Showing 1 - 25 of 56 results
Optogenetic lac operon to control chemical and protein production in Escherichia coli with light.
Control of the lac operon with IPTG has been used for decades to regulate gene expression in E. coli for countless applications, including metabolic engineering and recombinant protein production. However, optogenetics offers unique capabilities such as easy tunability, reversibility, dynamic induction strength, and spatial control that are difficult to obtain with chemical inducers. We developed an optogenetic lac operon in a series of circuits we call OptoLAC. With these circuits, we control gene expression from various IPTG-inducible promoters using only blue light. Applying them to metabolic engineering improves mevalonate and isobutanol production by 24% and 27% respectively, compared to IPTG induction, in light-controlled fermentations scalable to at least 2L bioreactors. Furthermore, OptoLAC circuits enable light control of recombinant protein production, reaching yields comparable to IPTG induction, but with enhanced tunability of expression and spatial control. OptoLAC circuits are potentially useful to confer light controls over other cell functions originally engineered to be IPTG-inducible.
Optogenetic modulation of a catalytic biofilm for biotransformation of indole into tryptophan.
In green chemical synthesis, biofilms as biocatalysts have shown great promise. Efficient biofilm-mediated biocatalysis requires the modulation of biofilm formation. Optogenetic tools are ideal for controlling biofilms, as light is non-invasive, easily controllable and cost-efficient. In this study, we employed a near infrared (NIR) light-responsive gene circuit to modulate the cellular level of c-di-GMP, a central regulator of the prokaryote biofilm lifestyle, which allows us to regulate biofilm formation using NIR light. By applying the engineered biofilm to catalyze the biotransformation of indole into tryptophan in submerged biofilm reactors, we showed that NIR light enhanced biofilm formation to result in ~ 30% increase in tryptophan yield, which demonstrates the feasibility of applying light to modulate the formation and performance of catalytic biofilms for chemical production. The c-di-GMP targeted optogenetic approach for modulating catalytic biofilm we have demonstrated here would allow the wide application for further biofilm-mediated biocatalysis.
Light-Inducible Recombinases for Bacterial Optogenetics.
Optogenetic tools can provide direct and programmable control of gene expression. Light-inducible recombinases, in particular, offer a powerful method for achieving precise spatiotemporal control of DNA modification. However, to-date this technology has been largely limited to eukaryotic systems. Here, we develop optogenetic recombinases for Escherichia coliwhich activate in response to blue light. Our approach uses a split recombinase coupled with photodimers, where blue light brings the split protein together to form a functional recombinase. We tested both Cre and Flp recombinases, Vivid and Magnet photodimers, and alternative protein split sites in our analysis. The optimal configuration, Opto-Cre-Vvd, exhibits strong blue light-responsive excision and low ambient light sensitivity. For this system we characterize the effect of light intensity and the temporal dynamics of light-induced recombination. These tools expand the microbial optogenetic toolbox, offering the potential for precise control of DNA excision with light-inducible recombinases in bacteria.
A blue light receptor that mediates RNA binding and translational regulation.
Sensory photoreceptor proteins underpin light-dependent adaptations in nature and enable the optogenetic control of organismal behavior and physiology. We identified the bacterial light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) photoreceptor PAL that sequence-specifically binds short RNA stem loops with around 20 nM affinity in blue light and weaker than 1 µM in darkness. A crystal structure rationalizes the unusual receptor architecture of PAL with C-terminal LOV photosensor and N-terminal effector units. The light-activated PAL-RNA interaction can be harnessed to regulate gene expression at the RNA level as a function of light in both bacteria and mammalian cells. The present results elucidate a new signal-transduction paradigm in LOV receptors and conjoin RNA biology with optogenetic regulation, thereby paving the way toward hitherto inaccessible optoribogenetic modalities.
Light-inducible flux control of triosephosphate isomerase on glycolysis in Escherichia coli.
An engineering tool for controlling flux distribution on metabolic pathways to an appropriate state is highly desirable in bio-production. An optogenetic switch, which regulates gene expression by light illumination is an attractive on/off switchable system, and is a promising way for flux control with an external stimulus. We demonstrated a light-inducible flux control between glycolysis and the methylglyoxal (MGO) pathway in Escherichia coli using a CcaS/CcaR system. CcaR is phosphorylated by green light and is dephosphorylated by red light. Phosphorylated CcaR induces gene expression under the cpcG2 promoter. The tpiA gene was expressed under the cpcG2 promoter in a genomic tpiA deletion strain. The strain was then cultured with glucose minimum medium under green or red light. We found that tpiA mRNA level under green light was four times higher than that under red light. The repression of tpiA expression led to a decrease in glycolytic flux, resulting in slower growth under red light (0.25 h-1 ) when compared to green light (0.37 h-1 ). The maximum extracellular MGO concentration under red light (0.2 mM) was higher than that under green light (0.05 mM). These phenotypes confirm that the MGO pathway flux was enhanced under red light. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Synthetic Biology Tools for the Fast-Growing Marine Bacterium Vibrio natriegens.
The fast-growing non-model marine bacterium Vibrio natriegens has recently garnered attention as a host for molecular biology and biotechnology applications. In order further its capabilities as a synthetic biology chassis, we have characterized a wide range of genetic parts and tools for use in V. natriegens. These parts include many commonly-used resistance markers, promoters, ribosomal binding sites, reporters, terminators, degradation tags, origin of replication sequences and plasmid backbones. We have characterized the behavior of these parts in different combinations and have compared their functionality in V. natriegens and Escherichia coli. Plasmid stability over time, plasmid copy numbers, and production load on the cells were also evaluated. Additionally, we tested constructs for chemical and optogenetic induction and characterized basic engineered circuit behavior in V. natriegens. The results indicate that while most parts and constructs work similarly in the two organisms, some deviate significantly. Overall, these results will serve as a primer for anyone interested in engineering V. natriegens and will aid in developing more robust synthetic biology principles and approaches for this non-model chassis.
Optogenetic switch for controlling the central metabolic flux of Escherichia coli.
Dynamically controlling cellular metabolism can improve a cell's yield and productivity towards a target compound. However, the application of this strategy is currently limited by the availability of reversible metabolic switches. Unlike chemical inducers, light can readily be applied and removed from the medium multiple times without causing chemical changes. This makes light-inducible systems a potent tool to dynamically control cellular metabolism. Here we describe the construction of a light-inducible metabolic switch to regulate flux distribution between two glycolytic pathways, the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) and oxidative pentose phosphate (oxPP) pathways. This was achieved by using chromatic acclimation sensor/regulator (CcaSR) optogenetic system to control the expression of pgi, a metabolic gene which expression determines flux distribution between EMP and oxPP pathways. Control over these pathways may allow us to maximize Escherichia coli's yield on highly-reduced compounds such as mevalonate. Background pgi expression of the initial CcaSR construct was too high to significantly reduce pgi expression during the OFF-state. Therefore, we attenuated the system's output leakage by adjusting plasmid copy number and by tagging Pgi with ssRA protein degradation signal. Using our CcaSR-pgi ver.3, we could control EMP:oxPP flux ratio to 50:49 and 0.5:99 (of total glycolytic flux) by exposure to green and red light, respectively.
Engineering Adenylate Cyclase Activated by Near-Infrared Window Light for Mammalian Optogenetic Applications.
Light in the near-infrared optical window (NIRW) penetrates deep through mammalian tissues, including the skull and brain tissue. Here we engineered an adenylate cyclase (AC) activated by NIRW light (NIRW-AC) and suitable for mammalian applications. To accomplish this goal, we constructed fusions of several bacteriophytochrome photosensory and bacterial AC modules using guidelines for designing chimeric homodimeric bacteriophytochromes. One engineered NIRW-AC, designated IlaM5, has significantly higher activity at 37 °C, is better expressed in mammalian cells, and can mediate cAMP-dependent photoactivation of gene expression in mammalian cells, in favorable contrast to the NIRW-ACs engineered earlier. The ilaM5 gene expressed from an AAV vector was delivered into the ventral basal thalamus region of the mouse brain, resulting in the light-controlled suppression of the cAMP-dependent wave pattern of the sleeping brain known as spindle oscillations. Reversible spindle oscillation suppression was observed in sleeping mice exposed to light from an external light source. This study confirms the robustness of principles of homodimeric bacteriophytochrome engineering, describes a NIRW-AC suitable for mammalian optogenetic applications, and demonstrates the feasibility of controlling brain activity via NIRW-ACs using transcranial irradiation.
Rewiring bacterial two-component systems by modular DNA-binding domain swapping.
Two-component systems (TCSs) are the largest family of multi-step signal transduction pathways and valuable sensors for synthetic biology. However, most TCSs remain uncharacterized or difficult to harness for applications. Major challenges are that many TCS output promoters are unknown, subject to cross-regulation, or silent in heterologous hosts. Here, we demonstrate that the two largest families of response regulator DNA-binding domains can be interchanged with remarkable flexibility, enabling the corresponding TCSs to be rewired to synthetic output promoters. We exploit this plasticity to eliminate cross-regulation, un-silence a gram-negative TCS in a gram-positive host, and engineer a system with over 1,300-fold activation. Finally, we apply DNA-binding domain swapping to screen uncharacterized Shewanella oneidensis TCSs in Escherichia coli, leading to the discovery of a previously uncharacterized pH sensor. This work should accelerate fundamental TCS studies and enable the engineering of a large family of genetically encoded sensors with diverse applications.
Pulsatile illumination for photobiology and optogenetics.
Living organisms exhibit a wide range of intrinsic adaptive responses to incident light. Likewise, in optogenetics, biological systems are tailored to initiate predetermined cellular processes upon light exposure. As genetically encoded, light-gated actuators, sensory photoreceptors are at the heart of these responses in both the natural and engineered scenarios. Upon light absorption, photoreceptors enter a series of generally rapid photochemical reactions leading to population of the light-adapted signaling state of the receptor. Notably, this state persists for a while before thermally reverting to the original dark-adapted resting state. As a corollary, the inactivation of photosensitive biological circuits upon light withdrawal can exhibit substantial inertia. Intermittent illumination of suitable pulse frequency can hence maintain the photoreceptor in its light-adapted state while greatly reducing overall light dose, thereby mitigating adverse side effects. Moreover, several photoreceptor systems may be actuated sequentially with a single light color if they sufficiently differ in their inactivation kinetics. Here, we detail the construction of programmable illumination devices for the rapid and parallelized testing of biological responses to diverse lighting regimes. As the technology is based on open electronics and readily available, inexpensive components, it can be adopted by most laboratories at moderate expenditure. As we exemplify for two use cases, the programmable devices enable the facile interrogation of diverse illumination paradigms and their application in optogenetics and photobiology.
Optogenetic Navigation of Routes Leading to Protein Amyloidogenesis in Bacteria.
Modulation of liquid-liquid and liquid-hydrogel phase transitions is central to avoid the cytotoxic aggregation of proteins in eukaryotic cells, but knowledge on its relevance in bacteria is limited. Here the power of optogenetics to engineer proteins as light-responsive switches has been used to control the balance between solubility and aggregation for LOV2-WH1, a chimera between the plant blue light-responsive domain LOV2 and the bacterial prion-like protein RepA-WH1. These proteins were first linked by fusing, as a continuous α-helix, the C-terminal photo-transducer Jα helix in LOV2 with the N-terminal domain-closure α1 helix in RepA-WH1, and then improved for light-responsiveness by including mutations in the Jα moiety. In the darkness and in a crowded solution in vitro, LOV2-WH1 nucleates the irreversible assembly of amyloid fibers into a hydrogel. However, under blue light illumination LOV2-WH1 assembles as soluble oligomers. When expressed in Escherichia coli, LOV2-WH1 forms in the darkness large intracellular amyloid inclusions compatible with bacterial proliferation. Strikingly, under blue light LOV2-WH1 aggregates decrease in size while they become detrimental for bacterial growth. LOV2-WH1 optogenetics governs the assembly of mutually exclusive inert amyloid fibers or cytotoxic oligomers, thus enabling the navigation of the conformational landscape of protein amyloidogenesis to generate potential photo-activated anti-bacterial devices (optobiotics).
Optoregulated Drug Release from an Engineered Living Material: Self-Replenishing Drug Depots for Long-Term, Light-Regulated Delivery.
On-demand and long-term delivery of drugs are common requirements in many therapeutic applications, not easy to be solved with available smart polymers for drug encapsulation. This work presents a fundamentally different concept to address such scenarios using a self-replenishing and optogenetically controlled living material. It consists of a hydrogel containing an active endotoxin-free Escherichia coli strain. The bacteria are metabolically and optogenetically engineered to secrete the antimicrobial and antitumoral drug deoxyviolacein in a light-regulated manner. The permeable hydrogel matrix sustains a viable and functional bacterial population and permits diffusion and delivery of the synthesized drug to the surrounding medium at quantities regulated by light dose. Using a focused light beam, the site for synthesis and delivery of the drug can be freely defined. The living material is shown to maintain considerable levels of drug production and release for at least 42 days. These results prove the potential and flexibility that living materials containing engineered bacteria can offer for advanced therapeutic applications.
Engineering a light-responsive, quorum quenching biofilm to mitigate biofouling on water purification membranes.
Quorum quenching (QQ) has been reported to be a promising approach for membrane biofouling control. Entrapment of QQ bacteria in porous matrices is required to retain them in continuously operated membrane processes and to prevent uncontrollable biofilm formation by the QQ bacteria on membrane surfaces. It would be more desirable if the formation and dispersal of biofilms by QQ bacteria could be controlled so that the QQ bacterial cells are self-immobilized, but the QQ biofilm itself still does not compromise membrane performance. In this study, we engineered a QQ bacterial biofilm whose growth and dispersal can be modulated by light through a dichromatic, optogenetic c-di-GMP gene circuit in which the bacterial cells sense near-infrared (NIR) light and blue light to adjust its biofilm formation by regulating the c-di-GMP level. We also demonstrated the potential application of the engineered light-responsive QQ biofilm in mitigating biofouling of water purification forward osmosis membranes. The c-di-GMP-targeted optogenetic approach for controllable biofilm development we have demonstrated here should prove widely applicable for designing other controllable biofilm-enabled applications such as biofilm-based biocatalysis.
Programming the Dynamic Control of Bacterial Gene Expression with a Chimeric Ligand- and Light-Based Promoter System.
To program cells in a dynamic manner, synthetic biologists require precise control over the threshold levels and timing of gene expression. However, in practice, modulating gene expression is widely carried out using prototypical ligand-inducible promoters, which have limited tunability and spatiotemporal resolution. Here, we built two dual-input hybrid promoters, each retaining the function of the ligand-inducible promoter while being enhanced with a blue-light-switchable tuning knob. Using the new promoters, we show that both ligand and light inputs can be synchronously modulated to achieve desired amplitude or independently regulated to generate desired frequency at a specific amplitude. We exploit the versatile programmability and orthogonality of the two promoters to build the first reprogrammable logic gene circuit capable of reconfiguring into logic OR and N-IMPLY logic on the fly in both space and time without the need to modify the circuit. Overall, we demonstrate concentration- and time-based combinatorial regulation in live bacterial cells with potential applications in biotechnology and synthetic biology.
High-resolution Patterned Biofilm Deposition Using pDawn-Ag43.
Spatial structure and patterning play an important role in bacterial biofilms. Here we demonstrate an accessible method for culturing E. coli biofilms into arbitrary spatial patterns at high spatial resolution. The technique uses a genetically encoded optogenetic construct-pDawn-Ag43-that couples biofilm formation in E. coli to optical stimulation by blue light. We detail the process for transforming E. coli with pDawn-Ag43, preparing the required optical set-up, and the protocol for culturing patterned biofilms using pDawn-Ag43 bacteria. Using this protocol, biofilms with a spatial resolution below 25 μm can be patterned on various surfaces and environments, including enclosed chambers, without requiring microfabrication, clean-room facilities, or surface pretreatment. The technique is convenient and appropriate for use in applications that investigate the effect of biofilm structure, providing tunable control over biofilm patterning. More broadly, it also has potential applications in biomaterials, education, and bio-art.
A light-controlled cell lysis system in bacteria.
Intracellular products (e.g., insulin), which are obtained through cell lysis, take up a big share of the biotech industry. It is often time-consuming, laborious, and environment-unfriendly to disrupt bacterial cells with traditional methods. In this study, we developed a molecular device for controlling cell lysis with light. We showed that intracellular expression of a single lysin protein was sufficient for efficient bacterial cell lysis. By placing the lysin-encoding gene under the control of an improved light-controlled system, we successfully controlled cell lysis by switching on/off light: OD600 of the Escherichia coli cell culture was decreased by twofold when the light-controlled system was activated under dark condition. We anticipate that our work would not only pave the way for cell lysis through a convenient biological way in fermentation industry, but also provide a paradigm for applying the light-controlled system in other fields of biotech industry.
Cyanobacteriochrome-based photoswitchable adenylyl cyclases (cPACs) for broad spectrum light regulation of cAMP levels in cells.
Class III adenylyl cyclases generate the ubiquitous second messenger cAMP from ATP often in response to environmental or cellular cues. During evolution, soluble adenylyl-cyclase catalytic domains have been repeatedly juxtaposed with signal-input domains to place cAMP synthesis under the control of a wide variety of these environmental and endogenous signals. Adenylyl cyclases with light-sensing domains have proliferated in photosynthetic species depending on light as an energy source, yet are also widespread in non-photosynthetic species. Among such naturally occurring light sensors, several flavin-based photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) have been adopted as optogenetic tools to manipulate cellular processes with blue light. In this report, we report the discovery of a cyanobacteriochrome-based photoswitchable adenylyl cyclase (cPAC) from the cyanobacterium Microcoleussp. PCC 7113. Unlike flavin-dependent PACs, which must thermally decay to be deactivated, cPAC exhibited a bistable photocycle whose adenylyl cyclase could be reversibly activated and inactivated by blue and green light, respectively. Through domain exchange experiments, we also document the ability to extend the wavelength-sensing specificity of cPAC into the near IR. In summary, our work has uncovered a cyanobacteriochrome-based adenylyl cyclase that holds great potential for design of bistable photoswitchable adenylyl cyclases to fine-tune cAMP-regulated processes in cells. tissues, and whole organisms with light across the visible spectrum and into near IR.
Biofilm Lithography enables high-resolution cell patterning via optogenetic adhesin expression.
Bacterial biofilms represent a promising opportunity for engineering of microbial communities. However, our ability to control spatial structure in biofilms remains limited. Here we engineerEscherichia coliwith a light-activated transcriptional promoter (pDawn) to optically regulate expression of an adhesin gene (Ag43). When illuminated with patterned blue light, long-term viable biofilms with spatial resolution down to 25 μm can be formed on a variety of substrates and inside enclosed culture chambers without the need for surface pretreatment. A biophysical model suggests that the patterning mechanism involves stimulation of transiently surface-adsorbed cells, lending evidence to a previously proposed role of adhesin expression during natural biofilm maturation. Overall, this tool-termed "Biofilm Lithography"-has distinct advantages over existing cell-depositing/patterning methods and provides the ability to grow structured biofilms, with applications toward an improved understanding of natural biofilm communities, as well as the engineering of living biomaterials and bottom-up approaches to microbial consortia design.
Optogenetic Control by Pulsed Illumination.
Sensory photoreceptors evoke numerous adaptive responses in Nature and serve as light-gated actuators in optogenetics to enable the spatiotemporally precise, reversible and noninvasive control of cellular events. The output of optogenetic circuits can often be dialed in by varying illumination quality, quantity and duration. Here, we devise a programmable matrix of light-emitting diodes to efficiently probe the response of optogenetic systems to intermittently applied light of varying intensity and pulse frequency. Circuits for light-regulated gene expression markedly differed in their responses to pulsed illumination of a single color which sufficed for sequentially triggering them. In addition to quantity and quality, the pulse frequency of intermittent light hence provides a further input variable for output control in optogenetics and photobiology. Pulsed illumination schemes allow the reduction of overall light dose and facilitate the multiplexing of several light-dependent actuators and reporters.
A miniaturized E. coli green light sensor with high dynamic range.
Genetically-engineered photoreceptors enable unrivaled control over gene expression. Previously, we ported the Synechocystis PCC 6803 CcaSR two-component system, which is activated by green light and de-activated by red, into E. coli, resulting in a sensor with 6-fold dynamic range. Later, we optimized pathway protein expression levels and the output promoter sequence to decrease transcriptional leakiness and increase the dynamic range to approximately 120-fold. These CcaSR v1.0 and 2.0 systems have been used for precise quantitative, temporal, and spatial control of gene expression for a variety of applications. Recently, others have deleted two PAS domains of unknown function from the CcaS sensor histidine kinase in a CcaSR v1.0-like system. Here, we apply these deletions to CcaSR v2.0, resulting in a v3.0 light sensor with 4-fold lower leaky output and nearly 600-fold dynamic range. We demonstrate that the PAS domain deletions have no deleterious effect on CcaSR green light sensitivity or response dynamics. CcaSR v3.0 is the best performing engineered bacterial green light sensor available, and should have broad applications in fundamental and synthetic biology studies.
Shaping bacterial population behavior through computer-interfaced control of individual cells.
Bacteria in groups vary individually, and interact with other bacteria and the environment to produce population-level patterns of gene expression. Investigating such behavior in detail requires measuring and controlling populations at the single-cell level alongside precisely specified interactions and environmental characteristics. Here we present an automated, programmable platform that combines image-based gene expression and growth measurements with on-line optogenetic expression control for hundreds of individual Escherichia coli cells over days, in a dynamically adjustable environment. This integrated platform broadly enables experiments that bridge individual and population behaviors. We demonstrate: (i) population structuring by independent closed-loop control of gene expression in many individual cells, (ii) cell-cell variation control during antibiotic perturbation, (iii) hybrid bio-digital circuits in single cells, and freely specifiable digital communication between individual bacteria. These examples showcase the potential for real-time integration of theoretical models with measurement and control of many individual cells to investigate and engineer microbial population behavior.
Engineering an E. coli Near-Infrared Light Sensor.
Optogenetics is a technology wherein researchers combine light and genetically engineered photoreceptors to control biological processes with unrivaled precision. Near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths (>700 nm) are desirable optogenetic inputs due to their low phototoxicity and spectral isolation from most photoproteins. The bacteriophytochrome photoreceptor 1 (BphP1), found in several purple photosynthetic bacteria, senses NIR light and activates transcription of photosystem promoters by binding to and inhibiting the transcriptional repressor PpsR2. Here, we examine the response of a library of output promoters to increasing levels of Rhodopseudomonas palustris PpsR2 expression, and we identify that of Bradyrhizobium sp. BTAi1 crtE as the most strongly repressed in Escherichia coli. Next, we optimize Rps. palustris bphP1 and ppsR2 expression in a strain engineered to produce the required chromophore biliverdin IXα in order to demonstrate NIR-activated transcription. Unlike a previously engineered bacterial NIR photoreceptor, our system does not require production of a second messenger, and it exhibits rapid response dynamics. It is also the most red-shifted bacterial optogenetic tool yet reported by approximately 50 nm. Accordingly, our BphP1-PpsR2 system has numerous applications in bacterial optogenetics.
Light induced expression of β-glucosidase in Escherichia coli with autolysis of cell.
β-Glucosidase has attracted substantial attention in the scientific community because of its pivotal role in cellulose degradation, glycoside transformation and many other industrial processes. However, the tedious and costly expression and purification procedures have severely thwarted the industrial applications of β-glucosidase. Thus development of new strategies to express β-glucosidases with cost-effective and simple procedure to meet the increasing demands on enzymes for biocatalysis is of paramount importance.
Re-engineering the two-component systems as light-regulated in Escherichia coli.
Bacteria live in environments with dynamic changes. To sense and respond to different external stimuli, bacteria make use of various sensor-response circuits, called two-component systems (TCSs). A TCS comprises a histidine protein kinase (HK) sensing environmental stimuli and a response regulator protein (RR) regulating downstream genes. The two components are coupled via a phosphorylation control mechanism. In a recent study, we adopted an optogenetics approach to re-engineer the sensor HKs in Escherichia coli as a light-sensing fusion protein. We constructed a light-controllable HK by replacing the original signal-specific sensing domain of HK with the light-sensing domain of Cph1 from Cyanobacteria Synechocystis, so that HK can be investigated by red light. Here, we extended the study to other 16 HK-RR TCSs and constructed a library of light-responsible HK-Cph1 chimeras. By taking the NarX-NarL system as an example, we demonstrated the light responsiveness of the constructed chimera and investigated the frequency response of the NarXNarL system. The constructed library serves as a toolkit for future TCS study using optogenetics approach.
Dynamic Blue Light-Inducible T7 RNA Polymerases (Opto-T7RNAPs) for Precise Spatiotemporal Gene Expression Control.
Light has emerged as a control input for biological systems due to its precise spatiotemporal resolution. The limited toolset for light control in bacteria motivated us to develop a light-inducible transcription system that is independent from cellular regulation through the use of an orthogonal RNA polymerase. Here, we present our engineered blue light-responsive T7 RNA polymerases (Opto-T7RNAPs) that show properties such as low leakiness of gene expression in the dark state, high expression strength when induced with blue light, and an inducible range of more than 300-fold. Following optimization of the system to reduce expression variability, we created a variant that returns to the inactive dark state within minutes once the blue light is turned off. This allows for precise dynamic control of gene expression, which is a key aspect for most applications using optogenetic regulation. The regulators, which only require blue light from ordinary light-emitting diodes for induction, were developed and tested in the bacterium Escherichia coli, which is a crucial cell factory for biotechnology due to its fast and inexpensive cultivation and well understood physiology and genetics. Opto-T7RNAP, with minor alterations, should be extendable to other bacterial species as well as eukaryotes such as mammalian cells and yeast in which the T7 RNA polymerase and the light-inducible Vivid regulator have been shown to be functional. We anticipate that our approach will expand the applicability of using light as an inducer for gene expression independent from cellular regulation and allow for a more reliable dynamic control of synthetic and natural gene networks.