Showing 1 - 25 of 91 results
Direct investigation of cell contraction signal networks by light-based perturbation methods.
Cell contraction plays an important role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. This includes functions in skeletal, heart, and smooth muscle cells, which lead to highly coordinated contractions of multicellular assemblies, and functions in non-muscle cells, which are often highly localized in subcellular regions and transient in time. While the regulatory processes that control cell contraction in muscle cells are well understood, much less is known about cell contraction in non-muscle cells. In this review, we focus on the mechanisms that control cell contraction in space and time in non-muscle cells, and how they can be investigated by light-based methods. The review particularly focusses on signal networks and cytoskeletal components that together control subcellular contraction patterns to perform functions on the level of cells and tissues, such as directional migration and multicellular rearrangements during development. Key features of light-based methods that enable highly local and fast perturbations are highlighted, and how experimental strategies can capitalize on these features to uncover causal relationships in the complex signal networks that control cell contraction.
Current Trends of Bacterial and Fungal Optoproteins for Novel Optical Applications.
Photoproteins, luminescent proteins or optoproteins are a kind of light-response protein responsible for the conversion of light into biochemical energy that is used by some bacteria or fungi to regulate specific biological processes. Within these specific proteins, there are groups such as the photoreceptors that respond to a given light wavelength and generate reactions susceptible to being used for the development of high-novel applications, such as the optocontrol of metabolic pathways. Photoswitchable proteins play important roles during the development of new materials due to their capacity to change their conformational structure by providing/eliminating a specific light stimulus. Additionally, there are bioluminescent proteins that produce light during a heatless chemical reaction and are useful to be employed as biomarkers in several fields such as imaging, cell biology, disease tracking and pollutant detection. The classification of these optoproteins from bacteria and fungi as photoreceptors or photoresponse elements according to the excitation-emission spectrum (UV-Vis-IR), as well as their potential use in novel applications, is addressed in this article by providing a structured scheme for this broad area of knowledge.
Allosteric regulation of kinase activity in living cells.
The dysregulation of protein kinases is associated with multiple diseases due to the kinases’ involvement in a variety of cell signaling pathways. Manipulating protein kinase function, by controlling the active site, is a promising therapeutic and investigative strategy to mitigate and study diseases. Kinase active sites share structural similarities making it difficult to specifically target one kinase, allosteric control allows specific regulation and study of kinase function without directly targeting the active site. Allosteric sites are distal to the active site but coupled via a dynamic network of inter-atomic interactions between residues in the protein. Establishing an allosteric control over a kinase requires understanding the allosteric wiring of the protein. Computational techniques offer effective and inexpensive mapping of the allosteric sites on a protein. Here, we discuss methods to map and regulate allosteric communications in proteins, and strategies to establish control over kinase functions in live cells and organisms. Protein molecules, or “sensors” are engineered to function as tools to control allosteric activity of the protein as these sensors have high spatiotemporal resolution and help in understanding cell phenotypes after immediate activation or inactivation of a kinase. Traditional methods used to study protein functions, such as knockout, knockdown, or mutation, cannot offer a sufficiently high spatiotemporal resolution. We discuss the modern repertoire of tools to regulate protein kinases as we enter a new era in deciphering cellular signaling and developing novel approaches to treat diseases associated with signal dysregulation.
Photoswitchable binders enable temporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
General methods for spatiotemporal control of specific endogenous proteins would be broadly useful for probing protein function in living cells. Synthetic protein binders that bind and inhibit endogenous protein targets can be obtained from nanobodies, designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins), and other small protein scaffolds, but generalizable methods to control their binding activity are lacking. Here, we report robust single-chain photoswitchable DARPins (psDARPins) for bidirectional optical control of endogenous proteins. We created topological variants of the DARPin scaffold by computer-aided design so fusion of photodissociable dimeric Dronpa (pdDronpa) results in occlusion of target binding at baseline. Cyan light induces pdDronpa dissociation to expose the binding surface (paratope), while violet light restores pdDronpa dimerization and paratope caging. Since the DARPin redesign leaves the paratope intact, the approach was easily applied to existing DARPins for GFP, ERK, and Ras, as demonstrated by relocalizing GFP-family proteins and inhibiting endogenous ERK and Ras with optical control. Finally, a Ras-targeted psDARPin was used to determine that, following EGF-activation of EGFR, Ras is required for sustained EGFR to ERK signaling. In summary, psDARPins provide a generalizable strategy for precise spatiotemporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
Quantitative insights in tissue growth and morphogenesis with optogenetics.
Cells communicate with each other to jointly regulate cellular processes during cellular differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. This multiscale coordination arises through spatiotemporal activity of morphogens to pattern cell signaling and transcriptional factor activity. This coded information controls cell mechanics, proliferation, and differentiation to shape the growth and morphogenesis of organs. While many of the molecular components and physical interactions have been identified in key model developmental systems, there are still many unresolved questions related to the dynamics involved due to challenges in precisely perturbing and quantitatively measuring signaling dynamics. Recently, a broad range of synthetic optogenetic tools have been developed and employed to quantitatively define relationships between signal transduction and downstream cellular responses. These optogenetic tools can control intracellular activities at the single cell or whole tissue scale to direct subsequent biological processes. In this brief review, we highlight a selected set of studies that develop and implement optogenetic tools to unravel quantitative biophysical mechanisms for tissue growth and morphogenesis across a broad range of biological systems through the manipulation of morphogens, signal transduction cascades, and cell mechanics. More generally, we discuss how optogenetic tools have emerged as a powerful platform for probing and controlling multicellular development.
The clinical potential of optogenetic interrogation of pathogenesis.
Opsin-based optogenetics has emerged as a powerful biomedical tool using light to control protein conformation. Such capacity has been initially demonstrated to control ion flow across the cell membrane, enabling precise control of action potential in excitable cells such as neurons or muscle cells. Further advancement in optogenetics incorporates a greater variety of photoactivatable proteins and results in flexible control of biological processes, such as gene expression and signal transduction, with commonly employed light sources such as LEDs or lasers in optical microscopy. Blessed by the precise genetic targeting specificity and superior spatiotemporal resolution, optogenetics offers new biological insights into physiological and pathological mechanisms underlying health and diseases. Recently, its clinical potential has started to be capitalized, particularly for blindness treatment, due to the convenient light delivery into the eye.
Live Imaging with Genetically Encoded Physiologic Sensors and Optogenetic Tools.
Barrier tissues such as the epidermis employ complex signal transduction systems to execute morphogenetic programs and to rapidly respond to environmental cues to promote homeostasis. Recent advances in live-imaging techniques and tools allow precise spatial and temporal monitoring and manipulation of intracellular signaling cascades. Leveraging the chemistry of naturally occurring light-sensitive proteins, genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors have emerged as robust tools for visualizing dynamic signaling events. In contrast, optogenetic protein constructs permit laser-mediated control of signal receptors and effectors within live cells, organoids, and even model organisms. In this paper, we review the basic principles underlying novel biosensors and optogenetic tools and highlight how recent studies in cutaneous biology have leveraged these imaging strategies to illuminate the spatiotemporal signals regulating epidermal development, barrier formation, and tissue homeostasis.
RhoA regulation in space and time.
RhoGTPases are well known for being controllers of cell cytoskeleton and share common features in the way they act and are controlled. These include their switch from GDP to GTP states, their regulations by different guanine exchange factors (GEFs), GTPase-activating proteins and guanosine dissociation inhibitors (GDIs), and their similar structure of active sites/membrane anchors. These very similar features often lead to the common consideration that the differences in their biological effects mainly arise from the different types of regulators and specific effectors associated with each GTPase. Focusing on data obtained through biosensors, live cell microscopy and recent optogenetic approaches, we highlight in this review that the regulation of RhoA appears to depart from Cdc42 and Rac1 modes of regulation through its enhanced lability at the plasma membrane. RhoA presents a high dynamic turnover at the membrane that is regulated not only by GDIs but also by GEFs, effectors and a possible soluble conformational state. This peculiarity of RhoA regulation may be important for the specificities of its functions, such as the existence of activity waves or its putative dual role in the initiation of protrusions and contractions.
Precise modulation of embryonic development through optogenetics.
The past decade has witnessed enormous progress in optogenetics, which uses photo-sensitive proteins to control signal transduction in live cells and animals. The ever-increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, could overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. In this work, we summarize recent progress in this emerging field and highlight the application of opsin-free optogenetics in studying embryonic development, focusing on new insights gained into optical induction of morphogenesis, cell polarity, cell fate determination, tissue differentiation, neuronal regeneration, synaptic plasticity, and removal of cells during development.
Recent advances in cellular optogenetics for photomedicine.
Since the successful introduction of exogenous photosensitive proteins, channelrhodopsin, to neurons, optogenetics has enabled substantial understanding of profound brain function by selectively manipulating neural circuits. In an optogenetic system, optical stimulation can be precisely delivered to brain tissue to achieve regulation of cellular electrical activity with unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution in living organisms. In recent years, the development of various optical actuators and novel light-delivery techniques has greatly expanded the scope of optogenetics, enabling the control of other signal pathways in non-neuronal cells for different biomedical applications, such as phototherapy and immunotherapy. This review focuses on the recent advances in optogenetic regulation of cellular activities for photomedicine. We discuss emerging optogenetic tools and light-delivery platforms, along with a survey of optogenetic execution in mammalian and microbial cells.
Plant optogenetics: Applications and perspectives.
To understand cell biological processes, like signalling pathways, protein movements, or metabolic processes, precise tools for manipulation are desired. Optogenetics allows to control cellular processes by light and can be applied at a high temporal and spatial resolution. In the last three decades, various optogenetic applications have been developed for animal, fungal, and prokaryotic cells. However, using optogenetics in plants has been difficult due to biological and technical issues, like missing cofactors, the presence of endogenous photoreceptors, or the necessity of light for photosynthesis, which potentially activates optogenetic tools constitutively. Recently developed tools overcome these limitations, making the application of optogenetics feasible also in plants. Here, we highlight the most useful recent applications in plants and give a perspective for future optogenetic approaches in plants science.
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.
Extracellular Optogenetics at the Interface of Synthetic Biology and Materials Science.
We review fundamental mechanisms and applications of OptoGels: hydrogels with light-programmable properties endowed by photoswitchable proteins ("optoproteins") found in nature. Light, as the primary source of energy on earth, has driven evolution to develop highly-tuned functionalities, such as phototropism and circadian entrainment. These functions are mediated through a growing family of optoproteins that respond to the entire visible spectrum ranging from ultraviolet to infrared by changing their structure to transmit signals inside of cells. In a recent series of articles, engineers and biochemists have incorporated optoproteins into a variety of extracellular systems, endowing them with photocontrollability. While other routes exist for dynamically controlling material properties, light-sensitive proteins have several distinct advantages, including precise spatiotemporal control, reversibility, substrate selectivity, as well as biodegradability and biocompatibility. Available conjugation chemistries endow OptoGels with a combinatorially large design space determined by the set of optoproteins and polymer networks. These combinations result in a variety of tunable material properties. Despite their potential, relatively little of the OptoGel design space has been explored. Here, we aim to summarize innovations in this emerging field and highlight potential future applications of these next generation materials. OptoGels show great promise in applications ranging from mechanobiology, to 3D cell and organoid engineering, and programmable cell eluting materials.
Optogenetic technologies in translational cancer research.
Gene and cell therapies are widely recognized as future cancer therapeutics but poor controllability limits their clinical applications. Optogenetics, the use of light-controlled proteins to precisely spatiotemporally regulate the activity of genes and cells, opens up new possibilities for cancer treatment. Light of specific wavelength can activate the immune response, oncolytic activity and modulate cell signaling in tumor cells non-invasively, in dosed manner, with tissue confined action and without side effects of conventional therapies. Here, we review optogenetic approaches in cancer research, their clinical potential and challenges of incorporating optogenetics in cancer therapy. We critically discuss beneficial combinations of optogenetic technologies with therapeutic nanobodies, T-cell activation and CAR-T cell approaches, genome editors and oncolytic viruses. We consider viral vectors and nanoparticles for delivering optogenetic payloads and activating light to tumors. Finally, we highlight herein the prospects for integrating optogenetics into immunotherapy as a novel, fast, reversible and safe approach to cancer treatment.
Engineering Light-Control in Biology.
Unraveling the transformative power of optogenetics in biology requires sophisticated engineering for the creation and optimization of light-regulatable proteins. In addition, diverse strategies have been used for the tuning of these light-sensitive regulators. This review highlights different protein engineering and synthetic biology approaches, which might aid in the development and optimization of novel optogenetic proteins (Opto-proteins). Focusing on non-neuronal optogenetics, chromophore availability, general strategies for creating light-controllable functions, modification of the photosensitive domains and their fusion to effector domains, as well as tuning concepts for Opto-proteins are discussed. Thus, this review shall not serve as an encyclopedic summary of light-sensitive regulators but aims at discussing important aspects for the engineering of light-controllable proteins through selected examples.
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.
Towards translational optogenetics.
Optogenetics is widely used to interrogate the neural circuits underlying disease and has most recently been harnessed for therapeutic applications. The optogenetic toolkit consists of light-responsive proteins that modulate specific cellular functions, vectors for the delivery of the transgenes that encode the light-responsive proteins to targeted cellular populations, and devices for the delivery of light of suitable wavelengths at effective fluence rates. A refined toolkit with a focus towards translational uses would include efficient and safer viral and non-viral gene-delivery vectors, increasingly red-shifted photoresponsive proteins, nanomaterials that efficiently transduce near-infrared light deep into tissue, and wireless implantable light-delivery devices that allow for spatiotemporally precise interventions at clinically relevant tissue depths. In this Review, we examine the current optogenetics toolkit and the most notable preclinical and translational uses of optogenetics, and discuss future methodological and translational developments and bottlenecks.
Optogenetic approaches in biotechnology and biomaterials.
Advances in genetic engineering, combined with the development of optical technologies, have allowed optogenetics to broaden its area of possible applications in recent years. However, the application of optogenetic tools in industry, including biotechnology and the production of biomaterials, is still limited, because each practical task requires the engineering of a specific optogenetic system. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the use of optogenetic tools in the production of biofuels and valuable chemicals, the synthesis of biomedical and polymer materials, and plant agrobiology. We also offer a comprehensive analysis of the properties and industrial applicability of light-controlled and other smart biomaterials. These data allow us to outline the prospects for the future use of optogenetics in bioindustry.
Engineering Photoresponsive Ligand Tethers for Mechanical Regulation of Stem Cells.
Regulating stem cell functions by precisely controlling the nanoscale presentation of bioactive ligands has a substantial impact on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine but remains a major challenge. Here it is shown that bioactive ligands can become mechanically "invisible" by increasing their tether lengths to the substrate beyond a critical length, providing a way to regulate mechanotransduction without changing the biochemical conditions. Building on this finding, light switchable tethers are rationally designed, whose lengths can be modulated reversibly by switching a light-responsive protein, pdDronpa, in between monomer and dimer states. This allows the regulation of the adhesion, spreading, and differentiation of stem cells by light on substrates of well-defined biochemical and physical properties. Spatiotemporal regulation of differential cell fates on the same substrate is further demonstrated, which may represent an important step toward constructing complex organoids or mini tissues by spatially defining the mechanical cues of the cellular microenvironment with light.
Applications of Upconversion Nanoparticles in Cellular Optogenetics.
Upconversion-mediated optogenetics is an emerging powerful technique to remotely control and manipulate the deep-tissue protein functions and signaling pathway activation. This technique uses lanthanide upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as light transducers and through near-infrared light to indirectly activate the traditional optogenetic proteins. With the merits of high spatiotemporal resolution and minimal invasiveness, this technique enables cell-type specific manipulation of cellular activities in deep tissues as well as in living animals. In this review, we introduce the latest development of optogenetic modules and UCNPs, with emphasis on the integration of UCNPs with cellular optogenetics and their biomedical applications on the control of neural/brain activity, cancer therapy and cardiac optogenetics in vivo. Furthermore, we analyze the current developed strategies to optimize and advance the upconversion-mediated optogenetics and discuss the remaining challenges of its further applications in biomedical study and clinical translational research. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Optogenetics harnesses photoactivatable proteins to optically stimulate and control intracellular activities. UCNPs-mediated NIR-activatable optogenetics uses lanthanide upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as light transducers and utilizes near-infrared (NIR) light to indirectly activate the traditional optogenetic proteins. The integration of UCNPs with cellular optogenetics has showed great promise in biomedical applications in regulating neural/brain activity, cancer therapy and cardiac optogenetics in vivo. The evolution and optimization of functional UCNPs and the discovery and engineering of novel optogenetic modules would both contribute to the advance of such unique hybrid technology, which may lead to discoveries in biomedical research and provide new treatments for human diseases.
A guide to the optogenetic regulation of endogenous molecules.
Genetically encoded tools for the regulation of endogenous molecules (RNA, DNA elements and protein) are needed to study and control biological processes with minimal interference caused by protein overexpression and overactivation of signaling pathways. Here we focus on light-controlled optogenetic tools (OTs) that allow spatiotemporally precise regulation of gene expression and protein function. To control endogenous molecules, OTs combine light-sensing modules from natural photoreceptors with specific protein or nucleic acid binders. We discuss OT designs and group OTs according to the principles of their regulation. We outline characteristics of OT performance, discuss considerations for their use in vivo and review available OTs and their applications in cells and in vivo. Finally, we provide a brief outlook on the development of OTs.
Advanced Optogenetic-Based Biosensing and Related Biomaterials.
The ability to stimulate mammalian cells with light, brought along by optogenetic control, has significantly broadened our understanding of electrically excitable tissues. Backed by advanced (bio)materials, it has recently paved the way towards novel biosensing concepts supporting bio-analytics applications transversal to the main biomedical stream. The advancements concerning enabling biomaterials and related novel biosensing concepts involving optogenetics are reviewed with particular focus on the use of engineered cells for cell-based sensing platforms and the available toolbox (from mere actuators and reporters to novel multifunctional opto-chemogenetic tools) for optogenetic-enabled real-time cellular diagnostics and biosensor development. The key advantages of these modified cell-based biosensors concern both significantly faster (minutes instead of hours) and higher sensitivity detection of low concentrations of bioactive/toxic analytes (below the threshold concentrations in classical cellular sensors) as well as improved standardization as warranted by unified analytic platforms. These novel multimodal functional electro-optical label-free assays are reviewed among the key elements for optogenetic-based biosensing standardization. This focused review is a potential guide for materials researchers interested in biosensing based on light-responsive biomaterials and related analytic tools.
Optogenetic approaches for understanding homeostatic and degenerative processes in Drosophila.
Many organs and tissues have an intrinsic ability to regenerate from a dedicated, tissue-specific stem cell pool. As organisms age, the process of self-regulation or homeostasis begins to slow down with fewer stem cells available for tissue repair. Tissues become more fragile and organs less efficient. This slowdown of homeostatic processes leads to the development of cellular and neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we highlight the recent use and future potential of optogenetic approaches to study homeostasis. Optogenetics uses photosensitive molecules and genetic engineering to modulate cellular activity in vivo, allowing precise experiments with spatiotemporal control. We look at applications of this technology for understanding the mechanisms governing homeostasis and degeneration as applied to widely used model organisms, such as Drosophila melanogaster, where other common tools are less effective or unavailable.
Capicua is a fast-acting transcriptional brake.
Even though transcriptional repressors are studied with ever-increasing molecular resolution, the temporal aspects of gene repression remain poorly understood. Here, we address the dynamics of transcriptional repression by Capicua (Cic), which is essential for normal development and is commonly mutated in human cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.1,2 We report the speed limit for Cic-dependent gene repression based on live imaging and optogenetic perturbations in the early Drosophila embryo, where Cic was originally discovered.3 Our measurements of Cic concentration and intranuclear mobility, along with real-time monitoring of the activity of Cic target genes, reveal remarkably fast transcriptional repression within minutes of removing an optogenetic de-repressive signal. In parallel, quantitative analyses of transcriptional bursting of Cic target genes support a repression mechanism providing a fast-acting brake on burst generation. This work sets quantitative constraints on potential mechanisms for gene regulation by Cic.
Synthetic biology as driver for the biologization of materials sciences.
Materials in nature have fascinating properties that serve as a continuous source of inspiration for materials scientists. Accordingly, bio-mimetic and bio-inspired approaches have yielded remarkable structural and functional materials for a plethora of applications. Despite these advances, many properties of natural materials remain challenging or yet impossible to incorporate into synthetic materials. Natural materials are produced by living cells, which sense and process environmental cues and conditions by means of signaling and genetic programs, thereby controlling the biosynthesis, remodeling, functionalization, or degradation of the natural material. In this context, synthetic biology offers unique opportunities in materials sciences by providing direct access to the rational engineering of how a cell senses and processes environmental information and translates them into the properties and functions of materials. Here, we identify and review two main directions by which synthetic biology can be harnessed to provide new impulses for the biologization of the materials sciences: first, the engineering of cells to produce precursors for the subsequent synthesis of materials. This includes materials that are otherwise produced from petrochemical resources, but also materials where the bio-produced substances contribute unique properties and functions not existing in traditional materials. Second, engineered living materials that are formed or assembled by cells or in which cells contribute specific functions while remaining an integral part of the living composite material. We finally provide a perspective of future scientific directions of this promising area of research and discuss science policy that would be required to support research and development in this field.