Showing 1 - 5 of 5 results
Light-regulated gene expression in Bacteria: Fundamentals, advances, and perspectives.
Numerous photoreceptors and genetic circuits emerged over the past two decades and now enable the light-dependent i.e., optogenetic, regulation of gene expression in bacteria. Prompted by light cues in the near-ultraviolet to near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, gene expression can be up- or downregulated stringently, reversibly, non-invasively, and with precision in space and time. Here, we survey the underlying principles, available options, and prominent examples of optogenetically regulated gene expression in bacteria. While transcription initiation and elongation remain most important for optogenetic intervention, other processes e.g., translation and downstream events, were also rendered light-dependent. The optogenetic control of bacterial expression predominantly employs but three fundamental strategies: light-sensitive two-component systems, oligomerization reactions, and second-messenger signaling. Certain optogenetic circuits moved beyond the proof-of-principle and stood the test of practice. They enable unprecedented applications in three major areas. First, light-dependent expression underpins novel concepts and strategies for enhanced yields in microbial production processes. Second, light-responsive bacteria can be optogenetically stimulated while residing within the bodies of animals, thus prompting the secretion of compounds that grant health benefits to the animal host. Third, optogenetics allows the generation of precisely structured, novel biomaterials. These applications jointly testify to the maturity of the optogenetic approach and serve as blueprints bound to inspire and template innovative use cases of light-regulated gene expression in bacteria. Researchers pursuing these lines can choose from an ever-growing, versatile, and efficient toolkit of optogenetic circuits.
Characterization and engineering of photoactivated adenylyl cyclases.
Cyclic nucleoside monophosphates (cNMP) serve as universal second messengers in signal transduction across prokaryotes and eukaryotes. As signaling often relies on transiently formed microdomains of elevated second messenger concentration, means to precisely perturb the spatiotemporal dynamics of cNMPs are uniquely poised for the interrogation of the underlying physiological processes. Optogenetics appears particularly suited as it affords light-dependent, accurate control in time and space of diverse cellular processes. Several sensory photoreceptors function as photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PAC) and hence serve as light-regulated actuators for the control of intracellular levels of 3', 5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate. To characterize PACs and to refine their properties, we devised a test bed for the facile analysis of these photoreceptors. Cyclase activity is monitored in bacterial cells via expression of a fluorescent reporter, and programmable illumination allows the rapid exploration of multiple lighting regimes. We thus probed two PACs responding to blue and red light, respectively, and observed significant dark activity for both. We next engineered derivatives of the red-light-sensitive PAC with altered responses to light, with one variant, denoted DdPAC, showing enhanced response to light. These PAC variants stand to enrich the optogenetic toolkit and thus facilitate the detailed analysis of cNMP metabolism and signaling.
Library-Aided Probing of Linker Determinants in Hybrid Photoreceptors.
Signaling proteins comprise interaction and effector modules connected by linkers. Throughout evolution, these recurring modules have multiply been recombined to produce the present-day plethora of signaling proteins. Likewise, modular recombination lends itself to the engineering of hybrid signal receptors, whose functionality hinges on linker topology, sequence, and length. Often, numerous linkers must be assessed to obtain functional receptors. To expedite linker optimization, we devised the PATCHY strategy (primer-aided truncation for the creation of hybrid proteins) for the facile construction of hybrid gene libraries with defined linker distributions. Empowered by PATCHY, we engineered photoreceptors whose signal response was governed by linker length: whereas blue-light-repressed variants possessed linkers of 7n or 7n+5 residues, variants with 7n+1 residues were blue-light-activated. Related natural receptors predominantly displayed linker lengths of 7n and 7n+5 residues but rarely of 7n+1 residues. PATCHY efficiently explores linker sequence space to yield functional hybrid proteins including variants transcending the natural repertoire of signaling proteins.
Biophysical, mutational, and functional investigation of the chromophore-binding pocket of light-oxygen-voltage photoreceptors.
As light-regulated actuators, sensory photoreceptors underpin optogenetics and numerous applications in synthetic biology. Protein engineering has been applied to fine-tune the properties of photoreceptors and to generate novel actuators. For the blue-light-sensitive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) photoreceptors, mutations near the flavin chromophore modulate response kinetics and the effective light responsiveness. To probe for potential, inadvertent effects on receptor activity, we introduced these mutations into the engineered LOV photoreceptor YF1 and determined their impact on light regulation. While several mutations severely impaired the dynamic range of the receptor (e.g., I39V, R63K, and N94A), residue substitutions in a second group were benign with little effect on regulation (e.g., V28T, N37C, and L82I). Electron paramagnetic resonance and absorption spectroscopy identified correlated effects for certain of the latter mutations on chromophore environment and response kinetics in YF1 and the LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin 1. Carefully chosen mutations provide a powerful means to adjust the light-response function of photoreceptors as demanded for diverse applications.
From dusk till dawn: one-plasmid systems for light-regulated gene expression.
Signaling photoreceptors mediate diverse organismal adaptations in response to light. As light-gated protein switches, signaling photoreceptors provide the basis for optogenetics, a term that refers to the control of organismal physiology and behavior by light. We establish as novel optogenetic tools the plasmids pDusk and pDawn, which employ blue-light photoreceptors to confer light-repressed or light-induced gene expression in Escherichia coli with up to 460-fold induction upon illumination. Key features of these systems are low background activity, high dynamic range, spatial control on the 20-μm scale, independence from exogenous factors, and ease of use. In optogenetic experiments, pDusk and pDawn can be used to specifically perturb individual nodes of signaling networks and interrogate their role. On the preparative scale, pDawn can induce by light the production of recombinant proteins and thus represents a cost-effective and readily automated alternative to conventional induction systems.