Showing 1 - 25 of 41 results
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Multichromatic Control of Signaling Pathways in Mammalian Cells.
The precise control of signaling proteins is a prerequisite to decipher the complexity of the signaling network and to reveal and to study pathways involved in regulating cellular metabolism and gene expression. Optogenetic approaches play an emerging role as they enable the spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Herein, a multichromatic system is developed by combining the blue light cryptochrome 2 system and the red/far-red light phytochrome B system. The use of three wavelengths allows the orthogonal control of the RAF/ERK and the AKT signaling pathway. Continuous exposure of cells to blue light leads to activation of AKT while simultaneous pulses of red and far-red light enable the modulation of ERK signaling in cells with constantly active AKT signaling. The optimized, orthogonal multichromatic system presented here is a valuable tool to better understand the fine grained and intricate processes involved in cell fate decisions.
Synthesis of a Light-Controlled Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Adjustable Mechanical Properties.
Synthetic extracellular matrices with reversibly adjustable mechanical properties are essential for the investigation of how cells respond to dynamic mechanical cues as occurring in living organisms. One interesting approach to engineer dynamic biomaterials is the incorporation of photoreceptors from cyanobacteria or plants into polymer materials. Here, we give an overview of existing photoreceptor-based biomaterials and describe a detailed protocol for the synthesis of a phytochrome-based extracellular matrix (CyPhyGel). Using cell-compatible light in the red and far-red spectrum, the mechanical properties of this matrix can be adjusted in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose-dependent manner with high spatiotemporal control.
Optogenetic Downregulation of Protein Levels to Control Programmed Cell Death in Mammalian Cells with a Dual Blue-Light Switch.
Optogenetic approaches facilitate the study of signaling and metabolic pathways in animal cell systems. In the past 10 years, a plethora of light-regulated switches for the targeted control over the induction of gene expression, subcellular localization of proteins, membrane receptor activity, and other cellular processes have been developed and successfully implemented. However, only a few tools have been engineered toward the quantitative and spatiotemporally resolved downregulation of proteins. Here we present a protocol for reversible and rapid blue light-induced reduction of protein levels in mammalian cells. By implementing a dual-regulated optogenetic switch (Blue-OFF), both repression of gene expression and degradation of the target protein are triggered simultaneously. We apply this system for the blue light-mediated control of programmed cell death. HEK293T cells are transfected with the proapoptotic proteins PUMA and BID integrated into the Blue-OFF system. Overexpression of these proteins leads to programmed cell death, which can be prevented by irradiation with blue light. This experimental approach is very straightforward, requires just simple hardware, and therefore can be easily implemented in state-of-the-art equipped mammalian cell culture labs. The system can be used for targeted cell signaling studies and biotechnological applications.
Optogenetic control of gene expression in plants in the presence of ambient white light.
Optogenetics is the genetic approach for controlling cellular processes with light. It provides spatiotemporal, quantitative and reversible control over biological signaling and metabolic processes, overcoming limitations of chemically inducible systems. However, optogenetics lags in plant research because ambient light required for growth leads to undesired system activation. We solved this issue by developing plant usable light-switch elements (PULSE), an optogenetic tool for reversibly controlling gene expression in plants under ambient light. PULSE combines a blue-light-regulated repressor with a red-light-inducible switch. Gene expression is only activated under red light and remains inactive under white light or in darkness. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we characterized PULSE in protoplasts and achieved high induction rates, and we combined it with CRISPR-Cas9-based technologies to target synthetic signaling and developmental pathways. We applied PULSE to control immune responses in plant leaves and generated Arabidopsis transgenic plants. PULSE opens broad experimental avenues in plant research and biotechnology.
Optogenetic Tuning of Ligand Binding to The Human T cell Receptor Using The opto-ligand-TCR System.
T cells are one major cell type of the immune system that use their T cell antigen receptor (TCR) to bind and respond to foreign molecules derived from pathogens. The ligand-TCR interaction half-lives determine stimulation outcome. Until recently, scientists relied on mutating either the TCR or its ligands to investigate how varying TCR-ligand interaction durations impacted on T cell activation. Our newly created opto-ligand-TCR system allowed us to precisely and reversibly control ligand binding to the TCR by light illumination. This system uses phytochrome B (PhyB) tetramers as a light-regulated TCR ligand. PhyB can be photoconverted between a binding (ON) and non-binding (OFF) conformation by 660 nm and 740 nm light illumination, respectively. PhyB ON is able to bind to a synthetic TCR, generated by fusing the PhyB interacting factor (PIF) to the TCRβ chain. Switching PhyB to the OFF conformation disrupts this interaction. Sufficiently long binding of PhyB tetramers to the PIF-TCR led to T cell activation as measured by calcium influx. Here, we describe protocols for how to generate the tetrameric ligand for our opto-ligand-TCR system, how to measure ligand-TCR binding by flow cytometry and how to quantify T cell activation via calcium influx.
Production, Purification and Characterization of Recombinant Biotinylated Phytochrome B for Extracellular Optogenetics.
In the field of extracellular optogenetics, photoreceptors are applied outside of cells to obtain systems with a desired functionality. Among the diverse applied photoreceptors, phytochromes are the only ones that can be actively and reversibly switched between the active and inactive photostate by the illumination with cell-compatible red and far-red light. In this protocol, we describe the production of a biotinylated variant of the photosensory domain of A. thaliana phytochrome B (PhyB-AviTag) in E. coli with a single, optimized expression plasmid. We give detailed instructions for the purification of the protein by immobilized metal affinity chromatography and the characterization of the protein in terms of purity, biotinylation, spectral photoswitching and the light-dependent interaction with its interaction partner PIF6. In comparison to previous studies applying PhyB-AviTag, the optimized expression plasmid used in this protocol simplifies the production process and shows an increased yield and purity.
Production of Phytochromes by High-Cell-Density E. coli Fermentation.
Phytochromes are important photoreceptors of plants, bacteria, and fungi responsive to light in the red and far-red spectrum. For increasing applications in basic research, synthetic biology, and materials sciences, it is required to recombinantly produce and purify phytochromes in high amounts. An ideal host organism for this purpose is E. coli due to its widespread use, fast growth, and ability for high-cell-density fermentation. Here, we describe the development of a generic platform for the production of phytochromes in E. coli that is compatible with high-cell-density fermentation. We exemplify our approach by the production of the photosensory domains of phytochrome B (PhyB) from A. thaliana and of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 (Cph1) from Synechocystis PCC 6803 in the multigram scale per 10 L fermentation run.
OpEn-Tag-A Customizable Optogenetic Toolbox To Dissect Subcellular Signaling.
Subcellular localization of signal molecules is a hallmark in organizing the signaling network. OpEn-Tag is a modular optogenetic endomembrane targeting toolbox that allows alteration of the localization and therefore the activity of signaling processes with the spatiotemporal resolution of optogenetics. OpEn-Tag is a two-component system employing (1) a variety of targeting peptides fused to and thereby dictating the localization of mCherry-labeled cryptochrome 2 binding protein CIBN toward distinct endomembranes and (2) the cytosolic, fluorescence-labeled blue light photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 as a customizable building block that can be fused to proteins of interest. The combination of OpEn-Tag with growth factor stimulation or the use of two membrane anchor sequences allows investigation of multilayered signal transduction processes as demonstrated here for the protein kinase AKT.
Optogenetic control shows that kinetic proofreading regulates the activity of the T cell receptor.
The immune system distinguishes between self and foreign antigens. The kinetic proofreading (KPR) model 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 interaction unchanged. We engineered an optogenetic system using the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B (PhyB) as a ligand to selectively control the dynamics of ligand binding to the TCR by light. This opto-ligand-TCR system was combined with the unique property of PhyB to continuously cycle between the binding and non-binding states under red light, with the light intensity determining the cycling rate and thus the binding duration. Mathematical modeling of our experimental datasets showed that indeed the ligand-TCR interaction half-life is the decisive factor for activating downstream TCR signaling, substantiating KPR.
Light-Controlled Afﬁnity Puriﬁcation of Protein Complexes Exempliﬁed by the Resting ZAP70 Interactome.
Multiprotein complexes control the behavior of cells, such as of lymphocytes of the immune system. Methods to affinity purify protein complexes and to determine their interactome by mass spectrometry are thus widely used. One drawback of these methods is the presence of false positives. In fact, the elution of the protein of interest (POI) is achieved by changing the biochemical properties of the buffer, so that unspecifically bound proteins (the false positives) may also elute. Here, we developed an optogenetics-derived and light-controlled affinity purification method based on the light-regulated reversible protein interaction between phytochrome B (PhyB) and its phytochrome interacting factor 6 (PIF6). We engineered a truncated variant of PIF6 comprising only 22 amino acids that can be genetically fused to the POI as an affinity tag. Thereby the POI can be purified with PhyB-functionalized resin material using 660 nm light for binding and washing, and 740 nm light for elution. Far-red light-induced elution is effective but very mild as the same buffer is used for the wash and elution. As proof-of-concept, we expressed PIF-tagged variants of the tyrosine kinase ZAP70 in ZAP70-deficient Jurkat T cells, purified ZAP70 and associating proteins using our light-controlled system, and identified the interaction partners by quantitative mass spectrometry. Using unstimulated T cells, we were able to detect the know interaction partners, and could filter out all other proteins.
Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Tunable Mechanical Properties.
Interrogation and control of cellular fate and function using optogenetics is providing revolutionary insights into biology. Optogenetic control of cells is achieved by coupling genetically encoded photoreceptors to cellular effectors and enables unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Here, a fast and reversibly switchable photoreceptor is used to tune the mechanical properties of polymer materials in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose- and space-controlled manner. By integrating engineered cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 into a poly(ethylene glycol) matrix, hydrogel materials responsive to light in the cell-compatible red/far-red spectrum are synthesized. These materials are applied to study in human mesenchymal stem cells how different mechanosignaling pathways respond to changing mechanical environments and to control the migration of primary immune cells in 3D. This optogenetics-inspired matrix allows fundamental questions of how cells react to dynamic mechanical environments to be addressed. Further, remote control of such matrices can create new opportunities for tissue engineering or provide a basis for optically stimulated drug depots.
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.
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.