Showing 1 - 25 of 207 results
Optogenetic strategies for optimizing the performance of biosensors of membrane phospholipids in live cells.
High-performance biosensors are crucial for elucidating the spatiotemporal regulatory roles and dynamics of membrane lipids, but there is a lack of improvement strategies for biosensors with low sensitivity and low-content substrates detection. Here we developed universal optogenetic strategies to improve a set of membrane biosensors by trapping them into specific region and further reducing the background signal, or by optically-controlled phase separation for membrane lipids detection and tracking. These improved biosensors were superior to typical tools and light simulation would enhance their detection performance and resolution, which might contribute to the design and optimization of other biosensors.
Optogenetic clustering and membrane translocation of the BcLOV4 photoreceptor.
Optogenetic tools respond to light through one of a small number of behaviors including allosteric changes, dimerization, clustering, or membrane translocation. Here, we describe a new class of optogenetic actuator that simultaneously clusters and translocates to the plasma membrane in response to blue light. We demonstrate that dual translocation and clustering of the BcLOV4 photoreceptor can be harnessed for novel single-component optogenetic tools, including for control of the entire family of epidermal growth factor receptor (ErbB1-4) tyrosine kinases. We further find that clustering and membrane translocation are mechanistically linked. Stronger clustering increased the magnitude of translocation and downstream signaling, increased sensitivity to light by ~threefold-to-fourfold, and decreased the expression levels needed for strong signal activation. Thus light-induced clustering of BcLOV4 provides a strategy to generate a new class of optogenetic tools and to enhance existing ones.
Optogenetic Induction of Pyroptosis, Necroptosis, and Apoptosis in Mammalian Cell Lines.
Regulated cell death plays a key role in immunity, development, and homeostasis, but is also associated with a number of pathologies such as autoinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. However, despite the extensive mechanistic research of different cell death modalities, the direct comparison of different forms of cell death and their consequences on the cellular and tissue level remain poorly characterized. Comparative studies are hindered by the mechanistic and kinetic differences between cell death modalities, as well as the inability to selectively induce different cell death programs in an individual cell within cell populations or tissues. In this method, we present a protocol for rapid and specific optogenetic activation of three major types of programmed cell death: apoptosis, necroptosis, and pyroptosis, using light-induced forced oligomerization of their major effector proteins (caspases or kinases).
Optogenetic control of the integrated stress response reveals proportional encoding and the stress memory landscape.
The integrated stress response (ISR) is a conserved signaling network that detects aberrations and computes cellular responses. Dissecting these computations has been difficult because physical and chemical inducers of stress activate multiple parallel pathways. To overcome this challenge, we engineered a photo-switchable control over the ISR sensor kinase PKR (opto-PKR), enabling virtual, on-target activation. Using light to control opto-PKR dynamics, we traced information flow through the transcriptome and for key downstream ISR effectors. Our analyses revealed a biphasic, proportional transcriptional response with two dynamic modes, transient and gradual, that correspond to adaptive and terminal outcomes. We then constructed an ordinary differential equation (ODE) model of the ISR, which demonstrated the dependence of future stress responses on past stress. Finally, we tested our model using high-throughput light-delivery to map the stress memory landscape. Our results demonstrate that cells encode information in stress levels, durations, and the timing between encounters. A record of this paper's transparent peer review process is included in the supplemental information.
All-optical mapping of cAMP transport reveals rules of sub-cellular localization.
Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is a second messenger that mediates diverse intracellular signals. Studies of cAMP transport in cells have produced wildly different results, from reports of nearly free diffusion to reports that cAMP remains localized in nanometer-scale domains. We developed an all-optical toolkit, termed cAMP-SITES, to locally perturb and map cAMP transport. In MDCK cells and in cultured neurons, cAMP had a diffusion coefficient of ~120 μm2/s, similar to the diffusion coefficients of other small molecules in cytoplasm. In neuronal dendrites, a balance between diffusion and degradation led to cAMP domains with a length scale of ~30 μm. Geometrical confinement by membranes led to subcellular variations in cAMP concentration, but we found no evidence of nanoscale domains or of distinct membrane-local and cytoplasmic pools. We introduce theoretical relations between cell geometry and small-molecule reaction-diffusion dynamics and transport to explain our observations.
Synthetic Frizzled agonist and LRP antagonist for high-efficiency Wnt/β-catenin signaling manipulation in organoid cultures and in vivo.
Wnt/β-catenin signaling and its dysregulation play critical roles in the fate determination of stem cells and the pathology of various diseases. However, the application of translated Wnt ligand in regenerative medicine is hampered by its hydrophobicity and cross-reactivity with Frizzled (FZD) receptors. Here, we generate an engineered water-soluble, FZD subtype-specific agonist, RRP-pbFn, for high-efficiency Wnt/β-catenin signaling activation. In the absence of direct binding to LRP5/6, RRP-pbFn stimulates Wnt/β-catenin signaling more potently than surrogate Wnt. RRP-pbFn supports the growth of a variety of mouse and human organoids, and induces the expansion of liver and intestine progenitors in vivo. Meanwhile, we develop a synthetic LRP antagonist, RRP-Dkk1c, which exhibits heightened effectiveness in attenuating Wnt/β-catenin signaling activity compared to Dkk1, thereby abolishing the formation of CT26-derived colon cancer xenograft in vivo. Together, these two paired Wnt/β-catenin signaling manipulators hold great promise for biomedical research and potential therapeutics.
Sequence- and structure-specific RNA oligonucleotide binding attenuates heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 dysfunction.
The RNA binding protein heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (A1) regulates RNA metabolism, which is crucial to maintaining cellular homeostasis. A1 dysfunction mechanistically contributes to reduced cell viability and loss, but molecular mechanisms of how A1 dysfunction affects cell viability and loss, and methodologies to attenuate its dysfunction, are lacking. Utilizing in silico molecular modeling and an in vitro optogenetic system, this study examined the consequences of RNA oligonucleotide (RNAO) treatment on attenuating A1 dysfunction and its downstream cellular effects. In silico and thermal shift experiments revealed that binding of RNAOs to the RNA Recognition Motif 1 of A1 is stabilized by sequence- and structure-specific RNAO-A1 interactions. Using optogenetics to model A1 cellular dysfunction, we show that sequence- and structure-specific RNAOs significantly attenuated abnormal cytoplasmic A1 self-association kinetics and A1 cytoplasmic clustering. Downstream of A1 dysfunction, we demonstrate that A1 clustering affects the formation of stress granules, activates cell stress, and inhibits protein translation. With RNAO treatment, we show that stress granule formation is attenuated, cell stress is inhibited, and protein translation is restored. This study provides evidence that sequence- and structure-specific RNAO treatment attenuates A1 dysfunction and its downstream effects, thus allowing for the development of A1-specific therapies that attenuate A1 dysfunction and restore cellular homeostasis.
Light-switchable transcription factors obtained by direct screening in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic tools can provide fine spatial and temporal control over many biological processes. Yet the development of new light-switchable protein variants remains challenging, and the field still lacks general approaches to engineering or discovering protein variants with light-switchable biological functions. Here, we adapt strategies for protein domain insertion and mammalian-cell expression to generate and screen a library of candidate optogenetic tools directly in mammalian cells. The approach is based on insertion of the AsLOV2 photoswitchable domain at all possible positions in a candidate protein of interest, introduction of the library into mammalian cells, and light/dark selection for variants with photoswitchable activity. We demonstrate the approach's utility using the Gal4-VP64 transcription factor as a model system. Our resulting LightsOut transcription factor exhibits a > 150-fold change in transcriptional activity between dark and blue light conditions. We show that light-switchable function generalizes to analogous insertion sites in two additional Cys6Zn2 and C2H2 zinc finger domains, providing a starting point for optogenetic regulation of a broad class of transcription factors. Our approach can streamline the identification of single-protein optogenetic switches, particularly in cases where structural or biochemical knowledge is limited.
OPTO-BLUE: An Integrated Bidirectional Optogenetic Lentiviral Platform for Controlled Light-Induced Gene Expression.
Regulated systems for transgene expression are useful tools in basic research and a promising platform in biomedicine due to their regulated transgene expression by an inducer. The emergence of optogenetics expression systems enabled the construction of light-switchable systems, enhancing the spatial and temporal resolution of a transgene. The LightOn system is an optogenetic tool that regulates the expression of a gene of interest using blue light as an inducer. This system is based on a photosensitive protein (GAVPO), which dimerizes and binds to the UASG sequence in response to blue light, triggering the expression of a downstream transgene. Previously, we adapted the LightOn system to a dual lentiviral vector system for neurons. Here, we continue the optimization and assemble all components of the LightOn system into a single lentiviral plasmid, the OPTO-BLUE system. For functional validation, we used enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) as an expression reporter (OPTO-BLUE-EGFP) and evaluated the efficiency of EGFP expression by transfection and transduction in HEK293-T cells exposed to continuous blue-light illumination. Altogether, these results prove that the optimized OPTO-BLUE system allows the light-controlled expression of a reporter protein according to a specific time and light intensity. Likewise, this system should provide an important molecular tool to modulate gene expression of any protein by blue light.
Optogenetic Activation of Ripk3 Reveals a Thresholding Mechanism in Intracellular and Intercellular Necroptosis.
Necroptosis is programmed cell death that involves active cytokine production and membrane ruptures. Whereas intracellular necroptosis has been extensively studied, intercellular propagation of necroptosis is much less understood. Pharmacological induction of necroptosis cannot delineate whether a necroptotic cell can propagate the death signal to its neighbor because of the confounding effect from the exogenously administrated death-inducers. To address this challenge, we develop an optogenetic system to enable ligand-free, optical induction of necroptosis at the single-cell level. This system, termed Light-activatable Receptor-Interacting Protein Kinase 3 or La-RIPK3, utilizes CRY2olig, a variant of the photoactivatable protein cryptochrome, to induce oligomerization of RIPK3 under blue light stimulation. Kinetic analysis La-RIPK3-activated cells shows that cytokine production and membrane rupture follows distinct kinetics. Moreover, membrane rupture requires a higher threshold of RIPK3 kinase activity than cytokine production. Intriguingly, intercellular propagation of necroptosis requires at least two proximal necroptotic cells, and a single necroptotic cell rarely induces such propagation. These results imply that RIPK3 acts as a gatekeeper to define the threshold of distinct functional outcomes of intracellular and intercellular necroptosis. Such a thresholding mechanism could allow cells to make informed decisions by evaluating the severity of environmental stress when walking a tightrope between committing an immunogenic suicidal fate and maintaining membrane integrity. This study highlights the role of RIPK3-containing necrosomes in regulating intracellular and intercellular necroptosis and offers an optimized optogenetic tool for investigating RIPK3-dependent necroptotic pathways.
Activity-based directed evolution of a membrane editor in mammalian cells.
Cellular membranes contain numerous lipid species, and efforts to understand the biological functions of individual lipids have been stymied by a lack of approaches for controlled modulation of membrane composition in situ. Here we present a strategy for editing phospholipids, the most abundant lipids in biological membranes. Our membrane editor is based on a bacterial phospholipase D (PLD), which exchanges phospholipid head groups through hydrolysis or transphosphatidylation of phosphatidylcholine with water or exogenous alcohols. Exploiting activity-dependent directed enzyme evolution in mammalian cells, we have developed and structurally characterized a family of 'superPLDs' with up to a 100-fold enhancement in intracellular activity. We demonstrate the utility of superPLDs for both optogenetics-enabled editing of phospholipids within specific organelle membranes in live cells and biocatalytic synthesis of natural and unnatural designer phospholipids in vitro. Beyond the superPLDs, activity-based directed enzyme evolution in mammalian cells is a generalizable approach to engineer additional chemoenzymatic biomolecule editors.
Engineered allostery in light-regulated LOV-Turbo enables precise spatiotemporal control of proximity labeling in living cells.
The incorporation of light-responsive domains into engineered proteins has enabled control of protein localization, interactions and function with light. We integrated optogenetic control into proximity labeling, a cornerstone technique for high-resolution proteomic mapping of organelles and interactomes in living cells. Through structure-guided screening and directed evolution, we installed the light-sensitive LOV domain into the proximity labeling enzyme TurboID to rapidly and reversibly control its labeling activity with low-power blue light. 'LOV-Turbo' works in multiple contexts and dramatically reduces background in biotin-rich environments such as neurons. We used LOV-Turbo for pulse-chase labeling to discover proteins that traffic between endoplasmic reticulum, nuclear and mitochondrial compartments under cellular stress. We also showed that instead of external light, LOV-Turbo can be activated by bioluminescence resonance energy transfer from luciferase, enabling interaction-dependent proximity labeling. Overall, LOV-Turbo increases the spatial and temporal precision of proximity labeling, expanding the scope of experimental questions that can be addressed with proximity labeling.
Optogenetic control of YAP can enhance the rate of wound healing.
Tissues need to regenerate to restore function after injury. Yet, this regenerative capacity varies significantly between organs and between species. For example, in the heart, some species retain full regenerative capacity throughout their lifespan but human cardiac cells display a limited ability to repair the injury. After a myocardial infarction, the function of cardiomyocytes is impaired and reduces the ability of the heart to pump, causing heart failure. Therefore, there is a need to restore the function of an injured heart post myocardial infarction. We investigate in cell culture the role of the Yes-associated protein (YAP), a transcriptional co-regulator with a pivotal role in growth, in driving repair after injury.
Light Activated BioID (LAB): an optically activated proximity labeling system to study protein-protein interactions.
Proximity labeling with genetically encoded enzymes is widely used to study protein-protein interactions in cells. However, the resolution and accuracy of proximity labeling methods are limited by a lack of control over the enzymatic labeling process. Here, we present a high spatial and temporal resolution technology that can be activated on demand using light, for high accuracy proximity labeling. Our system, called Light Activated BioID (LAB), is generated by fusing the two halves of the split-TurboID proximity labeling enzyme to the photodimeric proteins CRY2 and CIB1. Using live cell imaging, immunofluorescence, western blotting, and mass spectrometry, we show that upon exposure to blue light, CRY2 and CIB1 dimerize, reconstitute the split-TurboID enzyme, and biotinylate proximate proteins. Turning off the light halts the biotinylation reaction. We validate LAB in different cell types and demonstrate that it can identify known binding partners of proteins while reducing background labeling and false positives.
Engineering of bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s.
Optogenetic tools for controlling protein-protein interactions (PPIs) have been developed from a small number of photosensory modules that respond to a limited selection of wavelengths. Cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) GAF domain variants respond to an unmatched array of colors; however, their natural molecular mechanisms of action cannot easily be exploited for optogenetic control of PPIs. Here we developed bidirectional, cyanobacteriochrome-based light-inducible dimers (BICYCL)s by engineering synthetic light-dependent interactors for a red/green GAF domain. The systematic approach enables the future engineering of the broad chromatic palette of CBCRs for optogenetics use. BICYCLs are among the smallest optogenetic tools for controlling PPIs and enable either green-ON/red-OFF (BICYCL-Red) or red-ON/green-OFF (BICYCL-Green) control with up to 800-fold state selectivity. The access to green wavelengths creates new opportunities for multiplexing with existing tools. We demonstrate the utility of BICYCLs for controlling protein subcellular localization and transcriptional processes in mammalian cells and for multiplexing with existing blue-light tools.
Opto-APC: Engineering of cells that display phytochrome B on their surface for optogenetic studies of cell-cell interactions.
The kinetics of a ligand-receptor interaction determine the responses of the receptor-expressing cell. One approach to experimentally and reversibly change this kinetics on demand is optogenetics. We have previously developed a system in which the interaction of a modified receptor with an engineered ligand can be controlled by light. In this system the ligand is a soluble Phytochrome B (PhyB) tetramer and the receptor is fused to a mutated PhyB-interacting factor (PIFS). However, often the natural ligand is not soluble, but expressed as a membrane protein on another cell. This allows ligand-receptor interactions in two dimensions. Here, we developed a strategy to generate cells that display PhyB as a membrane-bound protein by expressing the SpyCatcher fused to a transmembrane domain in HEK-293T cells and covalently coupling purified PhyB-SpyTag to these cells. As proof-of-principle, we use Jurkat T cells that express a GFP-PIFS-T cell receptor and show that these cells can be stimulated by the PhyB-coupled HEK-293T cells in a light dependent manner. Thus, we call the PhyB-coupled cells opto-antigen presenting cells (opto-APCs). Our work expands the toolbox of optogenetic technologies, allowing two-dimensional ligand-receptor interactions to be controlled by light.
Measurement of Secreted Embryonic Alkaline Phosphatase.
Secreted reporters have been demonstrated to be simple and useful tools for analyzing transcriptional regulation in mammalian cells. The distinctive feature of these assays is the ability to detect reporter gene expression in the culture supernatant without affecting the cell physiology or leading to cell lysis, which allows repeated experimentation and sampling of the culture medium using the same cell cultures. Secreted embryonic alkaline phosphatase (SEAP) is one of the most widely used reporter, which can be easily detected using colorimetry following incubation with a substrate, such as p-nitrophenol phosphate. In this report, we present detailed procedures for detection and quantification of the SEAP reporter. We believe that this step-by-step protocol can be easily used by researchers to monitor and measure molecular genetic events in a variety of mammalian cells due to its simplicity and ease of handling. Graphical abstract Schematic overview of the workflow described in this protocol.
Generation of a photocontrollable recombinant bovine parainfluenza virus type 3.
Bovine parainfluenza virus type 3 (BPIV3) is a promising vaccine vector against various respiratory virus infections, including the human PIV3, respiratory syncytial virus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 infections. In this study, we combined the Magnet system and reverse genetic approach to generate photocontrollable BPIV3. An optically controllable Magnet gene was inserted into the H2 region of the BPIV3 large protein gene, which encodes an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The generated photocontrollable BPIV3 grew in specific regions of the cell sheet only when illuminated with blue light, suggesting that spatiotemporal control can aid in safe clinical applications of BPIV3.
Enhancement of Vivid-based Photo-Activatable Gal4 Transcription Factor in Mammalian Cells.
The Gal4/UAS system is a versatile tool to manipulate exogenous gene expression of cells spatially and temporally in many model organisms. Many variations of light-controllable Gal4/UAS system are now available, following the development of photo-activatable (PA) molecular switches and integration of these tools. However, many PA-Gal4 transcription factors have undesired background transcription activities even in dark conditions, and this severely attenuates reliable light-controlled gene expression. Therefore, it is important to develop reliable PA-Gal4 transcription factors with robust light-induced gene expression and limited background activity. By optimization of synthetic PA-Gal4 transcription factors, we have validated configurations of Gal4 DNA biding domain, transcription activation domain and blue light-dependent dimer formation molecule Vivid (VVD), and applied types of transcription activation domains to develop a new PA-Gal4 transcription factor we have named eGAV (enhanced Gal4-VVD transcription factor). Background activity of eGAV in dark conditions was significantly lower than that of hGAVPO, a commonly used PA-Gal4 transcription factor, and maximum light-induced gene expression levels were also improved. Light-controlled gene expression was verified in cultured HEK293T cells with plasmid-transient transfections, and in mouse EpH4 cells with lentivirus vector-mediated transduction. Furthermore, light-controlled eGAV-mediated transcription was confirmed in transfected neural stem cells and progenitors in developing and adult mouse brain and chick spinal cord, and in adult mouse hepatocytes, demonstrating that eGAV can be applied to a wide range of experimental systems and model organisms.Key words: optogenetics, Gal4/UAS system, transcription, gene expression, Vivid.
Enhancing the performance of Magnets photosensors through directed evolution.
Photosensory protein domains are the basis of optogenetic protein engineering. These domains originate from natural sources where they fulfill specific functions ranging from the protection against photooxidative damage to circadian rhythms. When used in synthetic biology, the features of these photosensory domains can be specifically tailored towards the application of interest, enabling their full exploitation for optogenetic regulation in basic research and applied bioengineering. In this work, we develop and apply a simple, yet powerful, directed evolution and high-throughput screening strategy that allows us to alter the most fundamental property of the widely used nMag/pMag photodimerization system: its light sensitivity. We identify a set of mutations located within the photosensory domains, which either increase or decrease the light sensitivity at sub-saturating light intensities, while also improving the dark-to-light fold change in certain variants. For some of these variants, photosensitivity and expression levels could be changed independently, showing that the shape of the light-activity dose-response curve can be tuned and adjusted. We functionally characterize the variants in vivo in bacteria on the single-cell and the population levels. We further show that a subset of these variants can be transferred into the mOptoT7 for gene expression regulation in mammalian cells. We demonstrate increased gene expression levels for low light intensities, resulting in reduced potential phototoxicity in long-term experiments. Our findings expand the applicability of the widely used Magnets photosensors by enabling a tuning towards the needs of specific optogenetic regulation strategies. More generally, our approach will aid optogenetic approaches by making the adaptation of photosensor properties possible to better suit specific experimental or bioprocess needs.
A doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase mouse model for optogenetic genome editing.
The experimental need to engineer the genome both in time and space, has led to the development of several photoactivatable Cre recombinase systems. However, the combination of inefficient and non-intentional background recombination has prevented thus far the wide application of these systems in biological and biomedical research. Here, we engineer an optimized photoactivatable Cre recombinase system that we refer to as doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase (DiLiCre). Following extensive characterization in cancer cell and organoid systems, we generate a DiLiCre mouse line, and illustrated the biological applicability of DiLiCre for light-induced mutagenesis in vivo and positional cell-tracing by intravital microscopy. These experiments illustrate how newly formed HrasV12 mutant cells follow an unnatural movement towards the interfollicular dermis. Together, we develop an efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase mouse model and illustrate how this model is a powerful genome-editing tool for biological and biomedical research.
Mechanistic insights into cancer drug resistance through optogenetic PI3K signaling hyperactivation.
Hyperactivation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling is a prominent feature in cancer cells. However, the mechanism underlying malignant behaviors in the state remains unknown. Here, we describe a mechanism of cancer drug resistance through the protein synthesis pathway, downstream of PI3K signaling. An optogenetic tool (named PPAP2) controlling PI3K signaling was developed. Melanoma cells stably expressing PPAP2 (A375-PPAP2) acquired resistance to a cancer drug in the hyperactivation state. Proteome analyses revealed that expression of the antiapoptotic factor tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced protein 8 (TNFAIP8) was upregulated. TNFAIP8 upregulation was mediated by protein translation from preexisting mRNA. These results suggest that cancer cells escape death via upregulation of TNFAIP8 expression from preexisting mRNA even though alkylating cancer drugs damage DNA.
Optogenetic Protein Cleavage in Zebrafish Embryos.
A wide array of optogenetic tools is available that allow for precise spatiotemporal control over many cellular processes. These tools have been especially popular among zebrafish researchers who take advantage of the embryo's transparency. However, photocleavable optogenetic proteins have not been utilized in zebrafish. We demonstrate successful optical control of protein cleavage in embryos using PhoCl, a photocleavable fluorescent protein. This optogenetic tool offers temporal and spatial control over protein cleavage events, which we demonstrate in light-triggered protein translocation and apoptosis.
Activity-based directed evolution of a membrane editor in mammalian cells.
Cellular membranes contain numerous lipid species, and efforts to understand the biological functions of individual lipids have been stymied by a lack of approaches for controlled modulation of membrane composition in situ. Here, we present a strategy for editing phospholipids, the most abundant lipids in biological membranes. Our membrane editor is based upon a bacterial phospholipase D (PLD), which exchanges phospholipid head groups through hydrolysis or transphosphatidylation of phosphatidylcholine with water or exogenous alcohols. Exploiting activity-dependent directed enzyme evolution in mammalian cells, we developed and structurally characterized a family of “superPLDs” with up to 100-fold higher activity than wildtype PLD. We demonstrated the utility of superPLDs for both optogenetics-enabled editing of phospholipids within specific organelle membranes in live cells and biocatalytic synthesis of natural and unnatural designer phospholipids in vitro. Beyond the superPLDs, activity-based directed enzyme evolution in mammalian cells is a generalizable approach to engineer additional chemoenzymatic biomolecule editors.
Optogenetic control of GGGGCC repeat-containing RNA phase transition.
The GGGGCC (G4C2) hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene is a major cause of both hereditary amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and familial frontotemporal dementia. Recent studies have shown that G4C2 hexanucleotide repeat-containing RNA transcripts ((G4C2)n RNA) could go through liquid-liquid phase separation to form RNA foci, which may elicit neurodegeneration. However, the direct causality between these abnormal RNA foci and neuronal toxicity remains to be demonstrated. Here we introduce an optogenetic control system that can induce the assembly and phase separation of (G4C2)n RNA foci with blue light illumination in human cells, by fusing a specific (G4C2)n RNA binding protein as the linker domain to Cry2, a protein that oligomerizes in response to blue light. Our results demonstrate that a higher number of G4C2 repeats have the potential to be induced into more RNA foci in the cells. Both spontaneous and induced RNA foci display liquid-like properties according to FRAP measurements. Computational simulation shows strong consistency with the experimental results and supports the effect of our system to promote the propensity of (G4C2)n RNA towards phase separation. This system can thus be used to investigate whether (G4C2)n RNA foci would disrupt normal cellular processes and lead to pathological phenotypes relevant to repeat expansion disorders.