Showing 1 - 9 of 9 results
Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals switching of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
Precise control of the timing and amplitude of protein activity in living cells can explain how cells compute responses to complex biochemical stimuli. The small GTPase RhoA can promote either focal adhesion (FA) growth or cell edge retraction, but how a cell chooses between these opposite outcomes is poorly understood. Here, we developed a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor (psRhoGEF) to obtain precise optical control of endogenous RhoA activity. We find that low levels of RhoA activation by psRhoGEF induces edge retraction and FA disassembly, while high levels of RhoA activation induces both FA growth and disassembly. We observed that mDia-induced Src activation at FAs occurs preferentially at lower levels of RhoA activation. Strikingly, inhibition of Src causes a switch from FA disassembly to growth. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation reveals how cells use signal amplitude and biochemical context to select between alternative responses to a single biochemical signal.
A single-chain photoswitchable CRISPR-Cas9 architecture for light-inducible gene editing and transcription.
Optical control of CRISPR-Cas9-derived proteins would be useful for restricting gene editing or transcriptional regulation to desired times and places. Optical control of Cas9 functions has been achieved with photouncageable unnatural amino acids or by using light-induced protein interactions to reconstitute Cas9-mediated functions from two polypeptides. However, these methods have only been applied to one Cas9 species and have not been used for optical control of different perturbations at two genes. Here, we use photodissociable dimeric fluorescent protein domains to engineer single-chain photoswitchable Cas9 (ps-Cas9) proteins in which the DNA-binding cleft is occluded at baseline and opened upon illumination. This design successfully controlled different species and functional variants of Cas9, mediated transcriptional activation more robustly than previous optogenetic methods, and enabled light-induced transcription of one gene and editing of another in the same cells. Thus, a single-chain photoswitchable architecture provides a general method to control a variety of Cas9-mediated functions.
Understanding CRY2 interactions for optical control of intracellular signaling.
Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can simultaneously undergo light-dependent CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomerization and CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimerization, both of which have been widely used to optically control intracellular processes. Applications using CRY2-CIB1 interaction desire minimal CRY2 homo-oligomerization to avoid unintended complications, while those utilizing CRY2-CRY2 interaction prefer robust homo-oligomerization. However, selecting the type of CRY2 interaction has not been possible as the molecular mechanisms underlying CRY2 interactions are unknown. Here we report CRY2-CIB1 and CRY2-CRY2 interactions are governed by well-separated protein interfaces at the two termini of CRY2. N-terminal charges are critical for CRY2-CIB1 interaction. Moreover, two C-terminal charges impact CRY2 homo-oligomerization, with positive charges facilitating oligomerization and negative charges inhibiting it. By engineering C-terminal charges, we develop CRY2high and CRY2low with elevated or suppressed oligomerization respectively, which we use to tune the levels of Raf/MEK/ERK signaling. These results contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying light-induced CRY2 interactions and enhance the controllability of CRY2-based optogenetic systems.Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can form light-regulated CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomers or CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimers, but modulating these interactions is difficult owing to the lack of interaction mechanism. Here the authors identify the interactions facilitating homo-oligomers and introduce mutations to create low and high oligomerization versions.
Optical control of cell signaling by single-chain photoswitchable kinases.
Protein kinases transduce signals to regulate a wide array of cellular functions in eukaryotes. A generalizable method for optical control of kinases would enable fine spatiotemporal interrogation or manipulation of these various functions. We report the design and application of single-chain cofactor-free kinases with photoswitchable activity. We engineered a dimeric protein, pdDronpa, that dissociates in cyan light and reassociates in violet light. Attaching two pdDronpa domains at rationally selected locations in the kinase domain, we created the photoswitchable kinases psRaf1, psMEK1, psMEK2, and psCDK5. Using these photoswitchable kinases, we established an all-optical cell-based assay for screening inhibitors, uncovered a direct and rapid inhibitory feedback loop from ERK to MEK1, and mediated developmental changes and synaptic vesicle transport in vivo using light.
The Growing and Glowing Toolbox of Fluorescent and Photoactive Proteins.
Over the past 20 years, protein engineering has been extensively used to improve and modify the fundamental properties of fluorescent proteins (FPs) with the goal of adapting them for a fantastic range of applications. FPs have been modified by a combination of rational design, structure-based mutagenesis, and countless cycles of directed evolution (gene diversification followed by selection of clones with desired properties) that have collectively pushed the properties to photophysical and biochemical extremes. In this review, we provide both a summary of the progress that has been made during the past two decades, and a broad overview of the current state of FP development and applications in mammalian systems.
Investigating neuronal function with optically controllable proteins.
In the nervous system, protein activities are highly regulated in space and time. This regulation allows for fine modulation of neuronal structure and function during development and adaptive responses. For example, neurite extension and synaptogenesis both involve localized and transient activation of cytoskeletal and signaling proteins, allowing changes in microarchitecture to occur rapidly and in a localized manner. To investigate the role of specific protein regulation events in these processes, methods to optically control the activity of specific proteins have been developed. In this review, we focus on how photosensory domains enable optical control over protein activity and have been used in neuroscience applications. These tools have demonstrated versatility in controlling various proteins and thereby cellular functions, and possess enormous potential for future applications in nervous systems. Just as optogenetic control of neuronal firing using opsins has changed how we investigate the function of cellular circuits in vivo, optical control may yet yield another revolution in how we study the circuitry of intracellular signaling in the brain.
Optical control of biological processes by light-switchable proteins.
Cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, or migration depend on precise spatiotemporal coordination of protein activities. Correspondingly, reaching a quantitative understanding of cellular behavior requires experimental approaches that enable spatial and temporal modulation of protein activity. Recently, a variety of light-sensitive protein domains have been engineered as optogenetic actuators to spatiotemporally control protein activity. In the present review, we discuss the principle of these optical control methods and examples of their applications in modulating signaling pathways. By controlling protein activity with spatiotemporal specificity, tunable dynamics, and quantitative control, light-controllable proteins promise to accelerate our understanding of cellular and organismal biology.
Optobiology: optical control of biological processes via protein engineering.
Enabling optical control over biological processes is a defining goal of the new field of optogenetics. Control of membrane voltage by natural rhodopsin family ion channels has found widespread acceptance in neuroscience, due to the fact that these natural proteins control membrane voltage without further engineering. In contrast, optical control of intracellular biological processes has been a fragmented effort, with various laboratories engineering light-responsive properties into proteins in different manners. In the present article, we review the various systems that have been developed for controlling protein functions with light based on vertebrate rhodopsins, plant photoregulatory proteins and, most recently, the photoswitchable fluorescent protein Dronpa. By allowing biology to be controlled with spatiotemporal specificity and tunable dynamics, light-controllable proteins will find applications in the understanding of cellular and organismal biology and in synthetic biology.
Optical control of protein activity by fluorescent protein domains.
Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are widely used as optical sensors, whereas other light-absorbing domains have been used for optical control of protein localization or activity. Here, we describe light-dependent dissociation and association in a mutant of the photochromic FP Dronpa, and we used it to control protein activities with light. We created a fluorescent light-inducible protein design in which Dronpa domains are fused to both termini of an enzyme domain. In the dark, the Dronpa domains associate and cage the protein, but light induces Dronpa dissociation and activates the protein. This method enabled optical control over guanine nucleotide exchange factor and protease domains without extensive screening. Our findings extend the applications of FPs from exclusively sensing functions to also encompass optogenetic control.