Showing 1 - 25 of 25 results
An optogenetic method for the controlled release of single molecules.
We developed a system for optogenetic release of single molecules in live cells. We confined soluble and transmembrane proteins to the Golgi apparatus via a photocleavable protein and released them by short pulses of light. Our method allows for the controlled delivery of functional proteins to cytosol and plasma membrane in amounts compatible with single molecule imaging, greatly simplifying access to single molecule microscopy of any protein in live cells. Furthermore, we could reconstitute cellular functions such as ion conductance by delivering BK and VRAC ion channels to the plasma membrane. Finally, we could induce NF-kB signaling in T-Lymphoblasts stimulated by IL-1 by controlled release of a signaling protein that had been knocked-out in the same cells. We observed light induced formation of functional inflammatory signaling complexes that could trigger IKK phosphorylation in single cells. We thus developed an optogenetic method for the reconstitution and investigation of cellular function at the single molecule level.
Cell Cycle Control by Optogenetically Regulated Cell Cycle Inhibitor Protein p21.
The progression through the cell cycle phases is driven by cyclin-dependent kinases and cyclins as their regulatory subunits. As nuclear protein, the cell cycle inhibitor p21/CDKN1A arrests the cell cycle at the growth phase G1 by inhibiting the activity of cyclin-dependent kinases. The G1 phase correlates with increased cell size and cellular productivity. Here, we applied an optogenetic approach to control the subcellular localization of p21 and its nuclear functions. To generate light-controllable p21, appropriate fusions with the blue light switch cryptochrome 2/CIBN and the AsLOV-based light-inducible nuclear localization signal, LINuS, were used. Both systems, p21-CRY2/CIB1 and p21-LINuS, increased the amounts of cells arrested in the G1 phase correlating with the increased cell-specific productivity of the reporter-protein-secreted alkaline phosphatase. Varying the intervals of blue LED light exposure and the light dose enable the fine-tuning of the systems. Light-controllable p21 implemented in producer cell lines could be applied to steer the uncoupling of cell proliferation and cell cycle arrest at the G1 phase optimizing the production of biotherapeutic proteins.
Engineering of bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s.
Optogenetic tools for controlling protein-protein interactions (PPIs) have been developed from a small number of photosensory modules that respond to a limited selection of wavelengths. Cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) GAF domain variants respond to an unmatched array of colors; however, their natural molecular mechanisms of action cannot easily be exploited for optogenetic control of PPIs. Here we developed bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s by engineering synthetic light-dependent interactors for a red/green GAF domain. The systematic approach enables the future engineering of the broad chromatic palette of CBCRs for optogenetics use. BICYCLs are among the smallest optogenetic tools for controlling PPIs and enable either green-ON/red-OFF (BICYCL-Red) or red-ON/green-OFF (BICYCL-Green) control with up to 800-fold state selectivity. The access to green wavelengths creates new opportunities for multiplexing with existing tools. We demonstrate the utility of BICYCLs for controlling protein subcellular localization and transcriptional processes in mammalian cells and for multiplexing with existing blue-light tools.
Optogenetic Control of PIP2 Interactions Shaping ENaC Activity.
The activity of the epithelial Na+ Channel (ENaC) is strongly dependent on the membrane phospholipid phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2). PIP2 binds two distinct cationic clusters within the N termini of β- and γ-ENaC subunits (βN1 and γN2). The affinities of these sites were previously determined using short synthetic peptides, yet their role in sensitizing ENaC to changes in PIP2 levels in the cellular system is not well established. We addressed this question by comparing the effects of PIP2 depletion and recovery on ENaC channel activity and intracellular Na+ levels [Na+]i. We tested effects on ENaC activity with mutations to the PIP2 binding sites using the optogenetic system CIBN/CRY2-OCRL to selectively deplete PIP2. We monitored changes of [Na+]i by measuring the fluorescent Na+ indicator, CoroNa Green AM, and changes in channel activity by performing patch clamp electrophysiology. Whole cell patch clamp measurements showed a complete lack of response to PIP2 depletion and recovery in ENaC with mutations to βN1 or γN2 or both sites, compared to wild type ENaC. Whereas mutant βN1 also had no change in CoroNa Green fluorescence in response to PIP2 depletion, γN2 did have reduced [Na+]i, which was explained by having shorter CoroNa Green uptake and half-life. These results suggest that CoroNa Green measurements should be interpreted with caution. Importantly, the electrophysiology results show that the βN1 and γN2 sites on ENaC are each necessary to permit maximal ENaC activity in the presence of PIP2.
Spatiotemporally confined red light-controlled gene delivery at single-cell resolution using adeno-associated viral vectors.
Methodologies for the controlled delivery of genetic information into target cells are of utmost importance for genetic engineering in both fundamental and applied research. However, available methods for efficient gene transfer into user-selected or even single cells suffer from low throughput, the need for complicated equipment, high invasiveness, or side effects by off-target viral uptake. Here, we engineer an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector system that transfers genetic information into native target cells upon illumination with cell-compatible red light. This OptoAAV system allows adjustable and spatially resolved gene transfer down to single-cell resolution and is compatible with different cell lines and primary cells. Moreover, the sequential application of multiple OptoAAVs enables spatially resolved transduction with different transgenes. The approach presented is likely extendable to other classes of viral vectors and is expected to foster advances in basic and applied genetic research.
Optogenetic-based Localization of Talin to the Plasma Membrane Promotes Activation of β3 Integrins.
Interaction of talin with the cytoplasmic tails of integrin β triggers integrin activation, leading to an increase of integrin affinity/avidity for extracellular ligands. In talin knockout mice, loss of talin interaction with platelet integrin αIIbβ3 causes a severe hemostatic defect, and loss of talin interaction with endothelial cell integrin αVβ3 affects angiogenesis. In normal cells, talin is auto-inhibited and localized in the cytoplasm. Here we employed an optogenetic platform to assess whether recruitment of full-length talin to the plasma membrane was sufficient to induce integrin activation. A dimerization module (CRY2 fused to the N-terminus of talin; CIBN-CAAX) responsive to 450 nm (blue) light was inserted into CHO cells and endothelial cells also expressing αIIbβ3 or αVβ3, respectively. Thus, exposure of the cells to blue light caused a rapid and reversible recruitment of CRY2-talin to the CIBN-CAAX-decorated plasma membrane. This resulted in β3 integrin activation in both cell types, as well as increasing migration of the endothelial cells. However, membrane recruitment of talin was not sufficient for integrin activation, as membrane-associated Rap1-GTP was also required. Moreover, talin mutations that interfered with its direct binding to Rap1 abrogated β3 integrin activation. Altogether, these results define a role for the plasma membrane recruitment of talin in β3 integrin activation, and they suggest a nuanced sequence of events thereafter involving Rap1-GTP.
Light-regulated voltage-gated potassium channels for acute interrogation of channel function in neurons and behavior.
Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels regulate the membrane potential and conductance of excitable cells to control the firing rate and waveform of action potentials. Even though Kv channels have been intensely studied for over 70 year, surprisingly little is known about how specific channels expressed in various neurons and their functional properties impact neuronal network activity and behavior in vivo. Although many in vivo genetic manipulations of ion channels have been tried, interpretation of these results is complicated by powerful homeostatic plasticity mechanisms that act to maintain function following perturbations in excitability. To better understand how Kv channels shape network function and behavior, we have developed a novel optogenetic technology to acutely regulate Kv channel expression with light by fusing the light-sensitive LOV domain of Vaucheria frigida Aureochrome 1 to the N-terminus of the Kv1 subunit protein to make an Opto-Kv1 channel. Recording of Opto-Kv1 channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes, mammalian cells, and neurons show that blue light strongly induces the current expression of Opto-Kv1 channels in all systems tested. We also find that an Opto-Kv1 construct containing a dominant-negative pore mutation (Opto-Kv1(V400D)) can be used to down-regulate Kv1 currents in a blue light-dependent manner. Finally, to determine whether Opto-Kv1 channels can elicit light-dependent behavioral effect in vivo, we targeted Opto-Kv1 (V400D) expression to Kv1.3-expressing mitral cells of the olfactory bulb in mice. Exposure of the bulb to blue light for 2-3 hours produced a significant increase in sensitivity to novel odors after initial habituation to a similar odor, comparable to behavioral changes seen in Kv1.3 knockout animals. In summary, we have developed novel photoactivatable Kv channels that provide new ways to interrogate neural circuits in vivo and to examine the roles of normal and disease-causing mutant Kv channels in brain function and behavior.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
Transient light-activated gene expression in Chinese hamster ovary cells.
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are widely used for industrial production of biopharmaceuticals. Many genetic, chemical, and environmental approaches have been developed to modulate cellular pathways to improve titers. However, these methods are often irreversible or have off-target effects. Development of techniques which are precise, tunable, and reversible will facilitate temporal regulation of target pathways to maximize titers. In this study, we investigate the use of optogenetics in CHO cells. The light-activated CRISPR-dCas9 effector (LACE) system was first transiently transfected to express eGFP in a light-inducible manner. Then, a stable system was tested using lentiviral transduction.
Optogenetic Control of Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate Production by Light‐sensitive Cryptochrome Proteins on the Plasma Membrane.
Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate (PIP3), acts as a fundamental second messenger, is emerging as a promising biomarker for disease diagnosis and prognosis. However, the real time analysis of phosphoinositide in living cells remains key challenge owing to the low basal abundance and its fast metabolic rate. Herein, we design an optogenetic system that uses light sensitive protein‐protein interaction between Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and CIB1 to spatiotemporally visualize the PIP3 production with sub‐second timescale. In this system, a CIBN is anchored on the plasma membrane, whereas a CRY2 fused with a constitutively active PI3‐kinase (acPI3K) would be driven from the cytosol to the membrane by the blue‐light‐activated CRY2‐CIB1 interaction upon light irradiation. The PIP3 production is visualized via a fused fluorescent protein by the translocation of a Pleckstrin Homology (PH) domain(GRP1) from the cytosol to the plasma membrane with high specificity. We demonstrated the fast dynamics and reversibility of the optogenetic system initiated PIP3 synthesis on the plasma membrane. Notably, the real‐time cell movements were also observed upon localized light stimulation. The established optogenetic method provides a novel spatiotemporal strategy for specific PIP3 visualization, which is beneficial to improve the understanding of PIP3 functions.
Deconstructing and repurposing the light-regulated interplay between Arabidopsis phytochromes and interacting factors.
Phytochrome photoreceptors mediate adaptive responses of plants to red and far-red light. These responses generally entail light-regulated association between phytochromes and other proteins, among them the phytochrome-interacting factors (PIF). The interaction with Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome B (AtPhyB) localizes to the bipartite APB motif of the A. thaliana PIFs (AtPIF). To address a dearth of quantitative interaction data, we construct and analyze numerous AtPIF3/6 variants. Red-light-activated binding is predominantly mediated by the APB N-terminus, whereas the C-terminus modulates binding and underlies the differential affinity of AtPIF3 and AtPIF6. We identify AtPIF variants of reduced size, monomeric or homodimeric state, and with AtPhyB affinities between 10 and 700 nM. Optogenetically deployed in mammalian cells, the AtPIF variants drive light-regulated gene expression and membrane recruitment, in certain cases reducing basal activity and enhancing regulatory response. Moreover, our results provide hitherto unavailable quantitative insight into the AtPhyB:AtPIF interaction underpinning vital light-dependent responses in plants.
Neurotrophin receptor tyrosine kinases regulated with near-infrared light.
Optical control over the activity of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) provides an efficient way to reversibly and non-invasively map their functions. We combined catalytic domains of Trk (tropomyosin receptor kinase) family of RTKs, naturally activated by neurotrophins, with photosensory core module of DrBphP bacterial phytochrome to develop opto-kinases, termed Dr-TrkA and Dr-TrkB, reversibly switchable on and off with near-infrared and far-red light. We validated Dr-Trk ability to reversibly light-control several RTK pathways, calcium level, and demonstrated that their activation triggers canonical Trk signaling. Dr-TrkA induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma and glioblastoma, but not in other cell types. Absence of spectral crosstalk between Dr-Trks and blue-light-activatable LOV-domain-based translocation system enabled intracellular targeting of Dr-TrkA independently of its activation, additionally modulating Trk signaling. Dr-Trks have several superior characteristics that make them the opto-kinases of choice for regulation of RTK signaling: high activation range, fast and reversible photoswitching, and multiplexing with visible-light-controllable optogenetic tools.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
A photoactivatable Cre-loxP recombination system for optogenetic genome engineering.
Genome engineering techniques represented by the Cre-loxP recombination system have been used extensively for biomedical research. However, powerful and useful techniques for genome engineering that have high spatiotemporal precision remain elusive. Here we develop a highly efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) to optogenetically control genome engineering in vivo. PA-Cre is based on the reassembly of split Cre fragments by light-inducible dimerization of the Magnet system. PA-Cre enables sharp induction (up to 320-fold) of DNA recombination and is efficiently activated even by low-intensity illumination (∼0.04 W m(-2)) or short periods of pulsed illumination (∼30 s). We demonstrate that PA-Cre allows for efficient DNA recombination in an internal organ of living mice through noninvasive external illumination using a LED light source. The present PA-Cre provides a powerful tool to greatly facilitate optogenetic genome engineering in vivo.
The rhodopsin-guanylyl cyclase of the aquatic fungus Blastocladiella emersonii enables fast optical control of cGMP signaling.
Blastocladiomycota fungi form motile zoospores that are guided by sensory photoreceptors to areas of optimal light conditions. We showed that the microbial rhodopsin of Blastocladiella emersonii is a rhodopsin-guanylyl cyclase (RhGC), a member of a previously uncharacterized rhodopsin class of light-activated enzymes that generate the second messenger cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Upon application of a short light flash, recombinant RhGC converted within 8 ms into a signaling state with blue-shifted absorption from which the dark state recovered within 100 ms. When expressed in Xenopus oocytes, Chinese hamster ovary cells, or mammalian neurons, RhGC generated cGMP in response to green light in a light dose-dependent manner on a subsecond time scale. Thus, we propose RhGC as a versatile tool for the optogenetic analysis of cGMP-dependent signaling processes in cell biology and the neurosciences.
Red Light-Regulated Reversible Nuclear Localization of Proteins in Mammalian Cells and Zebrafish.
Protein trafficking in and out of the nucleus represents a key step in controlling cell fate and function. Here we report the development of a red light-inducible and far-red light-reversible synthetic system for controlling nuclear localization of proteins in mammalian cells and zebrafish. First, we synthetically reconstructed and validated the red light-dependent Arabidopsis phytochrome B nuclear import mediated by phytochrome-interacting factor 3 in a nonplant environment and support current hypotheses on the import mechanism in planta. On the basis of this principle we next regulated nuclear import and activity of target proteins by the spatiotemporal projection of light patterns. A synthetic transcription factor was translocated into the nucleus of mammalian cells and zebrafish to drive transgene expression. These data demonstrate the first in vivo application of a plant phytochrome-based optogenetic tool in vertebrates and expand the repertoire of available light-regulated molecular devices.
Orthogonal optogenetic triple-gene control in Mammalian cells.
Optogenetic gene switches allow gene expression control at an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Recently, light-responsive transgene expression systems that are activated by UV-B, blue, or red light have been developed. These systems perform well on their own, but their integration into genetic networks has been hampered by the overlapping absorbance spectra of the photoreceptors. We identified a lack of orthogonality between UV-B and blue light-controlled gene expression as the bottleneck and employed a model-based approach that identified the need for a blue light-responsive gene switch that is insensitive to low-intensity light. Based on this prediction, we developed a blue light-responsive and rapidly reversible expression system. Finally, we employed this expression system to demonstrate orthogonality between UV-B, blue, and red/far-red light-responsive gene switches in a single mammalian cell culture. We expect this approach to enable the spatiotemporal control of gene networks and to expand the applications of optogenetics in synthetic biology.
Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light.
Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are a large family of cell surface receptors that sense growth factors and hormones and regulate a variety of cell behaviours in health and disease. Contactless activation of RTKs with spatial and temporal precision is currently not feasible. Here, we generated RTKs that are insensitive to endogenous ligands but can be selectively activated by low-intensity blue light. We screened light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-sensing domains for their ability to activate RTKs by light-activated dimerization. Incorporation of LOV domains found in aureochrome photoreceptors of stramenopiles resulted in robust activation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and rearranged during transfection (RET). In human cancer and endothelial cells, light induced cellular signalling with spatial and temporal precision. Furthermore, light faithfully mimicked complex mitogenic and morphogenic cell behaviour induced by growth factors. RTKs under optical control (Opto-RTKs) provide a powerful optogenetic approach to actuate cellular signals and manipulate cell behaviour.
Engineering of a red-light-activated human cAMP/cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase.
Sensory photoreceptors elicit vital physiological adaptations in response to incident light. As light-regulated actuators, photoreceptors underpin optogenetics, which denotes the noninvasive, reversible, and spatiotemporally precise perturbation by light of living cells and organisms. Of particular versatility, naturally occurring photoactivated adenylate cyclases promote the synthesis of the second messenger cAMP under blue light. Here, we have engineered a light-activated phosphodiesterase (LAPD) with complementary light sensitivity and catalytic activity by recombining the photosensor module of Deinococcus radiodurans bacterial phytochrome with the effector module of Homo sapiens phosphodiesterase 2A. Upon red-light absorption, LAPD up-regulates hydrolysis of cAMP and cGMP by up to sixfold, whereas far-red light can be used to down-regulate activity. LAPD also mediates light-activated cAMP and cGMP hydrolysis in eukaryotic cell cultures and in zebrafish embryos; crucially, the biliverdin chromophore of LAPD is available endogenously and does not need to be provided exogenously. LAPD thus establishes a new optogenetic modality that permits light control over diverse cAMP/cGMP-mediated physiological processes. Because red light penetrates tissue more deeply than light of shorter wavelengths, LAPD appears particularly attractive for studies in living organisms.
Control of gene expression using a red- and far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch.
Light-triggered gene expression systems offer an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution that cannot be achieved with classical chemically inducible genetic tools. Here we describe a protocol for red light-responsive gene expression in mammalian cells. This system can be toggled between stable ON and OFF states by short pulses of red and far-red light, respectively. In the protocol, CHO-K1 cells are transfected to allow red light-inducible expression of the secreted alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) reporter, and gene expression is tuned by illumination with light of increasing wavelengths. As a starting point for elaborate red light-responsive gene expression, we outline the reversible activation of gene expression and describe how a spatial pattern can be 'printed' on a monolayer of cells by using a photomask. The core protocol requires only 4 d from seeding of the cells to reporter quantification, and other than light-emitting diode (LED) illumination boxes no elaborate equipment is required.
A red light-controlled synthetic gene expression switch for plant systems.
On command control of gene expression in time and space is required for the comprehensive analysis of key plant cellular processes. Even though some chemical inducible systems showing satisfactory induction features have been developed, they are inherently limited in terms of spatiotemporal resolution and may be associated with toxic effects. We describe here the first synthetic light-inducible system for the targeted control of gene expression in plants. For this purpose, we applied an interdisciplinary synthetic biology approach comprising mammalian and plant cell systems to customize and optimize a split transcription factor based on the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B and one of its interacting factors (PIF6). Implementation of the system in transient assays in tobacco protoplasts resulted in strong (95-fold) induction in red light (660 nm) and could be instantaneously returned to the OFF state by subsequent illumination with far-red light (740 nm). Capitalizing on this toggle switch-like characteristic, we demonstrate that the system can be kept in the OFF state in the presence of 740 nm-supplemented white light, opening up perspectives for future application of the system in whole plants. Finally we demonstrate the system's applicability in basic research, by the light-controlled tuning of auxin signalling networks in N. tabacum protoplasts, as well as its biotechnological potential for the chemical-inducer free production of therapeutic proteins in the moss P. patens.
Synthesis of phycocyanobilin in mammalian cells.
The chromophore 3-Z phycocyanobilin (PCB, (2R,3Z)-8,12-bis(2-carboxyethyl)-18-ethyl-3-ethylidene-2,7,13,17-tetramethyl-2,3-dihydrobilin-1,19(21H,24H)-dione) mediates red and far-red light perception in natural and synthetic biological systems. Here we describe a PCB synthesis strategy in mammalian cells. We optimize the production by co-localizing the biocatalysts to the substrate source, by coordinating the availability of the biocatalysts and by reducing the degradation of the reaction product. We show that the resulting PCB levels of 2 μM are sufficient to sustain the functionality of red light-responsive optogenetic tools suitable for the light-inducible control of gene expression in mammalian cells.
Multi-chromatic control of mammalian gene expression and signaling.
The emergence and future of mammalian synthetic biology depends on technologies for orchestrating and custom tailoring complementary gene expression and signaling processes in a predictable manner. Here, we demonstrate for the first time multi-chromatic expression control in mammalian cells by differentially inducing up to three genes in a single cell culture in response to light of different wavelengths. To this end, we developed an ultraviolet B (UVB)-inducible expression system by designing a UVB-responsive split transcription factor based on the Arabidopsis thaliana UVB receptor UVR8 and the WD40 domain of COP1. The system allowed high (up to 800-fold) UVB-induced gene expression in human, monkey, hamster and mouse cells. Based on a quantitative model, we determined critical system parameters. By combining this UVB-responsive system with blue and red light-inducible gene control technology, we demonstrate multi-chromatic multi-gene control by differentially expressing three genes in a single cell culture in mammalian cells, and we apply this system for the multi-chromatic control of angiogenic signaling processes. This portfolio of optogenetic tools enables the design and implementation of synthetic biological networks showing unmatched spatiotemporal precision for future research and biomedical applications.
A red/far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch to control gene expression in mammalian cells.
Growth and differentiation of multicellular systems is orchestrated by spatially restricted gene expression programs in specialized subpopulations. The targeted manipulation of such processes by synthetic tools with high-spatiotemporal resolution could, therefore, enable a deepened understanding of developmental processes and open new opportunities in tissue engineering. Here, we describe the first red/far-red light-triggered gene switch for mammalian cells for achieving gene expression control in time and space. We show that the system can reversibly be toggled between stable on- and off-states using short light pulses at 660 or 740 nm. Red light-induced gene expression was shown to correlate with the applied photon number and was compatible with different mammalian cell lines, including human primary cells. The light-induced expression kinetics were quantitatively analyzed by a mathematical model. We apply the system for the spatially controlled engineering of angiogenesis in chicken embryos. The system's performance combined with cell- and tissue-compatible regulating red light will enable unprecedented spatiotemporally controlled molecular interventions in mammalian cells, tissues and organisms.
Engineering a photoactivated caspase-7 for rapid induction of apoptosis.
Apoptosis is a cell death program involved in the development of multicellular organisms, immunity, and pathologies ranging from cancer to HIV/AIDS. We present an engineered protein that causes rapid apoptosis of targeted cells in monolayer culture after stimulation with blue light. Cells transfected with the protein switch L57V, a tandem fusion of the light-sensing LOV2 domain and the apoptosis-executing domain from caspase-7, rapidly undergo apoptosis within 60 min after light stimulation. Constant illumination of under 5 min or oscillating with 1 min exposure had no effect, suggesting that cells have natural tolerance to a short duration of caspase-7 activity. Furthermore, the overexpression of Bcl-2 prevented L57V-mediated apoptosis, suggesting that although caspase-7 activation is sufficient to start apoptosis, it requires mitochondrial contribution to fully commit.