Showing 1 - 25 of 30 results
Optogenetic control of integrin-matrix interaction.
Optogenetic approaches have gathered momentum in precisely modulating and interrogating cellular signalling and gene expression. The use of optogenetics on the outer cell surface to interrogate how cells receive stimuli from their environment, however, has so far not reached its full potential. Here we demonstrate the development of an optogenetically regulated membrane receptor-ligand pair exemplified by the optically responsive interaction of an integrin receptor with the extracellular matrix. The system is based on an integrin engineered with a phytochrome-interacting factor domain (OptoIntegrin) and a red light-switchable phytochrome B-functionalized matrix (OptoMatrix). This optogenetic receptor-ligand pair enables light-inducible and -reversible cell-matrix interaction, as well as the controlled activation of downstream mechanosensory signalling pathways. Pioneering the application of optogenetic switches in the extracellular environment of cells, this OptoMatrix–OptoIntegrin system may serve as a blueprint for rendering matrix–receptor interactions amendable to precise control with light.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
Optogenetic control shows that kinetic proofreading regulates the activity of the T cell receptor.
The pivotal task of the immune system is to distinguish between self and foreign antigens. The kinetic proofreading model (KPR) proposes that T cells discriminate self from foreign ligands by the different ligand binding half-lives to the T cell receptor (TCR). It is challenging to test KPR as the available experimental systems fall short of only altering the binding half-lives and keeping other parameters of the ligand-TCR interaction unchanged. We engineered an optogenetic system using the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B to selectively control the dynamics of ligand binding to the TCR by light. Combining experiments with mathematical modeling we find that the ligand-TCR interaction half-life is the decisive factor for activating downstream TCR signaling, substantiating the KPR hypothesis.
Generic and reversible opto-trapping of biomolecules.
Molecular traps can control activity and abundance of many biological factors. Here, we report the development of a generic opto-trap to reversibly bind and release biomolecules with high spatiotemporal control by illumination with noninvasive and cell-compatible red and far-red light. We use the Arapidopsis thaliana photoreceptor phytochrome B to regulate the release of diverse proteins from a variety of material scaffolds. Fusion of a short 100 amino acids "PIF-tag", derived from the phytochrome interacting factor 6, renders arbitrary molecules opto-trap-compatible. Reversible opto-trapping of target molecules enables novel possibilities for future developments in diagnostics, therapeutics and basic research.
OptoBase: A web platform for molecular optogenetics.
OptoBase is an online platform for molecular optogenetics. At its core is a hand-annotated and ontology-supported database that aims to cover all existing optogenetic switches and publications, which is further complemented with a collection of convenient optogenetics-related web tools. OptoBase is meant for both expert optogeneticists, to easily keep track of the field, as well as for all researchers who find optogenetics inviting as a powerful tool to address their biological questions of interest. It is available at https://www.optobase.org. This work also presents OptoBase-based analysis of the trends in molecular optogenetics.
A green light-responsive system for the control of transgene expression in mammalian and plant cells.
The ever-increasing complexity of synthetic gene networks and applications of synthetic biology requires precise and orthogonal gene expression systems. Of particular interest are systems responsive to light as they enable the control of gene expression dynamics with unprecedented resolution in space and time. While broadly used in mammalian backgrounds, however, optogenetic approaches in plant cells are still limited due to interference of the activating light with endogenous photoreceptors. Here, we describe the development of the first synthetic light-responsive system for the targeted control of gene expression in mammalian and plant cells that responds to the green range of the light spectrum in which plant photoreceptors have minimal activity. We first engineered a system based on the light-sensitive bacterial transcription factor CarH6 and its cognate DNA operator sequence CarO from Thermus thermophilus to control gene expression in mammalian cells. The system was functional in various mammalian cell lines, showing high induction (up to 350-fold) along with low leakiness, as well as high reversibility. We quantitatively described the systems characteristics by the development and experimental validation of a mathematical model. Finally, we transferred the system into A. thaliana protoplasts and demonstrated gene expression in response to green light. We expect that this system will provide new opportunities in applications based on synthetic gene networks and will open up perspectives for optogenetic studies in mammalian and plant cells.
Synthetic Biology Makes Polymer Materials Count.
Synthetic biology applies engineering concepts to build cellular systems that perceive and process information. This is achieved by assembling genetic modules according to engineering design principles. Recent advance in the field has contributed optogenetic switches for controlling diverse biological functions in response to light. Here, the concept is introduced to apply synthetic biology switches and design principles for the synthesis of multi-input-processing materials. This is exemplified by the synthesis of a materials system that counts light pulses. Guided by a quantitative mathematical model, functional synthetic biology-derived modules are combined into a polymer framework resulting in a biohybrid materials system that releases distinct output molecules specific to the number of input light pulses detected. Further demonstration of modular extension yields a light pulse-counting materials system to sequentially release different enzymes catalyzing a multistep biochemical reaction. The resulting smart materials systems can provide novel solutions as integrated sensors and actuators with broad perspectives in fundamental and applied research.
Optogenetic control of focal adhesion kinase signaling.
Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) integrates signaling from integrins, growth factor receptors and mechanical stress to control cell adhesion, motility, survival and proliferation. Here, we developed a single-component, photo-activatable FAK, termed optoFAK, by using blue light-induced oligomerization of cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) to activate FAK-CRY2 fusion proteins. OptoFAK functions uncoupled from physiological stimuli and activates downstream signaling rapidly and reversibly upon blue light exposure. OptoFAK stimulates SRC creating a positive feedback loop on FAK activation, facilitating phosphorylation of paxillin and p130Cas in adherent cells. In detached cells or in mechanically stressed adherent cells, optoFAK is autophosphorylated upon exposure to blue light, however, downstream signaling is hampered indicating that the accessibility to these substrates is disturbed. OptoFAK may prove to be a useful tool to study the biological function of FAK in growth factor and integrin signaling, tension-mediated focal adhesion maturation or anoikis and could additionally serve as test system for kinase inhibitors.
Recent advances in the development of light-inducible transgene expression systems have overcome many inherent drawbacks of conventional chemically regulated systems. The latest generation of those light-regulated systems that are specifically responsive to different wavelengths allows spatiotemporal control of gene expression in a so far unprecedented manner.In this chapter, we first describe the available light-inducible gene expression systems compatible with mammalian cells and explain their underlying mechanisms. Afterward, we give a detailed protocol for the implementation of a UVB light-inducible expression system in mammalian cells.
Synthetic biological approaches to optogenetically control cell signaling.
Precise spatial and temporal control of cellular processes is in life sciences a highly sought-after capability. In the recent years, this goal has become progressively achievable through the field of optogenetics, which utilizes light as a non-invasive means to control genetically encoded light-responsive proteins. The latest optogenetic systems, such as those for control of subcellular localization or cellular decision-making and tissue morphogenesis provide us with insights to gain a deeper understanding of the cellular inner workings. Besides, they hold a potential for further development into biomedical applications, from in vitro optogenetics-assisted drug candidate screenings to light-controlled gene therapy and tissue engineering.
Light-Regulated Protein Kinases Based on the CRY2-CIB1 System.
Optogenetic approaches enable the control of biological processes in a time- and space-resolved manner. These light-based methods are noninvasive and by using light as sole activator minimize side effects in contrast to chemical inducers. Here, we provide a protocol for the targeted control of the activity of protein kinases in mammalian cells based on the photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) of Arabidopsis thaliana and its interaction partner CIB1. Blue light (450 nm)-induced binding of CRY2 to CIB1 allows the recruitment of a chimeric cytosolic protein kinase AKT1 to the plasma membrane accompanied with stimulation of its kinase activity. This protocol comprises the transient and stable implementation of the light-regulated system into mammalian cells and its stimulation by blue light-emitting diodes (450 nm) irradiation as well as analysis of the light-activated AKT1.
Optogenetic clustering of CNK1 reveals mechanistic insights in RAF and AKT signalling controlling cell fate decisions.
Scaffold proteins such as the multidomain protein CNK1 orchestrate the signalling network by integrating and controlling the underlying pathways. Using an optogenetic approach to stimulate CNK1 uncoupled from upstream effectors, we identified selective clusters of CNK1 that either stimulate RAF-MEK-ERK or AKT signalling depending on the light intensity applied. OptoCNK1 implemented in MCF7 cells induces differentiation at low light intensity stimulating ERK activity whereas stimulation of AKT signalling by higher light intensity promotes cell proliferation. CNK1 clustering in response to increasing EGF concentrations revealed that CNK1 binds to RAF correlating with ERK activation at low EGF dose. At higher EGF dose active AKT binds to CNK1 and phosphorylates and inhibits RAF. Knockdown of CNK1 protects CNK1 from this AKT/RAF crosstalk. In C2 skeletal muscle cells CNK1 expression is induced with the onset of differentiation. Hence, AKT-bound CNK1 counteracts ERK stimulation in differentiated but not in proliferating cells. Ectopically expressed CNK1 facilitates C2 cell differentiation and knockdown of CNK1 impaired the transcriptional network underlying C2 cell differentiation. Thus, CNK1 expression, CNK1 clustering and the thereto related differential signalling processes decide on proliferation and differentiation in a cell type- and cell stage-dependent manner by orchestrating AKT and RAF signalling.
Optogenetics - Bringing light into the darkness of mammalian signal transduction.
Cells receive many different environmental clues to which they must adapt accordingly. Therefore, a complex signal transduction network has evolved. Cellular signal transduction is a highly dynamic process, in which the specific outcome is a result of the exact spatial and temporal resolution of single sub-events. While conventional techniques, like chemical inducer systems, have led to a sound understanding of the architecture of signal transduction pathways, the spatiotemporal aspects were often impossible to resolve. Optogenetics, based on genetically encoded light-responsive proteins, has the potential to revolutionize manipulation of signal transduction processes. Light can be easily applied with highest precision and minimal invasiveness. This review focuses on examples of optogenetic systems which were generated and applied to manipulate non-neuronal mammalian signaling processes at various stages of signal transduction, from cell membrane through cytoplasm to nucleus. Further, the future of optogenetic signaling will be discussed.
Optogenetically controlled RAF to characterize BRAF and CRAF protein kinase inhibitors.
Here, we applied optoRAF, an optogenetic tool for light-controlled clustering and activation of RAF proteins that mimics the natural occurring RAS-mediated dimerization. This versatile tool allows studying the effect on BRAF and CRAF homodimer- as well as heterodimer-induced RAF signaling. Vemurafenib and dabrafenib are two clinically approved inhibitors for BRAF that efficiently suppress the kinase activity of oncogenic BRAF (V600E). However in wild-type BRAF expressing cells, BRAF inhibitors can exert paradoxical activation of wild-type CRAF. Using optoRAF, vemurafenib was identified as paradoxical activator of BRAF and CRAF homo- and heterodimers. Dabrafenib enhanced activity of light-stimulated CRAF at low dose and inhibited CRAF signaling at high dose. Moreover, dabrafenib increased the protein level of CRAF proteins but not of BRAF proteins. Increased CRAF levels correlate with elevated RAF signaling in a dabrafenib-dependent manner, independent of light activation.
Optogenetics in Plants: Red/Far-Red Light Control of Gene Expression.
Optogenetic tools to control gene expression have many advantages over the classical chemically inducible systems, overcoming intrinsic limitations of chemical inducers such as solubility, diffusion, and cell toxicity. They offer an unmatched spatiotemporal resolution and permit quantitative and noninvasive control of the gene expression. Here we describe a protocol of a synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). The synthetic toggle switch system is in the ON state when plant protoplasts are illuminated with red light (660 nm) and can be returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (760 nm). In this protocol, the implementation of a red light-inducible expression system in plants using Light-Emitting Diode (LED) illumination boxes is described, including the isolation and transient transformation of plant protoplasts from Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana tabacum.
Signalling to the nucleus under the control of light and small molecules.
One major regulatory mechanism in cell signalling is the spatio-temporal control of the localization of signalling molecules. We synthetically designed an entire cell signalling pathway, which allows controlling the transport of signalling molecules from the plasma membrane to the nucleus, by using light and small molecules.
Red Light-Regulated Reversible Nuclear Localization of Proteins in Mammalian Cells and Zebrafish.
Protein trafficking in and out of the nucleus represents a key step in controlling cell fate and function. Here we report the development of a red light-inducible and far-red light-reversible synthetic system for controlling nuclear localization of proteins in mammalian cells and zebrafish. First, we synthetically reconstructed and validated the red light-dependent Arabidopsis phytochrome B nuclear import mediated by phytochrome-interacting factor 3 in a nonplant environment and support current hypotheses on the import mechanism in planta. On the basis of this principle we next regulated nuclear import and activity of target proteins by the spatiotemporal projection of light patterns. A synthetic transcription factor was translocated into the nucleus of mammalian cells and zebrafish to drive transgene expression. These data demonstrate the first in vivo application of a plant phytochrome-based optogenetic tool in vertebrates and expand the repertoire of available light-regulated molecular devices.
An optogenetic upgrade for the Tet-OFF system.
The rapid development of mammalian optogenetics has produced an expanding number of gene switches that can be controlled with the unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution of light. However, in the "pre-optogenetic" era many networks, cell lines and transgenic organisms have been engineered that rely on chemically-inducible transgene expression systems but would benefit from the advantages of the traceless inducer light. To open the possibility for the effortless upgrade of such systems from chemical inducers to light, we capitalized on the specific Med25VBD inhibitor of the VP16/VP64 transactivation domain. In a first step, we demonstrated the efficiency and selectivity of Med25VBD in the inhibition of VP16/VP64-based transgene expression systems. Then, we fused the inhibitor to the blue light-responsive B-LID degron and optimized the performance of this construct with regard to the number of Med25VBD repeats. This approach resulted in an optogenetic upgrade of the popular Tet-OFF (TetR-VP64, tetO7 -PhCMVmin ) system that allows tunable, blue light-inducible transgene expression in HEK-293T cells.
Optogenetics for gene expression in mammalian cells.
Molecular switches that are controlled by chemicals have evolved as central research instruments in mammalian cell biology. However, these tools are limited in terms of their spatiotemporal resolution due to freely diffusing inducers. These limitations have recently been addressed by the development of optogenetic, genetically encoded, and light-responsive tools that can be controlled with the unprecedented spatiotemporal precision of light. In this article, we first provide a brief overview of currently available optogenetic tools that have been designed to control diverse cellular processes. Then, we focus on recent developments in light-controlled gene expression technologies and provide the reader with a guideline for choosing the most suitable gene expression system.
Orthogonal optogenetic triple-gene control in Mammalian cells.
Optogenetic gene switches allow gene expression control at an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Recently, light-responsive transgene expression systems that are activated by UV-B, blue, or red light have been developed. These systems perform well on their own, but their integration into genetic networks has been hampered by the overlapping absorbance spectra of the photoreceptors. We identified a lack of orthogonality between UV-B and blue light-controlled gene expression as the bottleneck and employed a model-based approach that identified the need for a blue light-responsive gene switch that is insensitive to low-intensity light. Based on this prediction, we developed a blue light-responsive and rapidly reversible expression system. Finally, we employed this expression system to demonstrate orthogonality between UV-B, blue, and red/far-red light-responsive gene switches in a single mammalian cell culture. We expect this approach to enable the spatiotemporal control of gene networks and to expand the applications of optogenetics in synthetic biology.
Optogenetic control of signaling in mammalian cells.
Molecular signals are sensed by their respective receptors and information is transmitted and processed by a sophisticated intracellular network controlling various biological functions. Optogenetic tools allow the targeting of specific signaling nodes for a precise spatiotemporal control of downstream effects. These tools are based on photoreceptors such as phytochrome B (PhyB), cryptochrome 2, or light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domains that reversibly bind to specific interaction partners in a light-dependent manner. Fusions of a protein of interest to the photoreceptor or their interaction partners may enable the control of the protein function by light-mediated dimerization, a change of subcellular localization, or due to photocaging/-uncaging of effectors. In this review, we summarize the photoreceptors and the light-based mechanisms utilized for the modulation of signaling events in mammalian cells focusing on non-neuronal applications. We discuss in detail optogenetic tools and approaches applied to control signaling events mediated by second messengers, Rho GTPases and growth factor-triggered signaling cascades namely the RAS/RAF and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathways. Applying the latest generation of optogenetic tools allows to control cell fate decisions such as proliferation and differentiation or to deliver therapeutic substances in a spatiotemporally controlled manner.
Control of gene expression using a red- and far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch.
Light-triggered gene expression systems offer an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution that cannot be achieved with classical chemically inducible genetic tools. Here we describe a protocol for red light-responsive gene expression in mammalian cells. This system can be toggled between stable ON and OFF states by short pulses of red and far-red light, respectively. In the protocol, CHO-K1 cells are transfected to allow red light-inducible expression of the secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) reporter, and gene expression is tuned by illumination with light of increasing wavelengths. As a starting point for elaborate red light-responsive gene expression, we outline the reversible activation of gene expression and describe how a spatial pattern can be 'printed' on a monolayer of cells by using a photomask. The core protocol requires only 4 d from seeding of the cells to reporter quantification, and other than light-emitting diode (LED) illumination boxes no elaborate equipment is required.
A red light-controlled synthetic gene expression switch for plant systems.
On command control of gene expression in time and space is required for the comprehensive analysis of key plant cellular processes. Even though some chemical inducible systems showing satisfactory induction features have been developed, they are inherently limited in terms of spatiotemporal resolution and may be associated with toxic effects. We describe here the first synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants. For this purpose, we applied an interdisciplinary synthetic biology approach comprising mammalian and plant cell systems to customize and optimize a split transcription factor based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). Implementation of the system in transient assays in tobacco protoplasts resulted in strong (95-fold) induction in red light (660 nm) and could be instantaneously returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (740 nm). Capitalizing on this toggle switch-like characteristic, we demonstrate that the system can be kept in the OFF state in the presence of 740 nm-supplemented white light, opening up perspectives for future application of the system in whole plants. Finally we demonstrate the system's applicability in basic research, by the light-controlled tuning of auxin signalling networks in N. tabacum protoplasts, as well as its biotechnological potential for the chemical-inducer free production of therapeutic proteins in the moss P. patens.
Synthesis of phycocyanobilin in mammalian cells.
The chromophore 3-Z phycocyanobilin (PCB, (2R,3Z)-8,12-bis(2-carboxyethyl)-18-ethyl-3-ethylidene-2,7,13,17-tetramethyl-2,3-dihydrobilin-1,19(21H,24H)-dione) mediates red and far-red light perception in natural and synthetic biological systems. Here we describe a PCB synthesis strategy in mammalian cells. We optimize the production by co-localizing the biocatalysts to the substrate source, by coordinating the availability of the biocatalysts and by reducing the degradation of the reaction product. We show that the resulting PCB levels of 2 μM are sufficient to sustain the functionality of red light-responsive optogenetic tools suitable for the light-inducible control of gene expression in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic control of protein kinase activity in mammalian cells.
Light-dependent dimerization is the basis for recently developed noninvasive optogenetic tools. Here we present a novel tool combining optogenetics with the control of protein kinase activity to investigate signal transduction pathways. Mediated by Arabidopsis thaliana photoreceptor cryptochrome 2, we activated the protein kinase C-RAF by blue light-dependent dimerization, allowing for decoupling from upstream signaling events induced by surface receptors. The activation by light is fast, reversible, and not only time but also dose dependent as monitored by phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Additionally, light-activated C-RAF controls serum response factor-mediated gene expression. Light-induced heterodimerization of C-RAF with a kinase-dead mutant of B-RAF demonstrates the enhancing role of B-RAF as a scaffold for C-RAF activity, which leads to the paradoxical activation of C-RAF found in human cancers. This optogenetic tool enables reversible control of protein kinase activity in signal duration and strength. These properties can help to shed light onto downstream signaling processes of protein kinases in living cells.