Showing 1 - 8 of 8 results
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.
Optogenetic toolkit for precise control of calcium signaling.
Calcium acts as a second messenger to regulate a myriad of cell functions, ranging from short-term muscle contraction and cell motility to long-term changes in gene expression and metabolism. To study the impact of Ca2+-modulated 'ON' and 'OFF' reactions in mammalian cells, pharmacological tools and 'caged' compounds are commonly used under various experimental conditions. The use of these reagents for precise control of Ca2+ signals, nonetheless, is impeded by lack of reversibility and specificity. The recently developed optogenetic tools, particularly those built upon engineered Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels, provide exciting opportunities to remotely and non-invasively modulate Ca2+ signaling due to their superior spatiotemporal resolution and rapid reversibility. In this review, we briefly summarize the latest advances in the development of optogenetic tools (collectively termed as 'genetically encoded Ca2+ actuators', or GECAs) that are tailored for the interrogation of Ca2+ signaling, as well as their applications in remote neuromodulation and optogenetic immunomodulation. Our goal is to provide a general guide to choosing appropriate GECAs for optical control of Ca2+ signaling in cellulo, and in parallel, to stimulate further thoughts on evolving non-opsin-based optogenetics into a fully fledged technology for the study of Ca2+-dependent activities in vivo.
Optogenetic Immunomodulation: Shedding Light on Antitumor Immunity.
Microbial opsin-based optogenetic tools have been transformative for neuroscience. To extend optogenetic approaches to the immune system to remotely control immune responses with superior spatiotemporal precision, pioneering tools have recently been crafted to modulate lymphocyte trafficking, inflammasome activation, dendritic cell (DC) maturation, and antitumor immunity through the photoactivation of engineered chemokine receptors and calcium release-activated calcium channels. We highlight herein some conceptual design strategies for installing light sensitivities into the immune signaling network and, in parallel, we propose potential solutions for in vivo optogenetic applications in living organisms with near-infrared light-responsive upconversion nanomaterials. Moreover, to move beyond proof-of-concept into translational applications, we discuss future prospects for integrating personalized immunoengineering with optogenetics to overcome critical hurdles in cancer immunotherapy.
Illuminating Cell Signaling with Near-Infrared Light-Responsive Nanomaterials.
The regulation of cellular signaling in vivo has been a challenging task owing to the lack of effective methods for tunable control of the amplitude, location, and duration of cell-signaling events at a deep-tissue level. In this issue of ACS Nano, an intriguing paper by Ambrosone et al. demonstrates that deep-tissue-penetrating near-infrared (NIR) light can be used to control the Wnt/β-catenin-signaling pathway in a single-cell organism (Hydra) by utilizing microcapsules that contain plasmonic gold nanoparticles. In parallel, in recent work, we proposed upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as NIR-light-activatable "wireless" optogenetic tools, and we showed their ability to modulate cell signaling pathways in both mammalian cells and mice. We believe that these interesting NIR-light-responsive nanotechnologies will open new avenues for both basic research and clinical applications.
Near-infrared photoactivatable control of Ca(2+) signaling and optogenetic immunomodulation.
The application of current channelrhodopsin-based optogenetic tools is limited by the lack of strict ion selectivity and the inability to extend the spectra sensitivity into the near-infrared (NIR) tissue transmissible range. Here we present an NIR-stimulable optogenetic platform (termed 'Opto-CRAC') that selectively and remotely controls Ca(2+) oscillations and Ca(2+)-responsive gene expression to regulate the function of non-excitable cells, including T lymphocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. When coupled to upconversion nanoparticles, the optogenetic operation window is shifted from the visible range to NIR wavelengths to enable wireless photoactivation of Ca(2+)-dependent signaling and optogenetic modulation of immunoinflammatory responses. In a mouse model of melanoma by using ovalbumin as surrogate tumor antigen, Opto-CRAC has been shown to act as a genetically-encoded 'photoactivatable adjuvant' to improve antigen-specific immune responses to specifically destruct tumor cells. Our study represents a solid step forward towards the goal of achieving remote and wireless control of Ca(2+)-modulated activities with tailored function.