Showing 1 - 5 of 5 results
Optical activation of TrkA signaling.
Nerve growth factor/tropomyosin receptor kinase A (NGF/TrkA) signaling plays a key role in neuronal development, function, survival, and growth. The pathway is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, inflammation, and cancer. NGF binds the extracellular domain of TrkA, leading to the activation of the receptor's intracellular kinase domain. TrkA signaling is highly dynamic, thus mechanistic studies would benefit from a tool with high spatial and temporal resolution. Here we present the design and evaluation of four strategies for light-inducible activation of TrkA in the absence of NGF. Our strategies involve the light-sensitive protein Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and its binding partner CIB1. We demonstrate successful recapitulation of native NGF/TrkA functions by optical induction of plasma membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkA. This approach activates PI3K/AKT and Raf/ERK signaling pathways, promotes neurite growth in PC12 cells, and supports the survival of dorsal root ganglion neurons in the absence of NGF. This ability to activate TrkA using light bestows high spatial and temporal resolution for investigating NGF/TrkA signaling.
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.
The Timing of Raf/ERK and AKT Activation in Protecting PC12 Cells against Oxidative Stress.
Acute brain injuries such as ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury often cause massive neural death and irreversible brain damage with grave consequences. Previous studies have established that a key participant in the events leading to neural death is the excessive production of reactive oxygen species. Protecting neuronal cells by activating their endogenous defense mechanisms is an attractive treatment strategy for acute brain injuries. In this work, we investigate how the precise timing of the Raf/ERK and the AKT pathway activation affects their protective effects against oxidative stress. For this purpose, we employed optogenetic systems that use light to precisely and reversibly activate either the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway. We find that preconditioning activation of the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway immediately before oxidant exposure provides significant protection to cells. Notably, a 15-minute transient activation of the Raf/ERK pathway is able to protect PC12 cells against oxidant strike that is applied 12 hours later, while the transient activation of the AKT pathway fails to protect PC12 cells in such a scenario. On the other hand, if the pathways are activated after the oxidative insult, i.e. postconditioning, the AKT pathway conveys greater protective effect than the Raf/ERK pathway. We find that postconditioning AKT activation has an optimal delay period of 2 hours. When the AKT pathway is activated 30min after the oxidative insult, it exhibits very little protective effect. Therefore, the precise timing of the pathway activation is crucial in determining its protective effect against oxidative injury. The optogenetic platform, with its precise temporal control and its ability to activate specific pathways, is ideal for the mechanistic dissection of intracellular pathways in protection against oxidative stress.
Optogenetic control of molecular motors and organelle distributions in cells.
Intracellular transport and distribution of organelles play important roles in diverse cellular functions, including cell polarization, intracellular signaling, cell survival, and apoptosis. Here, we report an optogenetic strategy to control the transport and distribution of organelles by light. This is achieved by optically recruiting molecular motors onto organelles through the heterodimerization of Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and its interacting partner CIB1. CRY2 and CIB1 dimerize within subseconds upon exposure to blue light, which requires no exogenous ligands and low intensity of light. We demonstrate that mitochondria, peroxisomes, and lysosomes can be driven toward the cell periphery upon light-induced recruitment of kinesin, or toward the cell nucleus upon recruitment of dynein. Light-induced motor recruitment and organelle movements are repeatable, reversible, and can be achieved at subcellular regions. This light-controlled organelle redistribution provides a new strategy for studying the causal roles of organelle transport and distribution in cellular functions in living cells.
Light-mediated kinetic control reveals the temporal effect of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway in PC12 cell neurite outgrowth.
It has been proposed that differential activation kinetics allows cells to use a common set of signaling pathways to specify distinct cellular outcomes. For example, nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) induce different activation kinetics of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway and result in differentiation and proliferation, respectively. However, a direct and quantitative linkage between the temporal profile of Raf/MEK/ERK activation and the cellular outputs has not been established due to a lack of means to precisely perturb its signaling kinetics. Here, we construct a light-gated protein-protein interaction system to regulate the activation pattern of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway. Light-induced activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK cascade leads to significant neurite outgrowth in rat PC12 pheochromocytoma cell lines in the absence of growth factors. Compared with NGF stimulation, light stimulation induces longer but fewer neurites. Intermittent on/off illumination reveals that cells achieve maximum neurite outgrowth if the off-time duration per cycle is shorter than 45 min. Overall, light-mediated kinetic control enables precise dissection of the temporal dimension within the intracellular signal transduction network.