Showing 1 - 25 of 29 results
Nano-optogenetic CAR-T Cell Immunotherapy.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell immunotherapy emerges as an effective cancer treatment. However, significant safety concerns remain, such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and "on-target, off-tumor" cytotoxicity, due to a lack of precise control over conventional CAR-T cell activity. To address this issue, a nano-optogenetic approach has been developed to enable spatiotemporal control of CAR-T cell activity. This system is comprised of synthetic light-sensitive CAR-T cells and upconversion nanoparticles acting as an in situ nanotransducer, allowing near-infrared light to wirelessly control CAR-T cell immunotherapy.
Optogenetic engineering of STING signaling allows remote immunomodulation to enhance cancer immunotherapy.
The cGAS-STING signaling pathway has emerged as a promising target for immunotherapy development. Here, we introduce a light-sensitive optogenetic device for control of the cGAS/STING signaling to conditionally modulate innate immunity, called 'light-inducible SMOC-like repeats' (LiSmore). We demonstrate that photo-activated LiSmore boosts dendritic cell (DC) maturation and antigen presentation with high spatiotemporal precision. This non-invasive approach photo-sensitizes cytotoxic T lymphocytes to engage tumor antigens, leading to a sustained antitumor immune response. When combined with an immune checkpoint blocker (ICB), LiSmore improves antitumor efficacy in an immunosuppressive lung cancer model that is otherwise unresponsive to conventional ICB treatment. Additionally, LiSmore exhibits an abscopal effect by effectively suppressing tumor growth in a distal site in a bilateral mouse model of melanoma. Collectively, our findings establish the potential of targeted optogenetic activation of the STING signaling pathway for remote immunomodulation in mice.
Engineering of NEMO as calcium indicators with large dynamics and high sensitivity.
Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are indispensable tools for real-time monitoring of intracellular calcium signals and cellular activities in living organisms. Current GECIs face the challenge of suboptimal peak signal-to-baseline ratio (SBR) with limited resolution for reporting subtle calcium transients. We report herein the development of a suite of calcium sensors, designated NEMO, with fast kinetics and wide dynamic ranges (>100-fold). NEMO indicators report Ca2+ transients with peak SBRs around 20-fold larger than the top-of-the-range GCaMP6 series. NEMO sensors further enable the quantification of absolution calcium concentration with ratiometric or photochromic imaging. Compared with GCaMP6s, NEMOs could detect single action potentials in neurons with a peak SBR two times higher and a median peak SBR four times larger in vivo, thereby outperforming most existing state-of-the-art GECIs. Given their high sensitivity and resolution to report intracellular Ca2+ signals, NEMO sensors may find broad applications in monitoring neuronal activities and other Ca2+-modulated physiological processes in both mammals and plants.
Light-activated macromolecular phase separation modulates transcription by reconfiguring chromatin interactions.
Biomolecular condensates participate in the regulation of gene transcription, yet the relationship between nuclear condensation and transcriptional activation remains elusive. Here, we devised a biotinylated CRISPR-dCas9-based optogenetic method, light-activated macromolecular phase separation (LAMPS), to enable inducible formation, affinity purification, and multiomic dissection of nuclear condensates at the targeted genomic loci. LAMPS-induced condensation at enhancers and promoters activates endogenous gene transcription by chromatin reconfiguration, causing increased chromatin accessibility and de novo formation of long-range chromosomal loops. Proteomic profiling of light-induced condensates by dCas9-mediated affinity purification uncovers multivalent interaction-dependent remodeling of macromolecular composition, resulting in the selective enrichment of transcriptional coactivators and chromatin structure proteins. Our findings support a model whereby the formation of nuclear condensates at native genomic loci reconfigures chromatin architecture and multiprotein assemblies to modulate gene transcription. Hence, LAMPS facilitates mechanistic interrogation of the relationship between nuclear condensation, genome structure, and gene transcription in living cells.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell-based immunotherapy has been increasingly used in the clinic for cancer intervention over the past 5 years. CAR T-cell therapy takes advantage of genetically-modified T cells to express synthetic CAR molecules on the cell surface. To date, up to six CAR T cell therapy products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. In addition, hundreds of CAR-T products are currently under clinical trials to treat solid tumours. In both the fundamental research and clinical applications, CAR T cell immunotherapy has achieved exciting progress with remarkable remission or suppression of cancers. However, CAR T cell-based immunotherapy still faces significant safety issues, as exemplified by "on-target off-tumour" cytotoxicity due to lack of strict antigen specificity. In addition, uncontrolled massive activation of infused CAR T cells may create severe systemic inflammation with cytokine release syndrome and neurotoxicity. These challenges call for a need to combine nanotechnology and optogenetics with immunoengineering to develop spatiotemporally-controllable CAR T cells, which enable wireless photo-tunable activation of therapeutic immune cells to deliver personalised therapy in the tumour microenvironment.
Optogenetics for transcriptional programming and genetic engineering.
Optogenetics combines genetics and biophotonics to enable noninvasive control of biological processes with high spatiotemporal precision. When engineered into protein machineries that govern the cellular information flow as depicted in the central dogma, multiple genetically encoded non-opsin photosensory modules have been harnessed to modulate gene transcription, DNA or RNA modifications, DNA recombination, and genome engineering by utilizing photons emitting in the wide range of 200-1000 nm. We present herein generally applicable modular strategies for optogenetic engineering and highlight latest advances in the broad applications of opsin-free optogenetics to program transcriptional outputs and precisely manipulate the mammalian genome, epigenome, and epitranscriptome. We also discuss current challenges and future trends in opsin-free optogenetics, which has been rapidly evolving to meet the growing needs in synthetic biology and genetics research.
Red-shifted optogenetics comes to the spotlight.
Abstract not available.
Optical control of protein delivery and partitioning in the nucleolus.
The nucleolus is a subnuclear membraneless compartment intimately involved in ribosomal RNA synthesis, ribosome biogenesis and stress response. Multiple optogenetic devices have been developed to manipulate nuclear protein import and export, but molecular tools tailored for remote control over selective targeting or partitioning of cargo proteins into subnuclear compartments capable of phase separation are still limited. Here, we report a set of single-component photoinducible nucleolus-targeting tools, designated pNUTs, to enable rapid and reversible nucleoplasm-to-nucleolus shuttling, with the half-lives ranging from milliseconds to minutes. pNUTs allow both global protein infiltration into nucleoli and local delivery of cargoes into the outermost layer of the nucleolus, the granular component. When coupled with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-associated C9ORF72 proline/arginine-rich dipeptide repeats, pNUTs allow us to photomanipulate poly-proline-arginine nucleolar localization, perturb nucleolar protein nucleophosmin 1 and suppress nascent protein synthesis. pNUTs thus expand the optogenetic toolbox by permitting light-controllable interrogation of nucleolar functions and precise induction of ALS-associated toxicity in cellular models.
Optical Sensors and Actuators for Probing Proximity-Dependent Biotinylation in Living Cells.
Proximity-dependent biotinylation techniques have been gaining wide applications in the systematic analysis of protein-protein interactions (PPIs) on a proteome-wide scale in living cells. The engineered biotin ligase TurboID is among the most widely adopted given its enhanced biotinylation efficiency, but it faces the background biotinylation complication that might confound proteomic data interpretation. To address this issue, we report herein a set of split TurboID variants that can be reversibly assembled by using light (designated "OptoID"), which enable optogenetic control of biotinylation based proximity labeling in living cells. OptoID could be further coupled with an engineered monomeric streptavidin that permits real-time monitoring of biotinylation with high temporal precision. These optical actuators and sensors will likely find broad applications in precise proximity proteomics and rapid detection of biotinylation in living cells.
Optophysiology: Illuminating cell physiology with optogenetics.
Optogenetics combines light and genetics to enable precise control of living cells, tissues, and organisms with tailored functions. Optogenetics has the advantages of noninvasiveness, rapid responsiveness, tunable reversibility, and superior spatiotemporal resolution. Following the initial discovery of microbial opsins as light-actuated ion channels, a plethora of naturally occurring or engineered photoreceptors or photosensitive domains that respond to light at varying wavelengths has ushered in the next chapter of optogenetics. Through protein engineering and synthetic biology approaches, genetically encoded photoswitches can be modularly engineered into protein scaffolds or host cells to control a myriad of biological processes, as well as to enable behavioral control and disease intervention in vivo. Here, we summarize these optogenetic tools on the basis of their fundamental photochemical properties to better inform the chemical basis and design principles. We also highlight exemplary applications of opsin-free optogenetics in dissecting cellular physiology (designated "optophysiology") and describe the current progress, as well as future trends, in wireless optogenetics, which enables remote interrogation of physiological processes with minimal invasiveness. This review is anticipated to spark novel thoughts on engineering next-generation optogenetic tools and devices that promise to accelerate both basic and translational studies.
Nano-optogenetic engineering of CAR T cells for precision immunotherapy with enhanced safety.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell-based immunotherapy, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, has shown curative potential in patients with haematological malignancies. However, owing to the lack of control over the location and duration of the anti-tumour immune response, CAR T cell therapy still faces safety challenges arising from cytokine release syndrome and on-target, off-tumour toxicity. Herein, we present the design of light-switchable CAR (designated LiCAR) T cells that allow real-time phototunable activation of therapeutic T cells to precisely induce tumour cell killing. When coupled with imaging-guided, surgically removable upconversion nanoplates that have enhanced near-infrared-to-blue upconversion luminescence as miniature deep-tissue photon transducers, LiCAR T cells enable both spatial and temporal control over T cell-mediated anti-tumour therapeutic activity in vivo with greatly mitigated side effects. Our nano-optogenetic immunomodulation platform not only provides a unique approach to interrogate CAR-mediated anti-tumour immunity, but also sets the stage for developing precision medicine to deliver personalized anticancer therapy.
Optogenetic Control of Non-Apoptotic Cell Death.
Herein, a set of optogenetic tools (designated LiPOP) that enable photoswitchable necroptosis and pyroptosis in live cells with varying kinetics, is introduced. The LiPOP tools allow reconstruction of the key molecular steps involved in these two non-apoptotic cell death pathways by harnessing the power of light. Further, the use of LiPOPs coupled with upconversion nanoparticles or bioluminescence is demonstrated to achieve wireless optogenetic or chemo-optogenetic killing of cancer cells in multiple mouse tumor models. LiPOPs can trigger necroptotic and pyroptotic cell death in cultured prokaryotic or eukaryotic cells and in living animals, and set the stage for studying the role of non-apoptotic cell death pathways during microbial infection and anti-tumor immunity.
Circularly permuted LOV2 as a modular photoswitch for optogenetic engineering.
Plant-based photosensors, such as the light-oxygen-voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) from oat phototropin 1, can be modularly wired into cell signaling networks to remotely control protein activity and physiological processes. However, the applicability of LOV2 is hampered by the limited choice of available caging surfaces and its preference to accommodate the effector domains downstream of the C-terminal Jα helix. Here, we engineered a set of LOV2 circular permutants (cpLOV2) with additional caging capabilities, thereby expanding the repertoire of genetically encoded photoswitches to accelerate the design of optogenetic devices. We demonstrate the use of cpLOV2-based optogenetic tools to reversibly gate ion channels, antagonize CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome engineering, control protein subcellular localization, reprogram transcriptional outputs, elicit cell suicide and generate photoactivatable chimeric antigen receptor T cells for inducible tumor cell killing. Our approach is widely applicable for engineering other photoreceptors to meet the growing need of optogenetic tools tailored for biomedical and biotechnological applications.
Optogenetic control of calcium influx in mammalian cells.
Optogenetics combines optics and genetics to enable non-invasive interrogation of cell physiology at an unprecedented high spatiotemporal resolution. Here, we introduce Opto-CRAC as a set of genetically-encoded calcium actuators (GECAs) engineered from the calcium release-activated calcium (CRAC) channel, which has been tailored for optical control of calcium entry and calcium-dependent physiological responses in non-excitable cells and tissues. We describe a detailed protocol for applying Opto-CRAC as an optogenetic tool to achieve photo-tunable control over intracellular calcium signals and calcium-dependent gene expression in mammalian cells.
Structural Determinants for Light-Dependent Membrane Binding of a Photoswitchable Polybasic Domain.
OptoPB is an optogenetic tool engineered by fusion of the phosphoinositide (PI)-binding polybasic domain of Rit1 (Rit-PB) to a photoreactive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain. OptoPB selectively and reversibly binds the plasma membrane (PM) under blue light excitation, and in the dark, it releases back to the cytoplasm. However, the molecular mechanism of optical regulation and lipid recognition is still unclear. Here using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, liposome pulldown assay, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), we find that OptoPB binds to membrane mimetics containing di- or triphosphorylated phosphatidylinositols, particularly phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2), an acidic phospholipid predominantly located in the eukaryotic PM. In the dark, steric hindrance prevented this protein-membrane interaction, while 470 nm blue light illumination activated it. NMR titration and site-directed mutagenesis revealed that both cationic and hydrophobic Rit-PB residues are essential to the membrane interaction, indicating that OptoPB binds the membrane via a specific PI(4,5)P2-dependent mechanism.
Design of Smart Antibody Mimetics with Photosensitive Switches.
As two prominent examples of intracellular single-domain antibodies or antibody mimetics derived from synthetic protein scaffolds, monobodies and nanobodies are gaining wide applications in cell biology, structural biology, synthetic immunology, and theranostics. Herein, a generally applicable method to engineer light-controllable monobodies and nanobodies, designated as moonbody and sunbody, respectively, is introduced. These engineered antibody-like modular domains enable rapid and reversible antibody-antigen recognition by utilizing light. By the paralleled insertion of two light-oxygen-voltage domain 2 modules into a single sunbody and the use of bivalent sunbodies, the range of dynamic changes of photoswitchable sunbodies is substantially enhanced. Furthermore, the use of moonbodies or sunbodies to precisely control protein degradation, gene transcription, and base editing by harnessing the power of light is demonstrated.
Engineering of a bona fide light-operated calcium channel.
The current optogenetic toolkit lacks a robust single-component Ca2+-selective ion channel tailored for remote control of Ca2+ signaling in mammals. Existing tools are either derived from engineered channelrhodopsin variants without strict Ca2+ selectivity or based on the stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1) that might crosstalk with other targets. Here, we describe the design of a light-operated Ca2+ channel (designated LOCa) by inserting a plant-derived photosensory module into the intracellular loop of an engineered ORAI1 channel. LOCa displays biophysical features reminiscent of the ORAI1 channel, which enables precise optical control over Ca2+ signals and hallmark Ca2+-dependent physiological responses. Furthermore, we demonstrate the use of LOCa to modulate aberrant hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal, transcriptional programming, cell suicide, as well as neurodegeneration in a Drosophila model of amyloidosis.
Engineering Supramolecular Organizing Centers for Optogenetic Control of Innate Immune Responses.
The spatiotemporal organization of oligomeric protein complexes, such as the supramolecular organizing centers (SMOCs) made of MyDDosome and MAVSome, is essential for transcriptional activation of host inflammatory responses and immunometabolism. Light‐inducible assembly of MyDDosome and MAVSome is presented herein to induce activation of nuclear factor‐kB and type‐I interferons. Engineering of SMOCs and the downstream transcription factor permits programmable and customized innate immune operations in a light‐dependent manner. These synthetic molecular tools will likely enable optical and user‐defined modulation of innate immunity at a high spatiotemporal resolution to facilitate mechanistic studies of distinct modes of innate immune activations and potential intervention of immune disorders and cancer.
Design of smart antibody mimetics with photosensitive switches.
As two prominent examples of intracellular single-domain antibodies or antibody mimetics derived from synthetic protein scaffolds, monobodies and nanobodies are gaining wide applications in cell biology, structural biology, synthetic immunology, and theranostics. We introduce herein a generally-applicable method to engineer light-controllable monobodies and nanobodies, designated as moonbody and sunbody, respectively. These engineered antibody-like modular domains enable rapid and reversible antibody-antigen recognition by utilizing light. By paralleled insertion of two LOV2 modules into a single sunbody and the use of bivalent sunbodies, we substantially enhance the range of dynamic changes of photo-switchable sunbodies. Furthermore, we demonstrate the use of moonbodies or sunbodies to precisely control protein degradation, gene transcription, and base editing by harnessing the power of light.
A STIMulating journey into optogenetic engineering.
Genetically-encoded calcium actuators (GECAs) stemmed from STIM1 have enabled optical activation of endogenous ORAI1 channels in both excitable and non-excitable tissues. These GECAs offer new non-invasive means to probe the structure-function relations of calcium channels and wirelessly control the behavior of awake mice.
Optogenetic engineering to probe the molecular choreography of STIM1-mediated cell signaling.
Genetically encoded photoswitches have enabled spatial and temporal control of cellular events to achieve tailored functions in living cells, but their applications to probe the structure-function relations of signaling proteins are still underexplored. We illustrate herein the incorporation of various blue light-responsive photoreceptors into modular domains of the stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1) to manipulate protein activity and faithfully recapitulate STIM1-mediated signaling events. Capitalizing on these optogenetic tools, we identify the molecular determinants required to mediate protein oligomerization, intramolecular conformational switch, and protein-target interactions. In parallel, we have applied these synthetic devices to enable light-inducible gating of calcium channels, conformational switch, dynamic protein-microtubule interactions and assembly of membrane contact sites in a reversible manner. Our optogenetic engineering approach can be broadly applied to aid the mechanistic dissection of cell signaling, as well as non-invasive interrogation of physiological processes with high precision.
A molecular toolbox for interrogation of membrane contact sites.
Membrane contact sites (MCSs) are specialized subcellular compartments formed by closely apposed membranes from two organelles. The intermembrane gap is separated by a distance ranging from 10 to 35 nm. MCSs are typically maintained through dynamic protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions. These intermembrane contact sites constitute important intracellular signalling hotspots to mediate a plethora of cellular processes, including calcium homeostasis, lipid metabolism, membrane biogenesis and organelle remodelling. In recent years, a series of genetically encoded probes and chemogenetic or optogenetic actuators have been invented to aid the visualization and interrogation of MCSs in both fixed and living cells. These molecular tools have greatly accelerated the pace of mechanistic dissection of membrane contact sites at the molecular level. In this review, we present an overview on the latest progress in this endeavour, and provide a general guide to the selection of methods and molecular tools for probing interorganellar membrane contact sites.
CRAC channel-based optogenetics.
Store-operated Ca²+ entry (SOCE) constitutes a major Ca2+ influx pathway in mammals to regulate a myriad of physiological processes, including muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, gene expression, and metabolism. In non-excitable cells, the Ca²+ release-activated Ca²+ (CRAC) channel, composed of ORAI and stromal interaction molecules (STIM), constitutes a prototypical example of SOCE to mediate Ca2+ entry at specialized membrane contact sites (MCSs) between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane (PM). The key steps of SOCE activation include the oligomerization of the luminal domain of the ER-resident Ca2+ sensor STIM1 upon Ca²+ store depletion, subsequent signal propagation toward the cytoplasmic domain to trigger a conformational switch and overcome the intramolecular autoinhibition, and ultimate exposure of the minimal ORAI-activating domain to directly engage and gate ORAI channels in the plasma membrane. This exquisitely coordinated cellular event is also facilitated by the C-terminal polybasic domain of STIM1, which physically associates with negatively charged phosphoinositides embedded in the inner leaflet of the PM to enable efficient translocation of STIM1 into ER-PM MCSs. Here, we present recent progress in recapitulating STIM1-mediated SOCE activation by engineering CRAC channels with optogenetic approaches. These STIM1-based optogenetic tools make it possible to not only mechanistically recapture the key molecular steps of SOCE activation, but also remotely and reversibly control Ca²+-dependent cellular processes, inter-organellar tethering at MCSs, and transcriptional reprogramming when combined with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome-editing tools.
Rewiring Calcium Signaling for Precise Transcriptional Reprogramming.
Tools capable of modulating gene expression in living organisms are very useful for interrogating the gene regulatory network and controlling biological processes. The catalytically inactive CRISPR/Cas9 (dCas9), when fused with repressive or activating effectors, functions as a versatile platform to reprogram gene transcription at targeted genomic loci. However, without temporal control, the application of these reprogramming tools will likely cause off-target effects and lack strict reversibility. To overcome this limitation, we report herein the development of a chemical or light-inducible transcriptional reprogramming device that combines photoswitchable genetically encoded calcium actuators with dCas9 to control gene expression. By fusing an engineered Ca2+-responsive NFAT fragment with dCas9 and transcriptional coactivators, we harness the power of light to achieve photoinducible transcriptional reprogramming in mammalian cells. This synthetic system (designated CaRROT) can also be used to document calcium-dependent activity in mammals after exposure to ligands or chemicals that would elicit calcium response inside cells.
Optical control of membrane tethering and interorganellar communication at nanoscales.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) forms an extensive intracellular membranous network in eukaryotes that dynamically connects and communicates with diverse subcellular compartments such as plasma membrane (PM) through membrane contact sites (MCSs), with the inter-membrane gaps separated by a distance of 10-40 nm. Phosphoinositides (PI) constitute an important class of cell membrane phospholipids shared by many MCSs to regulate a myriad of cellular events, including membrane trafficking, calcium homeostasis and lipid metabolism. By installing photosensitivity into a series of engineered PI-binding domains with minimal sizes, we have created an optogenetic toolkit (designated as 'OptoPB') to enable rapid and reversible control of protein translocation and inter-membrane tethering at MCSs. These genetically-encoded, single-component tools can be used as scaffolds for grafting lipid-binding domains to dissect molecular determinants that govern protein-lipid interactions in living cells. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the use of OptoPB as a versatile fusion tag to photomanipulate protein translocation toward PM for reprogramming of PI metabolism. When tethered to the ER membrane with the insertion of flexible spacers, OptoPB can be applied to reversibly photo-tune the gap distances at nanometer scales between the two organellar membranes at MCSs, and to gauge the distance requirement for the free diffusion of protein complexes into MCSs. Our modular optical tools will find broad applications in non-invasive and remote control of protein subcellular localization and interorganellar contact sites that are critical for cell signaling.