Showing 1 - 21 of 21 results
Mapping Local and Global Liquid Phase Behavior in Living Cells Using Photo-Oligomerizable Seeds.
Liquid-liquid phase separation plays a key role in the
assembly of diverse intracellular structures. However,
the biophysical principles by which phase separation
can be precisely localized within subregions
of the cell are still largely unclear, particularly for
low-abundance proteins. Here, we introduce an oligomerizing
biomimetic system, ‘‘Corelets,’’ and utilize
its rapid and quantitative light-controlled
tunability to map full intracellular phase diagrams,
which dictate the concentrations at which phase
separation occurs and the transition mechanism, in
a protein sequence dependent manner. Surprisingly,
both experiments and simulations show that while
intracellular concentrations may be insufficient for
global phase separation, sequestering protein ligands
to slowly diffusing nucleation centers can
move the cell into a different region of the phase diagram,
resulting in localized phase separation. This
diffusive capture mechanism liberates the cell from
the constraints of global protein abundance and is
likely exploited to pattern condensates associated
with diverse biological processes.
Functionally asymmetric motor neurons contribute to coordinating locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Locomotion circuits developed in simple animals, and circuit motifs further evolved in higher animals. To understand locomotion circuit motifs, they must be characterized in many models. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses one of the best-studied circuits for undulatory movement. Yet, for 1/6th of the cholinergic motor neurons (MNs), the AS MNs, functional information is unavailable. Ventral nerve cord (VNC) MNs coordinate undulations, in small circuits of complementary neurons innervating opposing muscles. AS MNs differ, as they innervate muscles and other MNs asymmetrically, without complementary partners. We characterized AS MNs by optogenetic, behavioral and imaging analyses. They generate asymmetric muscle activation, enabling navigation, and contribute to coordination of dorso-ventral undulation as well as anterio-posterior bending wave propagation. AS MN activity correlated with forward and backward locomotion, and they functionally connect to premotor interneurons (PINs) for both locomotion regimes. Electrical feedback from AS MNs via gap junctions may affect only backward PINs.
Optogenetic dissection of mitotic spindle positioning in vivo.
The position of the mitotic spindle determines the plane of cell cleavage, and thereby daughter cell location, size, and content. Spindle positioning is driven by dynein-mediated pulling forces exerted on astral microtubules, which requires an evolutionarily conserved complex of Gα-GDP, GPR-1/2Pins/LGN, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA proteins. To examine individual functions of the complex components, we developed a genetic strategy for light-controlled localization of endogenous proteins in C. elegans embryos. By replacing Gα and GPR-1/2 with a light-inducible membrane anchor, we demonstrate that Gα-GDP, Gα-GTP, and GPR-1/2 are not required for pulling-force generation. In the absence of Gα and GPR-1/2, cortical recruitment of LIN-5, but not dynein itself, induced high pulling forces. The light-controlled localization of LIN-5 overruled normal cell-cycle and polarity regulation and provided experimental control over the spindle and cell-cleavage plane. Our results define Gα∙GDP-GPR-1/2 Pins/LGN as a regulatable membrane anchor, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA as a potent activator of dynein-dependent spindle-positioning forces.
Rapid Integration of Multi-copy Transgenes Using Optogenetic Mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Stably transmitted transgenes are indispensable for labeling cellular components and manipulating cellular functions. In Caenorhabditis elegans, transgenes are generally generated as inheritable multi-copy extrachromosomal arrays, which can be stabilized in the genome through a mutagenesis-mediated integration process. Standard methods to integrate extrachromosomal arrays primarily use protocols involving ultraviolet light plus trimethylpsoralen or gamma- or X-ray irradiation, which are laborious and time-consuming. Here, we describe a one-step integration method, following germline-mutagenesis induced by mini Singlet Oxygen Generator (miniSOG). Upon blue light treatment, miniSOG tagged to histone (Histone-miniSOG) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) and induces heritable mutations, including DNA double-stranded breaks. We demonstrate that we can bypass the need to first establish extrachromosomal transgenic lines by coupling microinjection of desired plasmids with blue light illumination on Histone-miniSOG worms to obtain integrants in the F3 progeny. We consistently obtained more than one integrant from 12 injected animals in two weeks. This optogenetic approach significantly reduces the amount of time and labor for transgene integration. Moreover, it enables to generate stably expressed transgenes that cause toxicity in animal growth.
Descending pathway facilitates undulatory wave propagation in Caenorhabditis elegans through gap junctions.
Descending signals from the brain play critical roles in controlling and modulating locomotion kinematics. In the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system, descending AVB premotor interneurons exclusively form gap junctions with the B-type motor neurons that execute forward locomotion. We combined genetic analysis, optogenetic manipulation, calcium imaging, and computational modeling to elucidate the function of AVB-B gap junctions during forward locomotion. First, we found that some B-type motor neurons generate rhythmic activity, constituting distributed oscillators. Second, AVB premotor interneurons use their electric inputs to drive bifurcation of B-type motor neuron dynamics, triggering their transition from stationary to oscillatory activity. Third, proprioceptive couplings between neighboring B-type motor neurons entrain the frequency of body oscillators, forcing coherent bending wave propagation. Despite substantial anatomical differences between the motor circuits of C. elegans and higher model organisms, converging principles govern coordinated locomotion.
Light-dependent cytoplasmic recruitment enhances the dynamic range of a nuclear import photoswitch.
Cellular signal transduction is often regulated at multiple steps in order to achieve more complex logic or precise control of a pathway. For instance, some signaling mechanisms couple allosteric activation with localization to achieve high signal to noise. Here, we create a system for light activated nuclear import that incorporates two levels of control. It consists of a nuclear import photoswitch, Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS), and a protein engineered to preferentially interact with LANS in the dark, Zdk2. First, Zdk2 is tethered to a location in the cytoplasm, which sequesters LANS in the dark. Second, LANS incorporates a nuclear localization signal (NLS) that is sterically blocked from binding to the nuclear import machinery in the dark. When activated with light, LANS both dissociates from its tethered location and exposes its NLS, which leads to nuclear accumulation. We demonstrate that this coupled system improves the dynamic range of LANS in mammalian cells, yeast, and C. elegans and provides tighter control of transcription factors that have been fused to LANS.
Optical control of cell signaling by single-chain photoswitchable kinases.
Protein kinases transduce signals to regulate a wide array of cellular functions in eukaryotes. A generalizable method for optical control of kinases would enable fine spatiotemporal interrogation or manipulation of these various functions. We report the design and application of single-chain cofactor-free kinases with photoswitchable activity. We engineered a dimeric protein, pdDronpa, that dissociates in cyan light and reassociates in violet light. Attaching two pdDronpa domains at rationally selected locations in the kinase domain, we created the photoswitchable kinases psRaf1, psMEK1, psMEK2, and psCDK5. Using these photoswitchable kinases, we established an all-optical cell-based assay for screening inhibitors, uncovered a direct and rapid inhibitory feedback loop from ERK to MEK1, and mediated developmental changes and synaptic vesicle transport in vivo using light.
Fast cAMP Modulation of Neurotransmission via Neuropeptide Signals and Vesicle Loading.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling augments synaptic transmission, but because many targets of cAMP and protein kinase A (PKA) may be involved, mechanisms underlying this pathway remain unclear. To probe this mechanism, we used optogenetic stimulation of cAMP signaling by Beggiatoa-photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) in Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons. Behavioral, electron microscopy (EM), and electrophysiology analyses revealed cAMP effects on both the rate and on quantal size of transmitter release and led to the identification of a neuropeptidergic pathway affecting quantal size. cAMP enhanced synaptic vesicle (SV) fusion by increasing mobilization and docking/priming. cAMP further evoked dense core vesicle (DCV) release of neuropeptides, in contrast to channelrhodopsin (ChR2) stimulation. cAMP-evoked DCV release required UNC-31/Ca(2+)-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS). Thus, DCVs accumulated in unc-31 mutant synapses. bPAC-induced neuropeptide signaling acts presynaptically to enhance vAChT-dependent SV loading with acetylcholine, thus causing increased miniature postsynaptic current amplitudes (mPSCs) and significantly enlarged SVs.
Light-induced nuclear export reveals rapid dynamics of epigenetic modifications.
We engineered a photoactivatable system for rapidly and reversibly exporting proteins from the nucleus by embedding a nuclear export signal in the LOV2 domain from phototropin 1. Fusing the chromatin modifier Bre1 to the photoswitch, we achieved light-dependent control of histone H2B monoubiquitylation in yeast, revealing fast turnover of the ubiquitin mark. Moreover, this inducible system allowed us to dynamically monitor the status of epigenetic modifications dependent on H2B ubiquitylation.
Optogenetic activation of axon guidance receptors controls direction of neurite outgrowth.
Growth cones of extending axons navigate to correct targets by sensing a guidance cue gradient via membrane protein receptors. Although most signaling mechanisms have been clarified using an in vitro approach, it is still difficult to investigate the growth cone behavior in complicated extracellular environment of living animals due to the lack of tools. We develop a system for the light-dependent activation of a guidance receptor, Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), using Arabidopsis thaliana Cryptochrome 2, which oligomerizes upon blue-light absorption. Blue-light illumination transiently activates DCC via its oligomerization, which initiates downstream signaling in the illuminated subcellular region. The extending axons are attracted by illumination in cultured chick dorsal root ganglion neurons. Moreover, light-mediated navigation of the growth cones is achieved in living Caenorhabditis elegans. The photo-manipulation system is applicable to investigate the relationship between the growth cone behavior and its surrounding environment in living tissue.
Light-controlled intracellular transport in Caenorhabditis elegans.
To establish and maintain their complex morphology and function, neurons and other polarized cells exploit cytoskeletal motor proteins to distribute cargoes to specific compartments. Recent studies in cultured cells have used inducible motor protein recruitment to explore how different motors contribute to polarized transport and to control the subcellular positioning of organelles. Such approaches also seem promising avenues for studying motor activity and organelle positioning within more complex cellular assemblies, but their applicability to multicellular in vivo systems has so far remained unexplored. Here, we report the development of an optogenetic organelle transport strategy in the in vivo model system Caenorhabditis elegans. We demonstrate that movement and pausing of various organelles can be achieved by recruiting the proper cytoskeletal motor protein with light. In neurons, we find that kinesin and dynein exclusively target the axon and dendrite, respectively, revealing the basic principles for polarized transport. In vivo control of motor attachment and organelle distributions will be widely useful in exploring the mechanisms that govern the dynamic morphogenesis of cells and tissues, within the context of a developing animal.
Highly efficient optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans using membrane-targeted miniSOG.
The genetically encoded photosensitizer miniSOG (mini Singlet Oxygen Generator) can be used to kill cells in C. elegans. miniSOG generates the reactive oxygen species (ROS) singlet oxygen after illumination with blue light. Illumination of neurons expressing miniSOG targeted to the outer mitochondrial membrane (mito-miniSOG) causes neuronal death. To enhance miniSOG's efficiency as an ablation tool in multiple cell types we tested alternative targeting signals. We find that membrane targeted miniSOG allows highly efficient cell killing. When combined with a point mutation that increases miniSOG's ROS generation, membrane targeted miniSOG can ablate neurons in less than one tenth the time of mito-miniSOG. We extend the miniSOG ablation technique to non-neuronal tissues, revealing an essential role for the epidermis in locomotion. These improvements expand the utility and throughput of optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans.
Optogenetic mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can modify and damage DNA. Here we report an optogenetic mutagenesis approach that is free of toxic chemicals and easy to perform by taking advantage of a genetically encoded ROS generator. This method relies on the potency of ROS generation by His-mSOG, the mini singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, fused to a histone. Caenorhabditis elegans expressing His-mSOG in the germline behave and reproduce normally, without photoinduction. Following exposure to blue light, the His-mSOG animals produce progeny with a wide range of heritable phenotypes. We show that optogenetic mutagenesis by His-mSOG induces a broad spectrum of mutations including single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), chromosomal deletions, as well as integration of extrachromosomal transgenes, which complements those derived from traditional chemical or radiation mutagenesis. The optogenetic mutagenesis expands the toolbox for forward genetic screening and also provides direct evidence that nuclear ROS can induce heritable and specific genetic mutations.
Optogenetic manipulation of cGMP in cells and animals by the tightly light-regulated guanylyl-cyclase opsin CyclOp.
Cyclic GMP (cGMP) signalling regulates multiple biological functions through activation of protein kinase G and cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels. In sensory neurons, cGMP permits signal modulation, amplification and encoding, before depolarization. Here we implement a guanylyl cyclase rhodopsin from Blastocladiella emersonii as a new optogenetic tool (BeCyclOp), enabling rapid light-triggered cGMP increase in heterologous cells (Xenopus oocytes, HEK293T cells) and in Caenorhabditis elegans. Among five different fungal CyclOps, exhibiting unusual eight transmembrane topologies and cytosolic N-termini, BeCyclOp is the superior optogenetic tool (light/dark activity ratio: 5,000; no cAMP production; turnover (20 °C) ∼17 cGMP s(-1)). Via co-expressed CNG channels (OLF in oocytes, TAX-2/4 in C. elegans muscle), BeCyclOp photoactivation induces a rapid conductance increase and depolarization at very low light intensities. In O2/CO2 sensory neurons of C. elegans, BeCyclOp activation evokes behavioural responses consistent with their normal sensory function. BeCyclOp therefore enables precise and rapid optogenetic manipulation of cGMP levels in cells and animals.
A photosensitive degron enables acute light-induced protein degradation in the nervous system.
Acutely inducing degradation enables studying the function of essential proteins. Available techniques target proteins post-translationally, via ubiquitin or by fusing destabilizing domains (degrons), and in some cases degradation is controllable by small molecules. Yet, they are comparably slow, possibly inducing compensatory changes, and do not allow localized protein depletion. The photosensitizer miniature singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG), fused to proteins of interest, provides fast light-induced protein destruction, e.g. affecting neurotransmission within minutes, but the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated also affect proteins nearby, causing multifaceted phenotypes. A photosensitive degron (psd), recently developed and characterized in yeast, only targets the protein it is fused to, acting quickly as it is ubiquitin-independent, and the B-LID light-inducible degron was similarly shown to affect protein abundance in zebrafish. We implemented the psd in Caenorhabditis elegans and compared it to miniSOG. The psd effectively caused protein degradation within one hour of low intensity blue light (30 μW/mm(2)). Targeting synaptotagmin (SNT-1::tagRFP::psd), required for efficient neurotransmission, reduced locomotion within 15 minutes of illumination and within one hour behavior and miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) were affected almost to the same degree seen in snt-1 mutants. Thus, psd effectively photo-degrades specific proteins, quickly inducing loss-of-function effects without affecting bystander proteins.
Control of Protein Activity and Cell Fate Specification via Light-Mediated Nuclear Translocation.
Light-activatable proteins allow precise spatial and temporal control of biological processes in living cells and animals. Several approaches have been developed for controlling protein localization with light, including the conditional inhibition of a nuclear localization signal (NLS) with the Light Oxygen Voltage (AsLOV2) domain of phototropin 1 from Avena sativa. In the dark, the switch adopts a closed conformation that sterically blocks the NLS motif. Upon activation with blue light the C-terminus of the protein unfolds, freeing the NLS to direct the protein to the nucleus. A previous study showed that this approach can be used to control the localization and activity of proteins in mammalian tissue culture cells. Here, we extend this result by characterizing the binding properties of a LOV/NLS switch and demonstrating that it can be used to control gene transcription in yeast. Additionally, we show that the switch, referred to as LANS (light-activated nuclear shuttle), functions in the C. elegans embryo and allows for control of nuclear localization in individual cells. By inserting LANS into the C. elegans lin-1 locus using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination, we demonstrated control of cell fate via light-dependent manipulation of a native transcription factor. We conclude that LANS can be a valuable experimental method for spatial and temporal control of nuclear localization in vivo.
Engineering adenylate cyclases regulated by near-infrared window light.
Bacteriophytochromes sense light in the near-infrared window, the spectral region where absorption by mammalian tissues is minimal, and their chromophore, biliverdin IXα, is naturally present in animal cells. These properties make bacteriophytochromes particularly attractive for optogenetic applications. However, the lack of understanding of how light-induced conformational changes control output activities has hindered engineering of bacteriophytochrome-based optogenetic tools. Many bacteriophytochromes function as homodimeric enzymes, in which light-induced conformational changes are transferred via α-helical linkers to the rigid output domains. We hypothesized that heterologous output domains requiring homodimerization can be fused to the photosensory modules of bacteriophytochromes to generate light-activated fusions. Here, we tested this hypothesis by engineering adenylate cyclases regulated by light in the near-infrared spectral window using the photosensory module of the Rhodobacter sphaeroides bacteriophytochrome BphG1 and the adenylate cyclase domain from Nostoc sp. CyaB1. We engineered several light-activated fusion proteins that differed from each other by approximately one or two α-helical turns, suggesting that positioning of the output domains in the same phase of the helix is important for light-dependent activity. Extensive mutagenesis of one of these fusions resulted in an adenylate cyclase with a sixfold photodynamic range. Additional mutagenesis produced an enzyme with a more stable photoactivated state. When expressed in cholinergic neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans, the engineered adenylate cyclase affected worm behavior in a light-dependent manner. The insights derived from this study can be applied to the engineering of other homodimeric bacteriophytochromes, which will further expand the optogenetic toolset.
Optical control of the Ca2+ concentration in a live specimen with a genetically encoded Ca2+-releasing molecular tool.
Calcium ion (Ca2+) is an important second messenger implicated in the control of many different cellular processes in living organisms. Ca2+ is typically studied by direct visualization using chemically or genetically encoded indicators. A complementary, and perhaps more useful, approach involves direct manipulation of Ca2+ concentration; tools for this exist but are rather poorly developed compared to the indicators at least. Here, we report a photoactivatable Ca2+-releasing protein, photoactivatable Ca2+ releaser (PACR), made by the insertion of a photosensitive protein domain (LOV2) into a Ca2+ binding protein (calmodulin fused with the M13 peptide). As the PACR is genetically encoded, and unlike conventional optical control tools (e.g., channel rhodopsin) not membrane bound, we are able to restrict expression within the cell, to allow subcellular perturbation of Ca2+ levels. In whole animals, we are able to control the behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans with light by expressing the PACR only in the touch neuron.
Optogenetic inhibition of synaptic release with chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI).
Optogenetic techniques provide effective ways of manipulating the functions of selected neurons with light. In the current study, we engineered an optogenetic technique that directly inhibits neurotransmitter release. We used a genetically encoded singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, to conduct chromophore assisted light inactivation (CALI) of synaptic proteins. Fusions of miniSOG to VAMP2 and synaptophysin enabled disruption of presynaptic vesicular release upon illumination with blue light. In cultured neurons and hippocampal organotypic slices, synaptic release was reduced up to 100%. Such inhibition lasted >1 hr and had minimal effects on membrane electrical properties. When miniSOG-VAMP2 was expressed panneuronally in Caenorhabditis elegans, movement of the worms was reduced after illumination, and paralysis was often observed. The movement of the worms recovered overnight. We name this technique Inhibition of Synapses with CALI (InSynC). InSynC is a powerful way to silence genetically specified synapses with light in a spatially and temporally precise manner.
Photo-inducible cell ablation in Caenorhabditis elegans using the genetically encoded singlet oxygen generating protein miniSOG.
We describe a method for light-inducible and tissue-selective cell ablation using a genetically encoded photosensitizer, miniSOG (mini singlet oxygen generator). miniSOG is a newly engineered fluorescent protein of 106 amino acids that generates singlet oxygen in quantum yield upon blue-light illumination. We transgenically expressed mitochondrially targeted miniSOG (mito-miniSOG) in Caenorhabditis elegans neurons. Upon blue-light illumination, mito-miniSOG causes rapid and effective death of neurons in a cell-autonomous manner without detectable damages to surrounding tissues. Neuronal death induced by mito-miniSOG appears to be independent of the caspase CED-3, but the clearance of the damaged cells partially depends on the phagocytic receptor CED-1, a homolog of human CD91. We show that neurons can be killed at different developmental stages. We further use this method to investigate the role of the premotor interneurons in regulating the convulsive behavior caused by a gain-of-function mutation in the neuronal acetylcholine receptor acr-2. Our findings support an instructive role for the interneuron AVB in controlling motor neuron activity and reveal an inhibitory effect of the backward premotor interneurons on the forward interneurons. In summary, the simple inducible cell ablation method reported here allows temporal and spatial control and will prove to be a useful tool in studying the function of specific cells within complex cellular contexts.
PACα--an optogenetic tool for in vivo manipulation of cellular cAMP levels, neurotransmitter release, and behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase α (PACα) was originally isolated from the flagellate Euglena gracilis. Following stimulation by blue light it causes a rapid increase in cAMP levels. In the present study, we expressed PACα in cholinergic neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans. Photoactivation led to a rise in swimming frequency, speed of locomotion, and a decrease in the number of backward locomotion episodes. The extent of the light-induced behavioral effects was dependent on the amount of PACα that was expressed. Furthermore, electrophysiological recordings from body wall muscle cells revealed an increase in miniature post-synaptic currents during light stimulation. We conclude that the observed effects were caused by cAMP synthesis because of photoactivation of pre-synaptic PACα which subsequently triggered acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction. Our results demonstrate that PACα can be used as an optogenetic tool in C. elegans for straightforward in vivo manipulation of intracellular cAMP levels by light, with good temporal control and high cell specificity. Thus, using PACα allows manipulation of neurotransmitter release and behavior by directly affecting intracellular signaling.