein-RNA interactions that are responsive towards endogenous metabolites or external stimuli like small molecules or light. By the rational and predictive reassembling of multiple compatible molecular switches, complex synthetic signaling networks can be engineered. Here we review how these switches were used for the regulation of important cellular processes at every level of the signaling cascade. In the second part we review how these switches can be assembled to open- and closed-loop control signaling networks and how these networks can be applied to facilitate cattle reproduction, to treat diabetes or to autonomously detect and cure disease states like gouty arthritis or cancer.