Combining optogenetics with sensitive FRET imaging to monitor local microtubule manipulations.
Abstract: Optogenetic methods for switching molecular states in cells are increasingly prominent tools in life sciences. Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)-based sensors can provide quantitative and sensitive readouts of altered cellular biochemistry, e.g. from optogenetics. However, most of the light-inducible domains respond to the same wavelength as is required for excitation of popular CFP/YFP-based FRET pairs, rendering the techniques incompatible with each other. In order to overcome this limitation, we red-shifted an existing CFP/YFP-based OP18 FRET sensor (COPY) by employing an sYFP2 donor and mScarlet-I acceptor. Their favorable quantum yield and brightness result in a red-shifted FRET pair with an optimized dynamic range, which could be further enhanced by an R125I point mutation that stimulates intramolecular interactions. The new sensor was named ROPY and it visualizes the interaction between the microtubule regulator stathmin/OP18 and free tubulin heterodimers. We show that through phosphorylation of the ROPY sensor, its tubulin sequestering ability can be locally regulated by photo-activatable Rac1 (PARac1), independent of the FRET readout. Together, ROPY and PARac1 provide spatiotemporal control over free tubulin levels. ROPY/PARac1-based optogenetic regulation of free tubulin levels allowed us to demonstrate that depletion of free tubulin prevents the formation of pioneer microtubules, while local upregulation of tubulin concentration allows localized microtubule extensions to support the lamellipodia.