Regulation of neural gene transcription by optogenetic inhibition of the RE1-silencing transcription factor.
blue AsLOV2 HeLa Neuro-2a primary mouse cortical neurons Cell differentiation Endogenous gene expression Neuronal activity control
Abstract: Optogenetics provides new ways to activate gene transcription; however, no attempts have been made as yet to modulate mammalian transcription factors. We report the light-mediated regulation of the repressor element 1 (RE1)-silencing transcription factor (REST), a master regulator of neural genes. To tune REST activity, we selected two protein domains that impair REST-DNA binding or recruitment of the cofactor mSin3a. Computational modeling guided the fusion of the inhibitory domains to the light-sensitive Avena sativa light-oxygen-voltage-sensing (LOV) 2-phototrophin 1 (AsLOV2). By expressing AsLOV2 chimeras in Neuro2a cells, we achieved light-dependent modulation of REST target genes that was associated with an improved neural differentiation. In primary neurons, light-mediated REST inhibition increased Na(+)-channel 1.2 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor transcription and boosted Na(+) currents and neuronal firing. This optogenetic approach allows the coordinated expression of a cluster of genes impinging on neuronal activity, providing a tool for studying neuronal physiology and correcting gene expression changes taking place in brain diseases.