Near-infrared optogenetic genome engineering based on photon upconversion hydrogels.
Abstract: Photon upconversion (UC) from near-infrared (NIR) light to visible light has enabled optogenetic manipulations in deep tissues. However, materials for NIR optogenetics have been limited to inorganic UC nanoparticles. Extension to organic triplet-triplet annihilation (TTA)-based UC systems would innovate NIR optogenetics toward the use of biocompatible materials placed at a desired position. Here, we report the first example of NIR light-triggered optogenetics by using TTA-UC hydrogels. To achieve triplet sensitization even in the highly viscous hydrogel matrices, a NIR-absorbing complex is covalently linked with energy-pooling acceptor chromophores, which significantly elongates the donor triplet lifetime. The donor and acceptor are solubilized in hydrogels formed from biocompatible Pluronic F127 micelles, and we find that the additional heat treatment endows remarkable oxygen-tolerant property to the excited triplets in the hydrogel. Combined with photoactivatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) technology, NIR light stimulation successfully performs genome engineering such as hippocampal dendritic spine formation involved in learning and long-term memory.