Showing 1 - 25 of 65 results
Optogenetic control of the Bicoid morphogen reveals fast and slow modes of gap gene regulation.
Developmental patterning networks are regulated by multiple inputs and feedback connections that rapidly reshape gene expression, limiting the information that can be gained solely from slow genetic perturbations. Here we show that fast optogenetic stimuli, real-time transcriptional reporters, and a simplified genetic background can be combined to reveal the kinetics of gene expression downstream of a developmental transcription factor in vivo. We engineer light-controlled versions of the Bicoid transcription factor and study their effects on downstream gap genes in embryos. Our results recapitulate known relationships, including rapid Bicoid-dependent transcription of giant and hunchback and delayed repression of Krüppel. In addition, we find that the posterior pattern of knirps exhibits a quick but inverted response to Bicoid perturbation, suggesting a noncanonical role for Bicoid in directly suppressing knirps transcription. Acute modulation of transcription factor concentration while recording output gene activity represents a powerful approach for studying developmental gene networks in vivo.
Wnt Signaling Rescues Amyloid Beta-Induced Gut Stem Cell Loss.
Patients with Alzheimer's disease suffer from a decrease in brain mass and a prevalence of amyloid-β plaques. These plaques are thought to play a role in disease progression, but their exact role is not entirely established. We developed an optogenetic model to induce amyloid-β intracellular oligomerization to model distinct disease etiologies. Here, we examine the effect of Wnt signaling on amyloid in an optogenetic, Drosophila gut stem cell model. We observe that Wnt activation rescues the detrimental effects of amyloid expression and oligomerization. We analyze the gene expression changes downstream of Wnt that contribute to this rescue and find changes in aging related genes, protein misfolding, metabolism, and inflammation. We propose that Wnt expression reduces inflammation through repression of Toll activating factors. We confirm that chronic Toll activation reduces lifespan, but a decrease in the upstream activator Persephone extends it. We propose that the protective effect observed for lithium treatment functions, at least in part, through Wnt activation and the inhibition of inflammation.
Cell polarity determinant Dlg1 facilitates epithelial invagination by promoting tissue-scale mechanical coordination.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction serves as a fundamental mechanism to convert flat epithelial sheets into multilayered structures. It remains elusive whether additional mechanical inputs are required for folding mediated by apical constriction. Using Drosophila mesoderm invagination as a model, we identified an important role for the non-constricting, lateral mesodermal cells adjacent to the constriction domain (“flanking cells”) in facilitating epithelial folding. We found that depletion of the basolateral determinant, Dlg1, disrupts the transition between apical constriction and invagination without affecting the rate of apical constriction. Strikingly, the observed delay in invagination is associated with ineffective apical myosin contractions in the flanking cells that lead to overstretching of their apical domain. The defects in the flanking cells impede ventral-directed movement of the lateral ectoderm, suggesting reduced mechanical coupling between tissues. Specifically disrupting the flanking cells in wildtype embryos by laser ablation or optogenetic depletion of cortical actin is sufficient to delay the apical constriction-to-invagination transition. Our findings indicate that effective mesoderm invagination requires intact flanking cells and suggest a role for tissue-scale mechanical coupling during epithelial folding.
Rapid and robust optogenetic control of gene expression in Drosophila.
Deciphering gene function requires the ability to control gene expression in space and time. Binary systems such as the Gal4/UAS provide a powerful means to modulate gene expression and to induce loss or gain of function. This is best exemplified in Drosophila, where the Gal4/UAS system has been critical to discover conserved mechanisms in development, physiology, neurobiology, and metabolism, to cite a few. Here we describe a transgenic light-inducible Gal4/UAS system (ShineGal4/UAS) based on Magnet photoswitches. We show that it allows efficient, rapid, and robust activation of UAS-driven transgenes in different tissues and at various developmental stages in Drosophila. Furthermore, we illustrate how ShineGal4 enables the generation of gain and loss-of-function phenotypes at animal, organ, and cellular levels. Thanks to the large repertoire of UAS-driven transgenes, ShineGal4 enriches the Drosophila genetic toolkit by allowing in vivo control of gene expression with high temporal and spatial resolutions.
Optogenetic dissection of the roles of actomyosin in the mechanics underlying tissue fluidity.
Rapid epithelial tissue flows are essential to building and shaping developing embryos. However, it is not well understood how the mechanical properties of tissues and the forces driving them to flow are jointly regulated to accommodate rapid tissue remodeling. To dissect the roles of actomyosin in the mechanics of epithelial tissue flows, here we use two optogenetic tools, optoGEF and optoGAP, to manipulate Rho/Rho-kinase signaling and actomyosin contractility in the germband epithelium, which flows via convergent extension during Drosophila body axis elongation. The ability to perturb actomyosin across the tissue allows us to analyze the effects of actomyosin on cell rearrangements, tissue tensions, and tissue mechanical properties. We find that either optogenetic activation or deactivation of Rho1 signaling and actomyosin contractility at the apical surface of the germband disrupts cell rearrangements and tissue-level flows. By probing mechanical tensions in the tissue using laser ablation and predicting tissue mechanical properties from cell packings, we find that actomyosin influences both the anisotropic forces driving tissue flow and the mechanical properties of the tissue resisting flow, leading to complex relationships between actomyosin activity and tissue-level flow. Moreover, our results indicate that changes in the distribution of medial and junctional myosin in the different perturbations alter tissue tension and cell packings in distinct ways, revealing how junctional and medial myosin have differential roles in promoting and orienting cell rearrangements to tune tissue flows in developing embryos.
Spatial and temporal control of expression with light-gated LOV-LexA.
The ability to drive expression of exogenous genes in different tissues and cell types, under control of specific enhancers, has catapulted discovery in biology. While many enhancers drive expression broadly, several genetic tricks have been developed to obtain access to isolated cell types. However, studies of topographically organized neuropiles, such as the optic lobe in fruit flies, have raised the need for a system that can access subsets of cells within a single neuron type, a feat currently dependent on stochastic flip-out methods. To access the same subsets of cells consistently across flies, we developed LOV-LexA, a light-gated expression system based on the bacterial LexA transcription factor and the plant-derived LOV photosensitive domain. Expression of LOV-Lex in larval fat body as well as pupal and adult neurons enables spatial and temporal control of expression of transgenes under LexAop sequences with blue light. The LOV-LexA tool thus provides another layer of intersectional genetics, allowing for light-controlled genetic access to the same subsets of cells within an expression pattern across individual flies.
Microtubule disassembly by caspases is the rate-limiting step of cell extrusion
Epithelial cell death is essential for tissue homeostasis, robustness and morphogenesis. The expulsion of epithelial cells following caspase activation requires well-orchestrated remodeling steps leading to cell elimination without impairing tissue sealing. While numerous studies have provided insight about the process of cell extrusion, we still know very little about the relationship between caspase activation and the remodeling steps of cell extrusion. Moreover, most studies of cell extrusion focused on the regulation of actomyosin and steps leading to the formation of a supracellular contractile ring. However, the contribution of other cellular factors to cell extrusion has been poorly explored. Using the Drosophila pupal notum, a single layer epithelium where most extrusion events are caspase-dependent, we first showed that the initiation of cell extrusion and apical constriction are surprisingly not associated with the modulation of actomyosin concentration/dynamics. Instead, cell apical constriction is initiated by the disassembly of a medio-apical mesh of microtubules which is driven by effector caspases. We confirmed that local and rapid increase/decrease of microtubules is sufficient to respectively expand/constrict cell apical area. Importantly, the depletion of microtubules is sufficient to bypass the requirement of caspases for cell extrusion. This study shows that microtubules disassembly by caspases is a key rate-limiting steps of extrusion, and outlines a more general function of microtubules in epithelial cell shape stabilisation.
Optogenetic control of the Bicoid morphogen reveals fast and slow modes of gap gene regulation.
Developmental patterning networks are regulated by multiple inputs and feedback connections that rapidly reshape gene expression, limiting the information that can be gained solely from slow genetic perturbations. Here we show that fast optogenetic stimuli, real-time transcriptional reporters, and a simplified genetic background can be combined to reveal quantitative regulatory dynamics from a complex genetic network in vivo. We engineer light-controlled variants of the Bicoid transcription factor and study their effects on downstream gap genes in embryos. Our results recapitulate known relationships, including rapid Bicoid-dependent expression of giant and hunchback and delayed repression of Krüppel. In contrast, we find that the posterior pattern of knirps exhibits a quick but inverted response to Bicoid perturbation, suggesting a previously unreported role for Bicoid in suppressing knirps expression. Acute modulation of transcription factor concentration while simultaneously recording output gene activity represents a powerful approach for studying how gene circuit elements are coupled to cell identification and complex body pattern formation in vivo.
Wnt signaling rescues amyloid beta induced stem cell loss.
Previously, we established an optogenetic model to induce Amyloid-β intracellular oligomerization to model distinct disease etiologies (Lim et al. 2020). Here we examine the effect of Wnt signaling on Amyloid in this model. We observe that Wnt activation rescues the detrimental effects of Amyloid expression and oligomerization. We analyze the gene expression changes downstream of Wnt that contribute to this rescue and find changes in aging related genes, protein misfolding, metabolism and inflammation. We propose that Wnt expression reduces inflammation through repression of Toll activating factors and confirm that chronic Toll activation reduces lifespan. We propose that the protective effect observed for Lithium treatment functions at least in part through Wnt activation and inhibition of inflammation.
Desensitisation of Notch signalling through dynamic adaptation in the nucleus.
During embryonic development, signalling pathways orchestrate organogenesis by controlling tissue-specific gene expression programmes and differentiation. Although the molecular components of many common developmental signalling systems are known, our current understanding of how signalling inputs are translated into gene expression outputs in real-time is limited. Here we employ optogenetics to control the activation of Notch signalling during Drosophila embryogenesis with minute accuracy and follow target gene expression by quantitative live imaging. Light-induced nuclear translocation of the Notch Intracellular Domain (NICD) causes a rapid activation of target mRNA expression. However, target gene transcription gradually decays over time despite continuous photo-activation and nuclear NICD accumulation, indicating dynamic adaptation to the signalling input. Using mathematical modelling and molecular perturbations, we show that this adaptive transcriptional response fits to known motifs capable of generating near-perfect adaptation and can be best explained by state-dependent inactivation at the target cis-regulatory region. Taken together, our results reveal dynamic nuclear adaptation as a novel mechanism controlling Notch signalling output during tissue differentiation.
Extremely rapid and reversible optogenetic perturbation of nuclear proteins in living embryos.
Many developmental regulators have complex and context-specific roles in different tissues and stages, making the dissection of their function extremely challenging. As regulatory processes often occur within minutes, perturbation methods that match these dynamics are needed. Here, we present the improved light-inducible nuclear export system (iLEXY), an optogenetic loss-of-function approach that triggers translocation of proteins from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. By introducing a series of mutations, we substantially increased LEXY's efficiency and generated variants with different recovery times. iLEXY enables rapid (t1/2 < 30 s), efficient, and reversible nuclear protein depletion in embryos, and is generalizable to proteins of diverse sizes and functions. Applying iLEXY to the Drosophila master regulator Twist, we phenocopy loss-of-function mutants, precisely map the Twist-sensitive embryonic stages, and investigate the effects of timed Twist depletions. Our results demonstrate the power of iLEXY to dissect the function of pleiotropic factors during embryogenesis with unprecedented temporal precision.
A Non-Canonical Raf Function Is Required for Dorsal-Ventral Patterning During Drosophila Embryogenesis.
Proper embryonic development requires directional axes to pattern cells into embryonic structures. In Drosophila, spatially discrete expression of transcription factors determines the anterior to posterior organization of the early embryo, while the Toll and TGFβ signalling pathways determine the early dorsal to ventral pattern. Embryonic MAPK/ERK signaling contributes to both anterior to posterior patterning in the terminal regions and to dorsal to ventral patterning during oogenesis and embryonic stages. Here we describe a novel loss of function mutation in the Raf kinase gene, which leads to loss of ventral cell fates as seen through the loss of the ventral furrow, the absence of Dorsal/NFκB nuclear localization, the absence of mesoderm determinants Twist and Snail, and the expansion of TGFβ. Gene expression analysis showed cells adopting ectodermal fates much like loss of Toll signaling. Our results combine novel mutants, live imaging, optogenetics and transcriptomics to establish a novel role for Raf, that appears to be independent of the MAPK cascade, in embryonic patterning.
Using optogenetics to link myosin patterns to contractile cell behaviors during convergent extension.
Distinct patterns of actomyosin contractility are often associated with particular epithelial tissue shape changes during development. For example, a planar-polarized pattern of myosin II localization regulated by Rho1 signaling during Drosophila body axis elongation is thought to drive cell behaviors that contribute to convergent extension. However, it is not well understood how specific aspects of a myosin pattern influence the multiple cell behaviors, including cell intercalation, cell shape changes, and apical cell area fluctuations, that simultaneously occur during morphogenesis. Here, we developed two optogenetic tools, optoGEF and optoGAP, to activate or deactivate Rho1 signaling, respectively. We used these tools to manipulate myosin patterns at the apical side of the germband epithelium during Drosophila axis elongation and analyzed the effects on contractile cell behaviors. We show that uniform activation or inactivation of Rho1 signaling across the apical surface of the germband is sufficient to disrupt the planar-polarized pattern of myosin at cell junctions on the timescale of 3-5 min, leading to distinct changes in junctional and medial myosin patterns in optoGEF and optoGAP embryos. These two perturbations to Rho1 activity both disrupt axis elongation and cell intercalation but have distinct effects on cell area fluctuations and cell packings that are linked with changes in the medial and junctional myosin pools. These studies demonstrate that acute optogenetic perturbations to Rho1 activity are sufficient to rapidly override the endogenous planar-polarized myosin pattern in the germband during axis elongation. Moreover, our results reveal that the levels of Rho1 activity and the balance between medial and junctional myosin play key roles not only in organizing the cell rearrangements that are known to directly contribute to axis elongation but also in regulating cell area fluctuations and cell packings, which have been proposed to be important factors influencing the mechanics of tissue deformation and flow.
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of mesoderm specification to FGFR signalling in the Drosophila embryo.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Although Htl has been extensively studied, the dynamics of its action are poorly understood after the initial phases of mesoderm formation and spreading. To begin to address this challenge, we have developed an optogenetic version of the FGFR Heartless in Drosophila (Opto-htl). Opto-htl enables us to activate the FGFR pathway in selective spatial (~ 35 μm section from one of the lateral sides of the embryo) and temporal domains (ranging from 40 min to 14 h) during embryogenesis. Importantly, the effects can be tuned by the intensity of light-activation, making this approach significantly more flexible than other genetic approaches. We performed controlled perturbations to the FGFR pathway to define the contribution of Htl signalling to the formation of the developing embryonic heart and somatic muscles. We find a direct correlation between Htl signalling dosage and number of Tinman-positive heart cells specified. Opto-htl activation favours the specification of Tinman positive cardioblasts and eliminates Eve-positive DA1 muscles. This effect is seen to increase progressively with increasing light intensity. Therefore, fine tuning of phenotypic responses to varied Htl signalling dosage can be achieved more conveniently than with other genetic approaches. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful new tool for dissecting the role of FGFR signalling during development.
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.
Temporal integration of inductive cues on the way to gastrulation.
Markers for the endoderm and mesoderm germ layers are commonly expressed together in the early embryo, potentially reflecting cells' ability to explore potential fates before fully committing. It remains unclear when commitment to a single-germ layer is reached and how it is impacted by external signals. Here, we address this important question in Drosophila, a convenient model system in which mesodermal and endodermal fates are associated with distinct cellular movements during gastrulation. Systematically applying endoderm-inducing extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signals to the ventral medial embryo-which normally only receives a mesoderm-inducing cue-reveals a critical time window during which mesodermal cell movements and gene expression are suppressed by proendoderm signaling. We identify the ERK target gene huckebein (hkb) as the main cause of the ventral furrow suppression and use computational modeling to show that Hkb repression of the mesoderm-associated gene snail is sufficient to account for a broad range of transcriptional and morphogenetic effects. Our approach, pairing precise signaling perturbations with observation of transcriptional dynamics and cell movements, provides a general framework for dissecting the complexities of combinatorial tissue patterning.
Robustness of epithelial sealing is an emerging property of local ERK feedback driven by cell elimination.
What regulates the spatiotemporal distribution of cell elimination in tissues remains largely unknown. This is particularly relevant for epithelia with high rates of cell elimination where simultaneous death of neighboring cells could impair epithelial sealing. Here, using the Drosophila pupal notum (a single-layer epithelium) and a new optogenetic tool to trigger caspase activation and cell extrusion, we first showed that death of clusters of at least three cells impaired epithelial sealing; yet, such clusters were almost never observed in vivo. Accordingly, statistical analysis and simulations of cell death distribution highlighted a transient and local protective phase occurring near every cell death. This protection is driven by a transient activation of ERK in cells neighboring extruding cells, which inhibits caspase activation and prevents elimination of cells in clusters. This suggests that the robustness of epithelia with high rates of cell elimination is an emerging property of local ERK feedback.
Light-dependent N-end rule-mediated disruption of protein function in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila melanogaster.
Here we describe the development and characterization of the photo-N-degron, a peptide tag that can be used in optogenetic studies of protein function in vivo. The photo-N-degron can be expressed as a genetic fusion to the amino termini of other proteins, where it undergoes a blue light-dependent conformational change that exposes a signal for the class of ubiquitin ligases, the N-recognins, which mediate the N-end rule mechanism of proteasomal degradation. We demonstrate that the photo-N-degron can be used to direct light-mediated degradation of proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila melanogaster with fine temporal control. In addition, we compare the effectiveness of the photo-N-degron with that of two other light-dependent degrons that have been developed in their abilities to mediate the loss of function of Cactus, a component of the dorsal-ventral patterning system in the Drosophila embryo. We find that like the photo-N-degron, the blue light-inducible degradation (B-LID) domain, a light-activated degron that must be placed at the carboxy terminus of targeted proteins, is also effective in eliciting light-dependent loss of Cactus function, as determined by embryonic dorsal-ventral patterning phenotypes. In contrast, another previously described photosensitive degron (psd), which also must be located at the carboxy terminus of associated proteins, has little effect on Cactus-dependent phenotypes in response to illumination of developing embryos. These and other observations indicate that care must be taken in the selection and application of light-dependent and other inducible degrons for use in studies of protein function in vivo, but importantly demonstrate that N- and C-terminal fusions to the photo-N-degron and the B-LID domain, respectively, support light-dependent degradation in vivo.
Cell division in tissues enables macrophage infiltration.
Migration of cells through diverse tissues is essential for development, immune response and cancer metastasis. To reach their destination, cells must overcome the resistance imposed by complex microenvironments, composed of neighboring cells and extracellular matrix (ECM). While migration through pores and tracks in ECM has been well studied, little is known about cellular traversal into confining cell-dense tissues. Here by combining quantitative live imaging with genetic and optogenetic perturbations we identify a crucial role for cell division during cell migration into tissues. We find that normal embryonic invasion by Drosophila macrophages between the ectoderm and mesoderm absolutely requires division of an epithelial ectodermal cell at the site of entry. Dividing ectodermal cells disassemble ECM attachment formed by Integrin-mediated focal adhesions next to mesodermal cells, allowing macrophages to move their nuclei ahead and invade. Decreasing or increasing the frequency of ectodermal division correspondingly either hinders or promotes macrophage invasion. Reducing the levels of focal adhesion components in the ectoderm allows macrophage entry even in the absence of division. Our study demonstrates the critical importance of division at the entry site to enable in vivo cell invasion by relieving the steric impediment caused by focal adhesions. We thus provide a new perspective on the regulation of cellular movement into tissues.
Optogenetic delivery of trophic signals in a genetic model of Parkinson's disease.
Optogenetics has been harnessed to shed new mechanistic light on current and future therapeutic strategies. This has been to date achieved by the regulation of ion flow and electrical signals in neuronal cells and neural circuits that are known to be affected by disease. In contrast, the optogenetic delivery of trophic biochemical signals, which support cell survival and are implicated in degenerative disorders, has never been demonstrated in an animal model of disease. Here, we reengineered the human and Drosophila melanogaster REarranged during Transfection (hRET and dRET) receptors to be activated by light, creating one-component optogenetic tools termed Opto-hRET and Opto-dRET. Upon blue light stimulation, these receptors robustly induced the MAPK/ERK proliferative signaling pathway in cultured cells. In PINK1B9 flies that exhibit loss of PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), a kinase associated with familial Parkinson's disease (PD), light activation of Opto-dRET suppressed mitochondrial defects, tissue degeneration and behavioral deficits. In human cells with PINK1 loss-of-function, mitochondrial fragmentation was rescued using Opto-dRET via the PI3K/NF-кB pathway. Our results demonstrate that a light-activated receptor can ameliorate disease hallmarks in a genetic model of PD. The optogenetic delivery of trophic signals is cell type-specific and reversible and thus has the potential to inspire novel strategies towards a spatio-temporal regulation of tissue repair.
High levels of Dorsal transcription factor downregulate, not promote, snail expression by regulating enhancer action.
In Drosophila embryos, genes expressed along the dorsal-ventral axis are responsive to concentration of the Dorsal (Dl) transcription factor, which varies in space; however, levels of this morphogen also build over time. Since expression of high-threshold Dl target genes such as snail (sna) is supported before Dl levels peak, it is unclear what role increasing levels have if any. Here we investigated action of two enhancers that control sna expression in embryos, demonstrating using genome editing that Dl binding sites within one enhancer located promoter proximally, sna.prox, can limit the ability of the other distally-located enhancer, sna.dis, to increase sna levels. In addition, MS2-MCP live imaging was used to study sna transcription rate in wildtype, dl heterozygote, and a background in which a photo-sensitive degron is fused to Dl (dl-BLID). The results demonstrate that, when Dl levels are high, Dl acts through sna.prox to limit the activity of sna.dis and thereby influence sna transcription rate. In contrast, when Dl levels are kept low using dl-BLID, sna.prox positively influences sna transcription rate. Collectively, our data support the view that Dl’s effect on gene expression changes over time, switching from promoting sna expression at low concentration to dampening sna expression at high concentration by regulating enhancer interactions. We propose this differential action of the Dl morphogen is likely supported by occupancy of this factor first to high and then low affinity binding sites over time as Dl levels rise to coordinate action of these two co-acting enhancers.
Engineering of a bona fide light-operated calcium channel.
The current optogenetic toolkit lacks a robust single-component Ca2+-selective ion channel tailored for remote control of Ca2+ signaling in mammals. Existing tools are either derived from engineered channelrhodopsin variants without strict Ca2+ selectivity or based on the stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1) that might crosstalk with other targets. Here, we describe the design of a light-operated Ca2+ channel (designated LOCa) by inserting a plant-derived photosensory module into the intracellular loop of an engineered ORAI1 channel. LOCa displays biophysical features reminiscent of the ORAI1 channel, which enables precise optical control over Ca2+ signals and hallmark Ca2+-dependent physiological responses. Furthermore, we demonstrate the use of LOCa to modulate aberrant hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal, transcriptional programming, cell suicide, as well as neurodegeneration in a Drosophila model of amyloidosis.
Use of Optogenetic Amyloid-β to Monitor Protein Aggregation in Drosophila melanogaster, Danio rerio and Caenorhabditis elegans.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) has long been associated with accumulation of extracellular amyloid plaques (Aβ) originating from the Amyloid Precursor Protein. Plaques have, however, been discovered in healthy individuals and not all AD brains show plaques, suggesting that extracellular Aβ aggregates may play a smaller role than anticipated. One limitation to studying Aβ peptide in vivo during disease progression is the inability to induce aggregation in a controlled manner. We developed an optogenetic method to induce Aβ aggregation and tested its biological influence in three model organisms-D. melanogaster, C. elegans and D. rerio. We generated a fluorescently labeled, optogenetic Aβ peptide that oligomerizes rapidly in vivo in the presence of blue light in all organisms. Here, we detail the procedures for expressing this fusion protein in animal models, investigating the effects on the nervous system using time lapse light-sheet microscopy, and performing metabolic assays to measure changes due to intracellular Aβ aggregation. This method, employing optogenetics to study the pathology of AD, allows spatial and temporal control in vivo that cannot be achieved by any other method at present.
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of embryonic heart specification to FGFR signaling in Drosophila.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Htl is involved in shaping the mesoderm at both early and later stages during embryogenesis. How Htl expression levels and timing of signaling affect mesoderm morphogenesis after spreading remains elusive. We have developed an optogenetic tool (Opto-htl) to control the activation of Htl signaling with precise spatiotemporal resolution in vivo. We find that the embryo is most sensitive to Htl over-activation within a developmental window of ~4 hours ranging from late stage 10 until early stage 13, which corresponds to early stages of heart morphogenesis. Opto-htl restores heart cells in htl mutants upon light activation, independent of its role in early mesoderm shaping events. We also successfully generated spatially distinct regions of Htl activity in the mesoderm using light-sheet microscopy. The developing tissue was unable to correct for the ensuing asymmetries in cell fate. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful tool for studying spatiotemporal regulation of Htl signaling during embryogenesis.
Rho1 activation recapitulates early gastrulation events in the ventral, but not dorsal, epithelium of Drosophila embryos.
Ventral furrow formation, the first step in Drosophila gastrulation, is a well-studied example of tissue morphogenesis. Rho1 is highly active in a subset of ventral cells and is required for this morphogenetic event. However, it is unclear whether spatially patterned Rho1 activity alone is sufficient to recapitulate all aspects of this morphogenetic event, including anisotropic apical constriction and coordinated cell movements. Here, using an optogenetic probe that rapidly and robustly activates Rho1 in Drosophila tissues, we show that Rho1 activity induces ectopic deformations in the dorsal and ventral epithelia of Drosophila embryos. These perturbations reveal substantial differences in how ventral and dorsal cells, both within and outside the zone of Rho1 activation, respond to spatially and temporally identical patterns of Rho1 activation. Our results demonstrate that an asymmetric zone of Rho1 activity is not sufficient to recapitulate ventral furrow formation and reveal that additional, ventral-specific factors contribute to the cell- and tissue-level behaviors that emerge during ventral furrow formation.