Showing 1 - 9 of 9 results
T cells selectively filter oscillatory signals on the minutes timescale.
T cells experience complex temporal patterns of stimulus via receptor-ligand-binding interactions with surrounding cells. From these temporal patterns, T cells are able to pick out antigenic signals while establishing self-tolerance. Although features such as duration of antigen binding have been examined, our understanding of how T cells interpret signals with different frequencies or temporal stimulation patterns is relatively unexplored. We engineered T cells to respond to light as a stimulus by building an optogenetically controlled chimeric antigen receptor (optoCAR). We discovered that T cells respond to minute-scale oscillations of activation signal by stimulating optoCAR T cells with tunable pulse trains of light. Systematically scanning signal oscillation period from 1 to 150 min revealed that expression of CD69, a T cell activation marker, reached a local minimum at a period of ∼25 min (corresponding to 5 to 15 min pulse widths). A combination of inhibitors and genetic knockouts suggest that this frequency filtering mechanism lies downstream of the Erk signaling branch of the T cell response network and may involve a negative feedback loop that diminishes Erk activity. The timescale of CD69 filtering corresponds with the duration of T cell encounters with self-peptide-presenting APCs observed via intravital imaging in mice, indicating a potential functional role for temporal filtering in vivo. This study illustrates that the T cell signaling machinery is tuned to temporally filter and interpret time-variant input signals in discriminatory ways.
High-throughput multicolor optogenetics in microwell plates.
Optogenetic probes can be powerful tools for dissecting complexity in cell biology, but there is a lack of instrumentation to exploit their potential for automated, high-information-content experiments. This protocol describes the construction and use of the optoPlate-96, a platform for high-throughput three-color optogenetics experiments that allows simultaneous manipulation of common red- and blue-light-sensitive optogenetic probes. The optoPlate-96 enables illumination of individual wells in 96-well microwell plates or in groups of wells in 384-well plates. Its design ensures that there will be no cross-illumination between microwells in 96-well plates, and an active cooling system minimizes sample heating during light-intensive experiments. This protocol details the steps to assemble, test, and use the optoPlate-96. The device can be fully assembled without specialized equipment beyond a 3D printer and a laser cutter, starting from open-source design files and commercially available components. We then describe how to perform a typical optogenetics experiment using the optoPlate-96 to stimulate adherent mammalian cells. Although optoPlate-96 experiments are compatible with any plate-based readout, we describe analysis using quantitative single-cell immunofluorescence. This workflow thus allows complex optogenetics experiments (independent control of stimulation colors, intensity, dynamics, and time points) with high-dimensional outputs at single-cell resolution. Starting from 3D-printed and laser-cut components, assembly and testing of the optoPlate-96 can be accomplished in 3-4 h, at a cost of ~$600. A full optoPlate-96 experiment with immunofluorescence analysis can be performed within ~24 h, but this estimate is variable depending on the cell type and experimental parameters.
Cancer mutations and targeted drugs can disrupt dynamic signal encoding by the Ras-Erk pathway.
The Ras-Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) pathway encodes information in its dynamics; the duration and frequency of Erk activity can specify distinct cell fates. To enable dynamic encoding, temporal information must be accurately transmitted from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. We used optogenetic profiling to show that both oncogenic B-Raf mutations and B-Raf inhibitors can cause corruption of this transmission, so that short pulses of input Ras activity are distorted into abnormally long Erk outputs. These changes can reshape downstream transcription and cell fates, resulting in improper decisions to proliferate. These findings illustrate how altered dynamic signal transmission properties, and not just constitutively increased signaling, can contribute to cell proliferation and perhaps cancer, and how optogenetic profiling can dissect mechanisms of signaling dysfunction in disease.
Tracing Information Flow from Erk to Target Gene Induction Reveals Mechanisms of Dynamic and Combinatorial Control.
Cell signaling networks coordinate specific patterns of protein expression in response to external cues, yet the logic by which signaling pathway activity determines the eventual abundance of target proteins is complex and poorly understood. Here, we describe an approach for simultaneously controlling the Ras/Erk pathway and monitoring a target gene’s transcription and protein accumulation in single live cells. We apply our approach to dissect how Erk activity is decoded by immediate early genes (IEGs). We find that IEG transcription decodes Erk dynamics through a shared band-pass filtering circuit; repeated Erk pulses transcribe IEGs more efficiently than sustained Erk inputs. However, despite highly similar transcriptional responses, each IEG exhibits dramatically different protein-level accumulation, demonstrating a high degree of post-transcriptional regulation by combinations of multiple pathways. Our results demonstrate that the Ras/Erk pathway is decoded by both dynamic filters and logic gates to shape target gene responses in a context-specific manner.
Modular engineering of cellular signaling proteins and networks.
Living cells respond to their environment using networks of signaling molecules that act as sensors, information processors, and actuators. These signaling systems are highly modular at both the molecular and network scales, and much evidence suggests that evolution has harnessed this modularity to rewire and generate new physiological behaviors. Conversely, we are now finding that, following nature's example, signaling modules can be recombined to form synthetic tools for monitoring, interrogating, and controlling the behavior of cells. Here we highlight recent progress in the modular design of synthetic receptors, optogenetic switches, and phospho-regulated proteins and circuits, and discuss the expanding role of combinatorial design in the engineering of cellular signaling proteins and networks.
Using optogenetics to interrogate the dynamic control of signal transmission by the Ras/Erk module.
The complex, interconnected architecture of cell-signaling networks makes it challenging to disentangle how cells process extracellular information to make decisions. We have developed an optogenetic approach to selectively activate isolated intracellular signaling nodes with light and use this method to follow the flow of information from the signaling protein Ras. By measuring dose and frequency responses in single cells, we characterize the precision, timing, and efficiency with which signals are transmitted from Ras to Erk. Moreover, we elucidate how a single pathway can specify distinct physiological outcomes: by combining distinct temporal patterns of stimulation with proteomic profiling, we identify signaling programs that differentially respond to Ras dynamics, including a paracrine circuit that activates STAT3 only after persistent (>1 hr) Ras activation. Optogenetic stimulation provides a powerful tool for analyzing the intrinsic transmission properties of pathway modules and identifying how they dynamically encode distinct outcomes.
Light-based feedback for controlling intracellular signaling dynamics.
The ability to apply precise inputs to signaling species in live cells would be transformative for interrogating and understanding complex cell-signaling systems. Here we report an 'optogenetic' method for applying custom signaling inputs using feedback control of a light-gated protein-protein interaction. We applied this strategy to perturb protein localization and phosphoinositide 3-kinase activity, generating time-varying signals and clamping signals to buffer against cell-to-cell variability or changes in pathway activity.
Light control of plasma membrane recruitment using the Phy-PIF system.
The ability to control the activity of intracellular signaling processes in live cells would be an extraordinarily powerful tool. Ideally, such an intracellular input would be (i) genetically encoded, (ii) able to be turned on and off in defined temporal or spatial patterns, (iii) fast to switch between on and off states, and (iv) orthogonal to other cellular processes. The light-gated interaction between fragments of two plant proteins--termed Phy and PIF--satisfies each of these constraints. In this system, Phy can be switched between two conformations using red and infrared light, while PIF only binds one of these states. This chapter describes known constraints for designing genetic constructs using Phy and PIF and provides protocols for expressing these constructs in mammalian cells, purifying the small molecule chromophore required for the system's light responsivity, and measuring light-gated binding by microscopy.
Spatiotemporal control of cell signalling using a light-switchable protein interaction.
Genetically encodable optical reporters, such as green fluorescent protein, have revolutionized the observation and measurement of cellular states. However, the inverse challenge of using light to control precisely cellular behaviour has only recently begun to be addressed; semi-synthetic chromophore-tethered receptors and naturally occurring channel rhodopsins have been used to perturb directly neuronal networks. The difficulty of engineering light-sensitive proteins remains a significant impediment to the optical control of most cell-biological processes. Here we demonstrate the use of a new genetically encoded light-control system based on an optimized, reversible protein-protein interaction from the phytochrome signalling network of Arabidopsis thaliana. Because protein-protein interactions are one of the most general currencies of cellular information, this system can, in principle, be generically used to control diverse functions. Here we show that this system can be used to translocate target proteins precisely and reversibly to the membrane with micrometre spatial resolution and at the second timescale. We show that light-gated translocation of the upstream activators of Rho-family GTPases, which control the actin cytoskeleton, can be used to precisely reshape and direct the cell morphology of mammalian cells. The light-gated protein-protein interaction that has been optimized here should be useful for the design of diverse light-programmable reagents, potentially enabling a new generation of perturbative, quantitative experiments in cell biology.