Showing 1 - 25 of 73 results
Optotheranostic Nanosystem with Phone Visual Diagnosis and Optogenetic Microbial Therapy for Ulcerative Colitis At-Home Care.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a relapsing disorder characterized by chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract. However, the home care of UC based on remote monitoring, due to the operational complexity and time-consuming procedure, restrain its widespread applications. Here we constructed an optotheranostic nanosystem for self-diagnosis and long-acting mitigations of UC at home. The system included two major modules: (i) A disease prescreening module mediated by smartphone optical sensing. (ii) Disease real-time intervention module mediated by an optogenetic engineered bacteria system. Recombinant Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 (EcN) secreted interleukin-10 (IL-10) could downregulate inflammatory cascades and matrix metalloproteinases; it is a candidate for use in the therapeutic intervention of UC. The results showed that the Detector was able to analyze, report, and share the detection results in less than 1 min, and the limit of detection was 15 ng·mL-1. Besides, the IL-10-secreting EcN treatment suppressed the intestinal inflammatory response in UC mice and protected the intestinal mucosa against injury. The optotheranostic nanosystems enabled solutions to diagnose and treat disease at home, which promotes a mobile health service development.
Real-Time Optogenetics System for Controlling Gene Expression Using a Model-Based Design.
Optimization of engineered biological systems requires precise control over the rates and timing of gene expression. Optogenetics is used to dynamically control gene expression as an alternative to conventional chemical-based methods since it provides a more convenient interface between digital control software and microbial culture. Here, we describe the construction of a real-time optogenetics platform, which performs closed-loop control over the CcaR-CcaS two-plasmid system in Escherichia coli. We showed the first model-based design approach by constructing a nonlinear representation of the CcaR-CcaS system, tuned the model through open-loop experimentation to capture the experimental behavior, and applied the model in silico to inform the necessary changes to build a closed-loop optogenetic control system. Our system periodically induces and represses the CcaR-CcaS system while recording optical density and fluorescence using image processing techniques. We highlight the facile nature of constructing our system and how our model-based design approach will potentially be used to model other systems requiring closed-loop optogenetic control.
Engineering an Optogenetic CRISPRi Platform for Improved Chemical Production.
Microbial synthesis of chemicals typically requires the redistribution of metabolic flux toward the synthesis of targeted products. Dynamic control is emerging as an effective approach for solving the hurdles mentioned above. As light could control the cell behavior in a spatial and temporal manner, the optogenetic-CRISPR interference (opto-CRISPRi) technique that allocates the metabolic resources according to different optical signal frequencies will enable bacteria to be controlled between the growth phase and the production stage. In this study, we applied a blue light-sensitive protein EL222 to regulate the expression of the dCpf1-mediated CRISPRi system that turns off the competitive pathways and redirects the metabolic flux toward the heterologous muconic acid synthesis in Escherichia coli. We found that the opto-CRISPRi system dynamically regulating the suppression of the central metabolism and competitive pathways could increase the muconic acid production by 130%. These results demonstrated that the opto-CRISPRi platform is an effective method for enhancing chemical synthesis with broad utilities.
Optogenetic control of gut bacterial metabolism to promote longevity.
Gut microbial metabolism is associated with host longevity. However, because it requires direct manipulation of microbial metabolism in situ, establishing a causal link between these two processes remains challenging. We demonstrate an optogenetic method to control gene expression and metabolite production from bacteria residing in the host gut. We genetically engineer an Escherichia coli strain that secretes colanic acid (CA) under the quantitative control of light. Using this optogenetically-controlled strain to induce CA production directly in the Caenorhabditis elegans gut, we reveal the local effect of CA in protecting intestinal mitochondria from stress-induced hyper-fragmentation. We also demonstrate that the lifespan-extending effect of this strain is positively correlated with the intensity of green light, indicating a dose-dependent CA benefit on the host. Thus, optogenetics can be used to achieve quantitative and temporal control of gut bacterial metabolism in order to reveal its local and systemic effects on host health and aging.
Regulating enzymatic reactions in Escherichia coli utilizing light-responsive cellular compartments based on liquid-liquid phase separation.
Enzymatic reactions in cells are well organized into different compartments, among which protein-based membraneless compartments formed through liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) are believed to play important roles1,2. Hijacking them for our own purpose has promising applications in metabolic engineering3. Yet, it is still hard to precisely and dynamically control target enzymatic reactions in those compartments4. To address those problems, we developed Photo-Activated Switch in E. coli (PhASE), based on phase separating scaffold proteins and optogenetic tools. In this system, a protein of interest (POI) can be enriched up to 15-fold by LLPS-based compartments from cytosol within only a few seconds once activated by light, and become fully dispersed again within 15 minutes. Furthermore, we explored the potentiality of the LLPS-based compartment in enriching small organic molecules directly via chemical-scaffold interaction. With enzymes and substrates co-localized under light induction, the overall reaction efficiency could be enhanced. Using luciferin and catechol oxidation as model enzymatic reactions, we found that they could accelerate 2.3-fold and 1.6-fold, respectively, when regulated by PhASE. We anticipate our system to be an extension of the synthetic biology toolkit, facilitating rapid recruitment and release of POIs, and reversible regulation of enzymatic reactions.
Upconversion optogenetic micro-nanosystem optically controls the secretion of light-responsive bacteria for systemic immunity regulation.
Chemical molecules specifically secreted into the blood and targeted tissues by intestinal microbiota can effectively affect the associated functions of the intestine especially immunity, representing a new strategy for immune-related diseases. However, proper ways of regulating the secretion metabolism of specific strains still remain to be established. In this article, an upconversion optogenetic micro-nanosystem was constructed to effectively regulate the specific secretion of engineered bacteria. The system included two major modules: (i) Modification of secretory light-responsive engineered bacteria. (ii) Optical sensing mediated by upconversion optogenetic micro-nanosystem. This system could regulate the efficient secretion of immune factors by engineered bacteria through optical manipulation. Inflammatory bowel disease and subcutaneously transplanted tumors were selected to verify the effectiveness of the system. Our results showed that the endogenous factor TGF-β1 could be controllably secreted to suppress the intestinal inflammatory response. Additionally, regulatory secretion of IFN-γ was promoted to slow the progression of B16F10 tumor.
Optogenetic control of the lac operon for bacterial chemical and protein production.
Control of the lac operon with isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) has been used to regulate gene expression in Escherichia 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 have developed a series of circuits for optogenetic regulation of the lac operon, which we call OptoLAC, to 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 two-litre bioreactors. Furthermore, OptoLAC circuits enable control of recombinant protein production, reaching yields comparable to IPTG induction but with easier tunability of expression. OptoLAC circuits are potentially useful to confer light control over other cell functions originally designed to be IPTG-inducible.
Printed Degradable Optical Waveguides for Guiding Light into Tissue.
Optogenetics and photonic technologies are changing the future of medicine. To implement light‐based therapies in the clinic, patient‐friendly devices that can deliver light inside the body while offering tunable properties and compatibility with soft tissues are needed. Here extrusion printing of degradable, hydrogel‐based optical waveguides with optical losses as low as 0.1 dB cm−1 at visible wavelengths is described. Core‐only and core‐cladding fibers are printed at room temperature from polyethylene glycol (PEG)‐based and PEG/Pluronic precursors, and cured by in situ photopolymerization. The obtained waveguides are flexible, with mechanical properties tunable within a tissue‐compatible range. Degradation times are also tunable by adjusting the molar mass of the diacrylate gel precursors, which are synthesized by linking PEG diacrylate (PEGDA) with varying proportions of DL‐dithiothreitol (DTT). The printed waveguides are used to activate photochemical and optogenetic processes in close‐to‐physiological environments. Light‐triggered migration of cells in a photoresponsive 3D hydrogel and drug release from an optogenetically‐engineered living material by delivering light across >5 cm of muscle tissue are demonstrated. These results quantify the in vitro performance, and reflect the potential of the printed degradable fibers for in vivo and clinical applications.
Optogenetic control of heterologous metabolism in E. coli.
Multi-objective optimization of microbial chassis for the production of xenobiotic compounds requires the implementation of metabolic control strategies that permit dynamic distribution of cellular resources between biomass and product formation. We addressed this need in a previous study by engineering the T7 RNA polymerase to be thermally responsive. The modified polymerase is activated only after the temperature of the host cell falls below 18oC, and Escherichia coli cells that employ the protein to transcribe the heterologous lycopene biosynthetic pathway exhibit impressive improvements in productivity. We have expanded our toolbox of metabolic switches in the current study by engineering a version of the T7 RNA polymerase that drives the transition between biomass and product formation upon stimulation with red light. The engineered polymerase is expressed as two distinct polypeptide chains. Each chain comprises one of two photoactive components from Arabidopsis thaliana, phytochrome B (PhyB) and phytochrome-integrating factor 3 (PIF3), as well as the N- or C-terminus domains of both, the vacuolar ATPase subunit (VMA) intein of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the polymerase. Red light drives photodimerization of PhyB and PIF3, which then brings together the N- and C-terminus domains of the VMA intein. Trans-splicing of the intein follows suit and produces an active form of the polymerase that subsequently transcribes any sequence that is under the control of a T7 promoter. The photodimerization also involves a third element, the cyanobacterial chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which too is expressed heterologously by E. coli. We deployed this version of the T7 RNA polymerase to control the production of lycopene in E. coli and observed tight control of pathway expression. We tested a variety of expression configurations to identify one that imposes the lowest metabolic burden on the strain, and we subsequently optimized key parameters such as the source, moment and duration of photostimulation. We also identified targets for future refinement of the circuit. In summary, our work is a significant advance for the field and greatly expands on previous work by other groups that have used optogenetic circuits to control heterologous metabolism in prokaryotic hosts.
Exploiting natural chemical photosensitivity of anhydrotetracycline and tetracycline for dynamic and setpoint chemo-optogenetic control.
The transcriptional inducer anhydrotetracycline (aTc) and the bacteriostatic antibiotic tetracycline (Tc) are commonly used in all fields of biology for control of transcription or translation. A drawback of these and other small molecule inducers is the difficulty of their removal from cell cultures, limiting their application for dynamic control. Here, we describe a simple method to overcome this limitation, and show that the natural photosensitivity of aTc/Tc can be exploited to turn them into highly predictable optogenetic transcriptional- and growth-regulators. This new optogenetic class uniquely features both dynamic and setpoint control which act via population-memory adjustable through opto-chemical modulation. We demonstrate this method by applying it for dynamic gene expression control and for enhancing the performance of an existing optogenetic system. We then expand the utility of the aTc system by constructing a new chemical bandpass filter that increases its aTc response range. The simplicity of our method enables scientists and biotechnologists to use their existing systems employing aTc/Tc for dynamic optogenetic experiments without genetic modification.
In situ characterisation and manipulation of biological systems with Chi.Bio.
The precision and repeatability of in vivo biological studies is predicated upon methods for isolating a targeted subsystem from external sources of noise and variability. However, in many experimental frameworks, this is made challenging by nonstatic environments during host cell growth, as well as variability introduced by manual sampling and measurement protocols. To address these challenges, we developed Chi.Bio, a parallelised open-source platform that represents a new experimental paradigm in which all measurement and control actions can be applied to a bulk culture in situ. In addition to continuous-culturing capabilities, it incorporates tunable light outputs, spectrometry, and advanced automation features. We demonstrate its application to studies of cell growth and biofilm formation, automated in silico control of optogenetic systems, and readout of multiple orthogonal fluorescent proteins in situ. By integrating precise measurement and actuation hardware into a single low-cost platform, Chi.Bio facilitates novel experimental methods for synthetic, systems, and evolutionary biology and broadens access to cutting-edge research capabilities.
Bioluminescence-Triggered Photoswitchable Bacterial Adhesions Enable Higher Sensitivity and Dual-Readout Bacterial Biosensors for Mercury.
We present a new concept for whole-cell biosensors that couples the response to Hg2+ with bioluminescence and bacterial aggregation. This allows us to use the bacterial aggregation to preconcentrate the bioluminescent bacteria at the substrate surface and increase the sensitivity of Hg2+ detection. This whole-cell biosensor combines a Hg2+-sensitive bioluminescence reporter and light-responsive bacterial cell-cell adhesions. We demonstrate that the blue luminescence in response to Hg2+ is able to photoactivate bacterial aggregation, which provides a second readout for Hg2+ detection. In return, the Hg2+-triggered bacterial aggregation leads to faster sedimentation and more efficient formation of biofilms. At low Hg2+ concentrations, the enrichment of the bacteria in biofilms leads to an up to 10-fold increase in the signal. The activation of photoswitchable proteins with biological light is a new concept in optogenetics, and the presented bacterial biosensor design is transferable to other bioluminescent reporters with particular interest for environmental monitoring.
Light-powered Escherichia coli cell division for chemical production.
Cell division can perturb the metabolic performance of industrial microbes. The C period of cell division starts from the initiation to the termination of DNA replication, whereas the D period is the bacterial division process. Here, we first shorten the C and D periods of E. coli by controlling the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdAB and division proteins FtsZA through blue light and near-infrared light activation, respectively. It increases the specific surface area to 3.7 μm-1 and acetoin titer to 67.2 g·L-1. Next, we prolong the C and D periods of E. coli by regulating the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdA and division protein inhibitor SulA through blue light activation-repression and near-infrared (NIR) light activation, respectively. It improves the cell volume to 52.6 μm3 and poly(lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) titer to 14.31 g·L-1. Thus, the optogenetic-based cell division regulation strategy can improve the efficiency of microbial cell factories.
Blue-Light-Switchable Bacterial Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable the Control of Multicellular Bacterial Communities.
Although the fundamental importance and biotechnological potential of multibacterial communities, also called biofilms, are well-known, our ability to control them is limited. We present a new way of dynamically controlling bacteria-bacteria adhesions by using blue light and how these photoswitchable adhesions can be used to regulate multicellularity and associated bacterial behavior. To achieve this, the photoswitchable proteins nMagHigh and pMagHigh were expressed on bacterial surfaces as adhesins to allow multicellular clusters to assemble under blue light and reversibly disassemble in the dark. Regulation of the bacterial cell-cell adhesions with visible light provides unique advantages including high spatiotemporal control, tunability, and noninvasive remote regulation. Moreover, these photoswitchable adhesions make it possible to regulate collective bacterial functions including aggregation, quorum sensing, biofilm formation, and metabolic cross-feeding between auxotrophic bacteria with light. Overall, the photoregulation of bacteria-bacteria adhesions provides a new way of studying bacterial cell biology and will enable the design of biofilms for biotechnological applications.
Blue Light-Directed Cell Migration, Aggregation, and Patterning.
Bacterial motility is related to many cellular activities, such as cell migration, aggregation, and biofilm formations. The ability to control motility and direct the bacteria to certain location could be used to guide the bacteria in applications such as seeking for and killing pathogen, forming various population-level patterns, and delivering of drugs and vaccines. Currently, bacteria motility is mainly controlled by chemotaxis (prescribed chemical stimuli), which needs physical contact with the chemical inducer. This lacks the flexibility for pattern formation as it has limited spatial control. To overcome the limitations, we developed blue light-regulated synthetic genetic circuit to control bacterial directional motility, by taking the advantage that light stimulus can be delivered to cells in different patterns with precise spatial control. The circuit developed enables programmed Escherichia coli cells to increase directional motility and move away from the blue light, i.e., that negative phototaxis is utilized. This further allows the control of the cells to form aggregation with different patterns. Further, we showed that the circuit can be used to separate two different strains. The demonstrated ability of blue light-controllable gene circuits to regulate a CheZ expression could give researchers more means to control bacterial motility and pattern formation.
A single-component light sensor system allows highly tunable and direct activation of gene expression in bacterial cells.
Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behaviour with precise spatial and temporal resolution. Among a variety of bacterial light-switchable gene expression systems, single-component systems consisting of single transcription factors would be more useful due to the advantages of speed, simplicity, and versatility. In the present study, we developed a single-component light-activated bacterial gene expression system (eLightOn) based on a novel LOV domain from Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RsLOV). The eLightOn system showed significant improvements over the existing single-component bacterial light-activated expression systems, with benefits including a high ON/OFF ratio of >500-fold, a high activation level, fast activation kinetics, and/or good adaptability. Additionally, the induction characteristics, including regulatory windows, activation kinetics and light sensitivities, were highly tunable by altering the expression level of LexRO. We demonstrated the usefulness of the eLightOn system in regulating cell division and swimming by controlling the expression of the FtsZ and CheZ genes, respectively, as well as constructing synthetic Boolean logic gates using light and arabinose as the two inputs. Taken together, our data indicate that the eLightOn system is a robust and highly tunable tool for quantitative and spatiotemporal control of bacterial gene expression.
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 coli that 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.
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.
Red/Far-Red Light Switchable Cargo Attachment and Release in Bacteria-Driven Microswimmers.
In bacteria-driven microswimmers, i.e., bacteriabots, artificial cargos are attached to flagellated chemotactic bacteria for active delivery with potential applications in biomedical technology. Controlling when and where bacteria bind and release their cargo is a critical step for bacteriabot fabrication and efficient cargo delivery/deposition at the target site. Toward this goal, photoregulating the cargo integration and release in bacteriabots using red and far-red light, which are noninvasive stimuli with good tissue penetration and provide high spatiotemporal control, is proposed. In the bacteriabot design, the surfaces of E. coli and microsized model cargo particles with the proteins PhyB and PIF6, which bind to each other under red light and dissociate from each other under far-red light are functionalized. Consequently, the engineered bacteria adhere and transport the model cargo under red light and release it on-demand upon far-red light illumination due to the photoswitchable PhyB-PIF6 protein interaction. Overall, the proof-of-concept for red/far-red light switchable bacteriabots, which opens new possibilities in the photoregulation in biohybrid systems for bioengineering, targeted drug delivery, and lab-on-a-chip devices, is demonstrated.
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.