Showing 1 - 21 of 21 results
Diya – a universal light illumination platform for multiwell plate cultures.
Recent progress in protein engineering has established optogenetics as one of the leading external non-invasive stimulation strategies, with many optogenetic tools being designed for in vivo operation. Characterization and optimization of these tools require a high-throughput and versatile light delivery system targeting micro-titer culture volumes. Here, we present a universal light illumination platform – Diya, compatible with a wide range of cell culture plates and dishes. Diya hosts specially-designed features ensuring active thermal management, homogeneous illumination, and minimal light bleedthrough. It offers light induction programming via a user-friendly custom-designed GUI. Through extensive characterization experiments with multiple optogenetic tools in diverse model organisms (bacteria, yeast and human cell lines), we show that Diya maintains viable conditions for cell cultures undergoing light induction. Finally, we demonstrate an optogenetic strategy for in vivo biomolecular controller operation. With a custom-designed antithetic integral feedback circuit, we exhibit robust perfect adaptation and light-controlled set-point variation using Diya.
Optogenetic closed-loop feedback control of the unfolded protein response optimizes protein production.
In biotechnological protein production processes, the onset of protein unfolding at high gene expression levels leads to diminishing production yields and reduced efficiency. Here we show that in silico closed-loop optogenetic feedback control of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in S. cerevisiae clamps gene expression rates at intermediate near-optimal values, leading to significantly improved product titers. Specifically, in a fully-automated custom-built 1L-photobioreactor, we used a cybergenetic control system to steer the level of UPR in yeast to a desired set-point by optogenetically modulating the expression of α-amylase, a hard-to-fold protein, based on real-time feedback measurements of the UPR, resulting in 60% higher product titers. This proof-of-concept study paves the way for advanced optimal biotechnology production strategies that diverge from and complement current strategies employing constitutive overexpression or genetically hardwired circuits.
Enhancing the performance of Magnets photosensors through directed evolution.
Photosensory protein domains are the basis of optogenetic protein engineering. These domains originate from natural sources where they fulfill specific functions ranging from the protection against photooxidative damage to circadian rhythms. When used in synthetic biology, the features of these photosensory domains can be specifically tailored towards the application of interest, enabling their full exploitation for optogenetic regulation in basic research and applied bioengineering. In this work, we develop and apply a simple, yet powerful, directed evolution and high-throughput screening strategy that allows us to alter the most fundamental property of the widely used nMag/pMag photodimerization system: its light sensitivity. We identify a set of mutations located within the photosensory domains, which either increase or decrease the light sensitivity at sub-saturating light intensities, while also improving the dark-to-light fold change in certain variants. For some of these variants, photosensitivity and expression levels could be changed independently, showing that the shape of the light-activity dose-response curve can be tuned and adjusted. We functionally characterize the variants in vivo in bacteria on the single-cell and the population levels. We further show that a subset of these variants can be transferred into the mOptoT7 for gene expression regulation in mammalian cells. We demonstrate increased gene expression levels for low light intensities, resulting in reduced potential phototoxicity in long-term experiments. Our findings expand the applicability of the widely used Magnets photosensors by enabling a tuning towards the needs of specific optogenetic regulation strategies. More generally, our approach will aid optogenetic approaches by making the adaptation of photosensor properties possible to better suit specific experimental or bioprocess needs.
Dynamic cybergenetic control of bacterial co-culture composition via optogenetic feedback.
Communities of microbes play important roles in natural environments and hold great potential for deploying division-of-labor strategies in synthetic biology and bioproduction. However, the difficulty of controlling the composition of microbial consortia over time hinders their optimal use in many applications. Here, we present a fully automated, high-throughput platform that combines real-time measurements and computer-controlled optogenetic modulation of bacterial growth to implement precise and robust compositional control of a two-strain E. coli community. In addition, we develop a general framework for dynamic modeling of synthetic genetic circuits in the physiological context of E. coli and use a host-aware model to determine the optimal control parameters of our closed-loop compositional control system. Our platform succeeds in stabilizing the strain ratio of multiple parallel co-cultures at arbitrary levels and in changing these targets over time, opening the door for the implementation of dynamic compositional programs in synthetic bacterial communities.
Implementation of a Novel Optogenetic Tool in Mammalian Cells Based on a Split T7 RNA Polymerase.
Optogenetic tools are widely used to control gene expression dynamics both in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. These tools are used in a variety of biological applications from stem cell differentiation to metabolic engineering. Despite some tools already available in bacteria, no light-inducible system currently exists to control gene expression independently from mammalian transcriptional and/or translational machineries thus working orthogonally to endogenous regulatory mechanisms. Such a tool would be particularly important in synthetic biology, where orthogonality is advantageous to achieve robust activation of synthetic networks. Here we implement, characterize, and optimize a new optogenetic tool in mammalian cells based on a previously published system in bacteria called Opto-T7RNAPs. The tool is orthogonal to the cellular machinery for transcription and consists of a split T7 RNA polymerase coupled with the blue light-inducible magnets system (mammalian OptoT7-mOptoT7). In our study we exploited the T7 polymerase's viral origins to tune our system's expression level, reaching up to an almost 20-fold change activation over the dark control. mOptoT7 is used here to generate mRNA for protein expression, shRNA for protein inhibition, and Pepper aptamer for RNA visualization. Moreover, we show that mOptoT7 can mitigate the gene expression burden when compared to another optogenetic construct. These properties make mOptoT7 a powerful new tool to use when orthogonality and viral RNA species (that lack endogenous RNA modifications) are desired.
Dynamic cybergenetic control of bacterial co-culture composition via optogenetic feedback.
Communities of microbes play important roles in natural environments and hold great potential for deploying division-of-labor strategies in synthetic biology and bioproduction. However, the difficulty of controlling the composition of microbial consortia over time hinders their optimal use in many applications. Here, we present a fully automated, high-throughput platform that combines real-time measurements and computer-controlled optogenetic modulation of bacterial growth to implement precise and robust compositional control of a two-strain E. coli community. Additionally, we develop a general framework for dynamic modeling of synthetic genetic circuits in the physiological context of E. coli and use a host-aware model to determine the optimal control parameters of our closed-loop compositional control system. Our platform succeeds in stabilizing the strain ratio of multiple parallel co-cultures at arbitrary levels and in changing these targets over time, opening the door for the implementation of dynamic compositional programs in synthetic bacterial communities.
Platforms for Optogenetic Stimulation and Feedback Control.
Harnessing the potential of optogenetics in biology requires methodologies from different disciplines ranging from biology, to mechatronics engineering, to control engineering. Light stimulation of a synthetic optogenetic construct in a given biological species can only be achieved via a suitable light stimulation platform. Emerging optogenetic applications entail a consistent, reproducible, and regulated delivery of light adapted to the application requirement. In this review, we explore the evolution of light-induction hardware-software platforms from simple illumination set-ups to sophisticated microscopy, microtiter plate and bioreactor designs, and discuss their respective advantages and disadvantages. Here, we examine design approaches followed in performing optogenetic experiments spanning different cell types and culture volumes, with induction capabilities ranging from single cell stimulation to entire cell culture illumination. The development of automated measurement and stimulation schemes on these platforms has enabled researchers to implement various in silico feedback control strategies to achieve computer-controlled living systems-a theme we briefly discuss in the last part of this review.
Optogenetic actuator - ERK biosensor circuits identify MAPK network nodes that shape ERK dynamics.
Combining single-cell measurements of ERK activity dynamics with perturbations provides insights into the MAPK network topology. We built circuits consisting of an optogenetic actuator to activate MAPK signaling and an ERK biosensor to measure single-cell ERK dynamics. This allowed us to conduct RNAi screens to investigate the role of 50 MAPK proteins in ERK dynamics. We found that the MAPK network is robust against most node perturbations. We observed that the ERK-RAF and the ERK-RSK2-SOS negative feedback operate simultaneously to regulate ERK dynamics. Bypassing the RSK2-mediated feedback, either by direct optogenetic activation of RAS, or by RSK2 perturbation, sensitized ERK dynamics to further perturbations. Similarly, targeting this feedback in a human ErbB2-dependent oncogenic signaling model increased the efficiency of a MEK inhibitor. The RSK2-mediated feedback is thus important for the ability of the MAPK network to produce consistent ERK outputs, and its perturbation can enhance the efficiency of MAPK inhibitors.
Synthetic gene networks recapitulate dynamic signal decoding and differential gene expression.
Cells live in constantly changing environments and employ dynamic signaling pathways to transduce information about the signals they encounter. However, the mechanisms by which dynamic signals are decoded into appropriate gene expression patterns remain poorly understood. Here, we devise networked optogenetic pathways that achieve dynamic signal processing functions that recapitulate cellular information processing. Exploiting light-responsive transcriptional regulators with differing response kinetics, we build a falling edge pulse detector and show that this circuit can be employed to demultiplex dynamically encoded signals. We combine this demultiplexer with dCas9-based gene networks to construct pulsatile signal filters and decoders. Applying information theory, we show that dynamic multiplexing significantly increases the information transmission capacity from signal to gene expression state. Finally, we use dynamic multiplexing for precise multidimensional regulation of a heterologous metabolic pathway. Our results elucidate design principles of dynamic information processing and provide original synthetic systems capable of decoding complex signals for biotechnological applications.
Rapid prototyping and design of cybergenetic single-cell controllers.
The design and implementation of synthetic circuits that operate robustly in the cellular context is fundamental for the advancement of synthetic biology. However, their practical implementation presents challenges due to low predictability of synthetic circuit design and time-intensive troubleshooting. Here, we present the Cyberloop, a testing framework to accelerate the design process and implementation of biomolecular controllers. Cellular fluorescence measurements are sent in real-time to a computer simulating candidate stochastic controllers, which in turn compute the control inputs and feed them back to the controlled cells via light stimulation. Applying this framework to yeast cells engineered with optogenetic tools, we examine and characterize different biomolecular controllers, test the impact of non-ideal circuit behaviors such as dilution on their operation, and qualitatively demonstrate improvements in controller function with certain network modifications. From this analysis, we derive conditions for desirable biomolecular controller performance, thereby avoiding pitfalls during its biological implementation.
Engineering AraC to make it responsive to light instead of arabinose.
The L-arabinose-responsive AraC and its cognate PBAD promoter underlie one of the most often used chemically inducible prokaryotic gene expression systems in microbiology and synthetic biology. Here, we change the sensing capability of AraC from L-arabinose to blue light, making its dimerization and the resulting PBAD activation light-inducible. We engineer an entire family of blue light-inducible AraC dimers in Escherichia coli (BLADE) to control gene expression in space and time. We show that BLADE can be used with pre-existing L-arabinose-responsive plasmids and strains, enabling optogenetic experiments without the need to clone. Furthermore, we apply BLADE to control, with light, the catabolism of L-arabinose, thus externally steering bacterial growth with a simple transformation step. Our work establishes BLADE as a highly practical and effective optogenetic tool with plug-and-play functionality-features that we hope will accelerate the broader adoption of optogenetics and the realization of its vast potential in microbiology, synthetic biology and biotechnology.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
Synthetic gene networks recapitulate dynamic signal decoding and differential gene expression.
Cells live in constantly changing environments and employ dynamic signaling pathways to transduce information about the signals they encounter. However, the mechanisms by which dynamic signals are decoded into appropriate gene expression patterns remain poorly understood. Here, we devise networked optogenetic pathways that achieve novel dynamic signal processing functions that recapitulate cellular information processing. Exploiting light-responsive transcriptional regulators with differing response kinetics, we build a falling-edge pulse-detector and show that this circuit can be employed to demultiplex dynamically encoded signals. We combine this demultiplexer with dCas9-based gene networks to construct pulsatile-signal filters and decoders. Applying information theory, we show that dynamic multiplexing significantly increases the information transmission capacity from signal to gene expression state. Finally, we use dynamic multiplexing for precise multidimensional regulation of a heterologous metabolic pathway. Our results elucidate design principles of dynamic information processing and provide original synthetic systems capable of decoding complex signals for biotechnological applications.
Exploiting natural chemical photosensitivity of anhydrotetracycline and tetracycline for dynamic and setpoint chemo-optogenetic control.
The transcriptional inducer anhydrotetracycline (aTc) and the bacteriostatic antibiotic tetracycline (Tc) are commonly used in all fields of biology for control of transcription or translation. A drawback of these and other small molecule inducers is the difficulty of their removal from cell cultures, limiting their application for dynamic control. Here, we describe a simple method to overcome this limitation, and show that the natural photosensitivity of aTc/Tc can be exploited to turn them into highly predictable optogenetic transcriptional- and growth-regulators. This new optogenetic class uniquely features both dynamic and setpoint control which act via population-memory adjustable through opto-chemical modulation. We demonstrate this method by applying it for dynamic gene expression control and for enhancing the performance of an existing optogenetic system. We then expand the utility of the aTc system by constructing a new chemical bandpass filter that increases its aTc response range. The simplicity of our method enables scientists and biotechnologists to use their existing systems employing aTc/Tc for dynamic optogenetic experiments without genetic modification.
Cell-in-the-loop pattern formation with optogenetically emulated cell-to-cell signaling.
Designing and implementing synthetic biological pattern formation remains challenging due to underlying theoretical complexity as well as the difficulty of engineering multicellular networks biochemically. Here, we introduce a cell-in-the-loop approach where living cells interact through in silico signaling, establishing a new testbed to interrogate theoretical principles when internal cell dynamics are incorporated rather than modeled. We present an easy-to-use theoretical test to predict the emergence of contrasting patterns in gene expression among laterally inhibiting cells. Guided by the theory, we experimentally demonstrate spontaneous checkerboard patterning in an optogenetic setup, where cell-to-cell signaling is emulated with light inputs calculated in silico from real-time gene expression measurements. The scheme successfully produces spontaneous, persistent checkerboard patterns for systems of sixteen patches, in quantitative agreement with theoretical predictions. Our research highlights how tools from dynamical systems theory may inform our understanding of patterning, and illustrates the potential of cell-in-the-loop for engineering synthetic multicellular systems.
Pulsatile inputs achieve tunable attenuation of gene expression variability and graded multi-gene regulation.
Many natural transcription factors are regulated in a pulsatile fashion, but it remains unknown whether synthetic gene expression systems can benefit from such dynamic regulation. Here we find, using a fast-acting, optogenetic transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that dynamic pulsatile signals reduce cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. We then show that by encoding such signals into a single input, expression mean and variability can be independently tuned. Further, we construct a light-responsive promoter library and demonstrate how pulsatile signaling also enables graded multi-gene regulation at fixed expression ratios, despite differences in promoter dose-response characteristics. Pulsatile regulation can thus lead to beneficial functional behaviors in synthetic biological systems, which previously required laborious optimization of genetic parts or the construction of synthetic gene networks.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
Dynamic Blue Light-Inducible T7 RNA Polymerases (Opto-T7RNAPs) for Precise Spatiotemporal Gene Expression Control.
Light has emerged as a control input for biological systems due to its precise spatiotemporal resolution. The limited toolset for light control in bacteria motivated us to develop a light-inducible transcription system that is independent from cellular regulation through the use of an orthogonal RNA polymerase. Here, we present our engineered blue light-responsive T7 RNA polymerases (Opto-T7RNAPs) that show properties such as low leakiness of gene expression in the dark state, high expression strength when induced with blue light, and an inducible range of more than 300-fold. Following optimization of the system to reduce expression variability, we created a variant that returns to the inactive dark state within minutes once the blue light is turned off. This allows for precise dynamic control of gene expression, which is a key aspect for most applications using optogenetic regulation. The regulators, which only require blue light from ordinary light-emitting diodes for induction, were developed and tested in the bacterium Escherichia coli, which is a crucial cell factory for biotechnology due to its fast and inexpensive cultivation and well understood physiology and genetics. Opto-T7RNAP, with minor alterations, should be extendable to other bacterial species as well as eukaryotes such as mammalian cells and yeast in which the T7 RNA polymerase and the light-inducible Vivid regulator have been shown to be functional. We anticipate that our approach will expand the applicability of using light as an inducer for gene expression independent from cellular regulation and allow for a more reliable dynamic control of synthetic and natural gene networks.
Automated optogenetic feedback control for precise and robust regulation of gene expression and cell growth.
Dynamic control of gene expression can have far-reaching implications for biotechnological applications and biological discovery. Thanks to the advantages of light, optogenetics has emerged as an ideal technology for this task. Current state-of-the-art methods for optical expression control fail to combine precision with repeatability and cannot withstand changing operating culture conditions. Here, we present a novel fully automatic experimental platform for the robust and precise long-term optogenetic regulation of protein production in liquid Escherichia coli cultures. Using a computer-controlled light-responsive two-component system, we accurately track prescribed dynamic green fluorescent protein expression profiles through the application of feedback control, and show that the system adapts to global perturbations such as nutrient and temperature changes. We demonstrate the efficacy and potential utility of our approach by placing a key metabolic enzyme under optogenetic control, thus enabling dynamic regulation of the culture growth rate with potential applications in bacterial physiology studies and biotechnology.
Iterative experiment design guides the characterization of a light-inducible gene expression circuit.
Systems biology rests on the idea that biological complexity can be better unraveled through the interplay of modeling and experimentation. However, the success of this approach depends critically on the informativeness of the chosen experiments, which is usually unknown a priori. Here, we propose a systematic scheme based on iterations of optimal experiment design, flow cytometry experiments, and Bayesian parameter inference to guide the discovery process in the case of stochastic biochemical reaction networks. To illustrate the benefit of our methodology, we apply it to the characterization of an engineered light-inducible gene expression circuit in yeast and compare the performance of the resulting model with models identified from nonoptimal experiments. In particular, we compare the parameter posterior distributions and the precision to which the outcome of future experiments can be predicted. Moreover, we illustrate how the identified stochastic model can be used to determine light induction patterns that make either the average amount of protein or the variability in a population of cells follow a desired profile. Our results show that optimal experiment design allows one to derive models that are accurate enough to precisely predict and regulate the protein expression in heterogeneous cell populations over extended periods of time.
In silico feedback for in vivo regulation of a gene expression circuit.
We show that difficulties in regulating cellular behavior with synthetic biological circuits may be circumvented using in silico feedback control. By tracking a circuit's output in Saccharomyces cerevisiae in real time, we precisely control its behavior using an in silico feedback algorithm to compute regulatory inputs implemented through a genetically encoded light-responsive module. Moving control functions outside the cell should enable more sophisticated manipulation of cellular processes whenever real-time measurements of cellular variables are possible.