Curated Optogenetic Publication Database

Search precisely and efficiently by using the advantage of the hand-assigned publication tags that allow you to search for papers involving a specific trait, e.g. a particular optogenetic switch or a host organism.

Showing 1 - 25 of 90 results

OptoProfilin: A Single Component Biosensor of Applied Cellular Stress.

blue CRY2/CRY2 HEK293T HeLa Neuro-2a NIH/3T3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
bioRxiv, 4 Oct 2023 DOI: 10.1101/2023.10.04.560945 Link to full text
Abstract: The actin cytoskeleton is a biosensor of cellular stress and a potential prognosticator of human disease. In particular, aberrant cytoskeletal structures such as cofilin-actin rods and stress granules formed in response to energetic and oxidative stress are closely linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Whether these cytoskeletal phenomena can be harnessed for the development of biosensors for cytoskeletal dysfunction and, by extension, neurodegenerative disease progression, remains an open question. In this work, we describe the design and development of an optogenetic iteration of profilin, an actin monomer binding protein with critical functions in cytoskeletal dynamics. We demonstrate that this optically activated profilin (‘OptoProfilin’) can act as an optically triggered biosensor of applied cellular stress in select immortalized cell lines. Notably, OptoProfilin is a single component biosensor, likely increasing its utility for experimentalists. While a large body of work closely links profilin activity with cellular stress and neurodegenerative disease, this, to our knowledge, is the first example of profilin as an optogenetic biosensor of stress-induced changes in the cytoskeleton.

OptoPI3K, genetic code expansion, and click chemistry reveal mechanisms underlying reciprocal regulation between TRPV1 and PI3K.

red PhyB/PIF F-11 HEK293T/17 NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
bioRxiv, 30 Aug 2023 DOI: 10.1101/2023.08.29.555449 Link to full text
Abstract: Receptor tyrosine kinase signaling is characterized by complex webs of interconnected pathways that regulate diverse cellular functions. The complexity of signaling is a barrier to understanding the pathways that control any particular function. In this work, we use a novel combination of approaches and a new click chemistry probe to determine the role of one pathway in regulating cell surface expression of an ion channel and a receptor tyrosine kinase. We applied an optogenetic approach to uncouple activation of the PI3K pathway from other pathways downstream of RTK activation. In this context, we used genetic code expansion to introduce a click chemistry noncanonical amino acid into the extracellular side of membrane proteins. Applying a cell-impermeant click chemistry fluorophore allowed us to visualize delivery of membrane proteins to the PM in real time. Using these approaches, we demonstrate that activation of PI3K, without activating other pathways downstream of RTK signaling, is sufficient to traffic the TRPV1 ion channels and insulin receptors to the plasma membrane.

A novel SATB1 protein isoform with different biophysical properties.

blue CRY2/CRY2 mouse T cells NIH/3T3 Organelle manipulation
Front Cell Dev Biol, 11 Aug 2023 DOI: 10.3389/fcell.2023.1242481 Link to full text
Abstract: Intra-thymic T cell development is coordinated by the regulatory actions of SATB1 genome organizer. In this report, we show that SATB1 is involved in the regulation of transcription and splicing, both of which displayed deregulation in Satb1 knockout murine thymocytes. More importantly, we characterized a novel SATB1 protein isoform and described its distinct biophysical behavior, implicating potential functional differences compared to the commonly studied isoform. SATB1 utilized its prion-like domains to transition through liquid-like states to aggregated structures. This behavior was dependent on protein concentration as well as phosphorylation and interaction with nuclear RNA. Notably, the long SATB1 isoform was more prone to aggregate following phase separation. Thus, the tight regulation of SATB1 isoforms expression levels alongside with protein post-translational modifications, are imperative for SATB1's mode of action in T cell development. Our data indicate that deregulation of these processes may also be linked to disorders such as cancer.

Optogenetic clustering and membrane translocation of the BcLOV4 photoreceptor.

blue BcLOV4 iLID HEK293T NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1 Aug 2023 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2221615120 Link to full text
Abstract: 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 Activation of Ripk3 Reveals a Thresholding Mechanism in Intracellular and Intercellular Necroptosis.

blue CRY2/CIB1 CRY2/CRY2 CRY2clust CRY2olig PtAU1-LOV HEK293T NIH/3T3 Cell death
J Comput Soc Sci, 23 May 2023 DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4453793 Link to full text
Abstract: 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.

Crosstalk between Rac and Rho GTPase activity mediated by Arhgef11 and Arhgef12 coordinates cell protrusion-retraction cycles.

blue AsLOV2 A-431 HeLa Neuro-2a NIH/3T3 U-2 OS Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
bioRxiv, 20 Feb 2023 DOI: 10.1101/2023.02.20.529203 Link to full text
Abstract: Rho GTPase crosstalk is thought to play a key role in the spatio-temporal coordination of cytoskeletal dynamics during cell migration. Here, we directly investigated crosstalk between the major Rho GTPases Rho, Rac and Cdc42 by combining acute activity perturbation with activity measurements in individual, mammalian cells. As expected for their proposed mutual inhibition, we confirmed that Rho inhibits Rac activity. However, surprisingly, we found that Rac strongly stimulates Rho activity. We hypothesized that this crosstalk might play a role in mediating the tight spatio-temporal coupling between cell protrusions and retractions that are typically observed during mesenchymal cell migration. Using new, improved activity sensors for endogenous Rho GTPases, we find that Rac activation is tightly and precisely coupled to local cell protrusions, followed by Rho activation during retraction. In a screen for potential crosstalk mediators, we find that a subset of the Rho activating Lbc-type GEFs, in particular Arhgef11 and Arhgef12, are enriched at transient cell protrusions and retractions. Furthermore, via an optogenetic approach, we show that these Lbc GEFs are recruited to the plasma membrane by active Rac, suggesting that they might link cell protrusion and retraction by mediating Rac/Rho activity crosstalk. Indeed, depletion of these GEFs impaired cell protrusion-retraction dynamics, which was accompanied by an increase in migration directionality and reduced migration velocity. Thus, our study shows that Arhgef11 and Arhgef12 facilitate effective exploratory cell migration by coordinating the central cell morphogenic processes of cell protrusion and retraction by coupling the activity of the associated small GTPases Rac and Rho.

Cell size and actin architecture determine force generation in optogenetically activated cells.

blue CRY2/CIB1 NIH/3T3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
Biophys J, 12 Jan 2023 DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2023.01.011 Link to full text
Abstract: Adherent cells use actomyosin contractility to generate mechanical force and to sense the physical properties of their environment, with dramatic consequences for migration, division, differentiation, and fate. However, the organization of the actomyosin system within cells is highly variable, with its assembly and function being controlled by small GTPases from the Rho family. To understand better how activation of these regulators translates into cell-scale force generation in the context of different physical environments, here we combine recent advances in non-neuronal optogenetics with micropatterning and traction force microscopy on soft elastic substrates. We find that, after whole-cell RhoA activation by the CRY2/CIBN optogenetic system with a short pulse of 100 ms, single cells contract on a minute timescale in proportion to their original traction force, before returning to their original tension setpoint with near perfect precision, on a longer timescale of several minutes. To decouple the biochemical and mechanical elements of this response, we introduce a mathematical model that is parametrized by fits to the dynamics of the substrate deformation energy. We find that the RhoA response builds up quickly on a timescale of 20 s, but decays slowly on a timescale of 50 s. The larger the cells and the more polarized their actin cytoskeleton, the more substrate deformation energy is generated. RhoA activation starts to saturate if optogenetic pulse length exceeds 50 ms, revealing the intrinsic limits of biochemical activation. Together our results suggest that adherent cells establish tensional homeostasis by the RhoA system, but that the setpoint and the dynamics around it are strongly determined by cell size and the architecture of the actin cytoskeleton, which both are controlled by the extracellular environment.

Enhancement of Vivid-based Photo-Activatable Gal4 Transcription Factor in Mammalian Cells.

blue VVD chicken in vivo EpH4 HEK293T mouse in vivo NIH/3T3 Transgene expression
Cell Struct Funct, 16 Dec 2022 DOI: 10.1247/csf.22074 Link to full text
Abstract: 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.

Optogenetic control of RelA reveals effect of transcription factor dynamics on downstream gene expression.

blue AsLOV2 LOVTRAP HEK293T MCF10A NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression
bioRxiv, 5 Aug 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2022.08.03.502739 Link to full text
Abstract: Many transcription factors (TFs) translocate to the nucleus with varied dynamic patterns in response to different inputs. A notable example of such behavior is RelA, a subunit of NF-κB, which translocates to the nucleus with either pulsed or sustained dynamics, depending on the stimulus. Our understanding of how these dynamics are interpreted by downstream genes has remained incomplete, partly because ubiquitously used environmental inputs activate other transcriptional regulators in addition to RelA. Here, we use an optogenetic tool, CLASP (controllable light-activated shuttling and plasma membrane sequestration), to control RelA spatiotemporal dynamics in mouse fibroblasts and quantify their effect on downstream genes using RNA-seq. Using RelA-CLASP, we show for the first time that nuclear translocation of RelA, without post-translational modifications or activation of other transcriptional regulators, is sufficient to activate downstream genes. Furthermore, we find that TNFα, a common endogenous input, regulates many genes independently of RelA, and that this gene regulation is different from that induced by RelA-CLASP. Genes responsive to RelA-CLASP show a wide range of dynamics in response to a constant RelA input. We use a simple promoter model to recapitulate these diverse dynamic responses, as well as data collected in response to a pulsed RelA-CLASP input, and extract features of many RelA-responsive promoters. We also pinpoint many genes for which more complex models, involving feedback or multi-step promoters, may be needed to explain their response to constant and pulsed TF inputs. This study introduces a new robust tool for studying mammalian transcriptional regulation and demonstrates the power of optogenetic tools in dissecting the quantitative features of important cellular pathways.

LITOS: a versatile LED illumination tool for optogenetic stimulation.

blue CRY2/CIB1 CRY2/CRY2 MCF10A NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
Sci Rep, 30 Jul 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-17312-x Link to full text
Abstract: Optogenetics has become a key tool to manipulate biological processes with high spatio-temporal resolution. Recently, a number of commercial and open-source multi-well illumination devices have been developed to provide throughput in optogenetics experiments. However, available commercial devices remain expensive and lack flexibility, while open-source solutions require programming knowledge and/or include complex assembly processes. We present a LED Illumination Tool for Optogenetic Stimulation (LITOS) based on an assembled printed circuit board controlling a commercially available 32 × 64 LED matrix as illumination source. LITOS can be quickly assembled without any soldering, and includes an easy-to-use interface, accessible via a website hosted on the device itself. Complex light stimulation patterns can easily be programmed without coding expertise. LITOS can be used with different formats of multi-well plates, petri dishes, and flasks. We validated LITOS by measuring the activity of the MAPK/ERK signaling pathway in response to different dynamic light stimulation regimes using FGFR1 and Raf optogenetic actuators. LITOS can uniformly stimulate all the cells in a well and allows for flexible temporal stimulation schemes. LITOS's affordability and ease of use aims at democratizing optogenetics in any laboratory.

Optogenetic actuator - ERK biosensor circuits identify MAPK network nodes that shape ERK dynamics.

blue CRY2/CRY2 iLID NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
Mol Syst Biol, Jun 2022 DOI: 10.15252/msb.202110670 Link to full text
Abstract: Combining single-cell measurements of ERK activity dynamics with perturbations provides insights into the MAPK network topology. We built circuits consisting of an optogenetic actuator to activate MAPK signaling and an ERK biosensor to measure single-cell ERK dynamics. This allowed us to conduct RNAi screens to investigate the role of 50 MAPK proteins in ERK dynamics. We found that the MAPK network is robust against most node perturbations. We observed that the ERK-RAF and the ERK-RSK2-SOS negative feedback operate simultaneously to regulate ERK dynamics. Bypassing the RSK2-mediated feedback, either by direct optogenetic activation of RAS, or by RSK2 perturbation, sensitized ERK dynamics to further perturbations. Similarly, targeting this feedback in a human ErbB2-dependent oncogenic signaling model increased the efficiency of a MEK inhibitor. The RSK2-mediated feedback is thus important for the ability of the MAPK network to produce consistent ERK outputs, and its perturbation can enhance the efficiency of MAPK inhibitors.

PPARγ phase separates with RXRα at PPREs to regulate target gene expression.

blue CRY2olig HEK293T NIH/3T3 Organelle manipulation
Cell Discov, 26 Apr 2022 DOI: 10.1038/s41421-022-00388-0 Link to full text
Abstract: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-γ is a key transcription activator controlling adipogenesis and lipid metabolism. PPARγ binds PPAR response elements (PPREs) as the obligate heterodimer with retinoid X receptor (RXR) α, but exactly how PPARγ orchestrates the transcriptional response is unknown. This study demonstrates that PPARγ forms phase-separated droplets in vitro and solid-like nuclear condensates in cell, which is intriguingly mediated by its DNA binding domain characterized by the zinc finger motif. Furthermore, PPARγ forms nuclear condensates at PPREs sites through phase separation to compartmentalize its heterodimer partner RXRα to initiate PPARγ-specific transcriptional activation. Finally, using an optogenetic approach, the enforced formation of PPARγ/RXRα condensates leads to preferential enrichment at PPREs sites and significantly promotes the expression of PPARγ target genes. These results define a novel mechanism by which PPARγ engages the phase separation principles for efficient and specific transcriptional activation.

Cell size and actin architecture determine force generation in optogenetically activated adherent cells.

blue CRY2/CIB1 NIH/3T3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
bioRxiv, 16 Mar 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2022.03.15.484408 Link to full text
Abstract: Adherent cells use actomyosin contractility to generate mechanical force and to sense the physical properties of their environment, with dramatic consequences for migration, division, differentiation and fate. However, the organization of the actomyosin system within cells is highly variable, with its assembly and function being controlled by small GTPases from the Rho-family. How activation of these regulators translates into cell-scale force generation and the corresponding sensing capabilities in the context of different physical environments is not understood. Here we probe this relationship combining recent advances in non-neuronal optogenetics with micropatterning and traction force microscopy on soft elastic substrates. We find that after whole-cell RhoA-activation by the CRY2/CIBN optogenetic system with a short pulse of 100 milliseconds, single cells contract before returning to their original tension setpoint with near perfect precision on a time scale of several minutes. To decouple the biochemical and mechanical elements of this response, we introduce a mathematical model that is parametrized by fits to the dynamics of the substrate deformation energy. We find that the RhoA-response builds up quickly on a time scale of 20 seconds, but decays slowly on a time scale of 50 seconds. The larger the cells and the more polarized their actin cytoskeleton, the more substrate deformation energy is generated. RhoA-activation starts to saturate if optogenetic pulse length exceeds 50 milliseconds, revealing the intrinsic limits of biochemical activation. Together our results suggest that adherent cells establish tensional homeostasis by the RhoA-system, but that the setpoint and the dynamics around it are strongly determined by cell size and the architecture of the actin cytoskeleton, which both are controlled by the extracellular environment.

MYC amplifies gene expression through global changes in transcription factor dynamics.

blue AsLOV2 HBEC3-KT MCF7 NIH/3T3 U-2 OS Endogenous gene expression
Cell Rep, 25 Jan 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.110292 Link to full text
Abstract: The MYC oncogene has been studied for decades, yet there is still intense debate over how this transcription factor controls gene expression. Here, we seek to answer these questions with an in vivo readout of discrete events of gene expression in single cells. We engineered an optogenetic variant of MYC (Pi-MYC) and combined this tool with single-molecule RNA and protein imaging techniques to investigate the role of MYC in modulating transcriptional bursting and transcription factor binding dynamics in human cells. We find that the immediate consequence of MYC overexpression is an increase in the duration rather than in the frequency of bursts, a functional role that is different from the majority of human transcription factors. We further propose that the mechanism by which MYC exerts global effects on the active period of genes is by altering the binding dynamics of transcription factors involved in RNA polymerase II complex assembly and productive elongation.

Light-driven biological actuators to probe the rheology of 3D microtissues.

blue CRY2/CIB1 NIH/3T3 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape Control of cell-cell / cell-material interactions
bioRxiv, 6 Jan 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2022.01.05.475039 Link to full text
Abstract: The mechanical properties of biological tissues are key to the regulation of their physical integrity and function. Although the application of external loading or biochemical treatments allows to estimate these properties globally, it remains problematic to assess how such external stimuli compare with internal, cell-generated contractions. Here we engineered 3D microtissues composed of optogenetically-modified fibroblasts encapsulated within collagen. Using light to control the activity of RhoA, a major regulator of cellular contractility, we induced local mechanical perturbation within 3D fibrous microtissues, while tracking in real time microtissue stress and strain. We thus investigated the dynamic regulation of light-induced, local contractions and their spatio-temporal propagation in microtissues. By comparing the evolution of stresses and strains upon stimulation, we demonstrated the potential of our technique for quantifying tissue elasticity and viscosity, before examining the possibility of using light to map local anisotropies in mechanically heterogeneous microtissues. Altogether, our results open an avenue to non-destructively chart the rheology of 3D tissues in real time, using their own constituting cells as internal actuators.

Optogenetic Activation of Intracellular Nanobodies.

blue Magnets HeLa NIH/3T3
Methods Mol Biol, 2022 DOI: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2075-5_31 Link to full text
Abstract: Intracellular antibody fragments such as nanobodies and scFvs are powerful tools for imaging and for modulating and neutralizing endogenous target proteins. Optogenetically activated intracellular antibodies (optobodies) constitute a light-inducible system to directly control intrabody activities in cells, with greater spatial and temporal resolution than intracellular antibodies alone. Here, we describe optogenetic and microscopic methods to activate optobodies in cells using a confocal microscope and an automated fluorescence microscope. In the protocol, we use the examples of an optobody targeting green fluorescent protein and an optobody that inhibits the endogenous gelsolin protein.

Temperature-responsive optogenetic probes of cell signaling.

blue BcLOV4 CRY2/CRY2 iLID HEK293T NIH/3T3 Schneider 2 zebrafish in vivo Signaling cascade control
Nat Chem Biol, 22 Dec 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s41589-021-00917-0 Link to full text
Abstract: We describe single-component optogenetic probes whose activation dynamics depend on both light and temperature. We used the BcLOV4 photoreceptor to stimulate Ras and phosphatidyl inositol-3-kinase signaling in mammalian cells, allowing activation over a large dynamic range with low basal levels. Surprisingly, we found that BcLOV4 membrane translocation dynamics could be tuned by both light and temperature such that membrane localization spontaneously decayed at elevated temperatures despite constant illumination. Quantitative modeling predicted BcLOV4 activation dynamics across a range of light and temperature inputs and thus provides an experimental roadmap for BcLOV4-based probes. BcLOV4 drove strong and stable signal activation in both zebrafish and fly cells, and thermal inactivation provided a means to multiplex distinct blue-light sensitive tools in individual mammalian cells. BcLOV4 is thus a versatile photosensor with unique light and temperature sensitivity that enables straightforward generation of broadly applicable optogenetic tools.

Formation of nuclear condensates by the Mediator complex subunit Med15 in mammalian cells.

blue CRY2/CRY2 NIH/3T3 Organelle manipulation
BMC Biol, 17 Nov 2021 DOI: 10.1186/s12915-021-01178-y Link to full text
Abstract: The Mediator complex is an evolutionarily conserved multi-subunit protein complex that plays major roles in transcriptional activation and is essential for cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Recent studies revealed that some Mediator subunits formed nuclear condensates that may facilitate enhancer-promoter interactions and gene activation. The assembly, regulation, and functions of these nuclear condensates remain to be further understood.

A synthetic gene circuit for imaging-free detection of signaling pulses.

blue iLID NIH/3T3
Cell Syst, 4 Nov 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2021.10.002 Link to full text
Abstract: Cells employ intracellular signaling pathways to sense and respond to changes in their external environment. In recent years, live-cell biosensors have revealed complex pulsatile dynamics in many pathways, but studies of these signaling dynamics are limited by the necessity of live-cell imaging at high spatiotemporal resolution. Here, we describe an approach to infer pulsatile signaling dynamics from a single measurement in fixed cells using a pulse-detecting gene circuit. We computationally screened for circuits with the capability to selectively detect signaling pulses, revealing an incoherent feedforward topology that robustly performs this computation. We implemented the motif experimentally for the Erk signaling pathway using a single engineered transcription factor and fluorescent protein reporter. Our "recorder of Erk activity dynamics" (READer) responds sensitively to spontaneous and stimulus-driven Erk pulses. READer circuits open the door to permanently labeling transient, dynamic cell populations to elucidate the mechanistic underpinnings and biological consequences of signaling dynamics.

SATB1 undergoes isoform-specific phase transitions in T cells.

blue CRY2/CRY2 NIH/3T3 Organelle manipulation
bioRxiv, 11 Aug 2021 DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.11.455932 Link to full text
Abstract: Intracellular space is demarcated into functional membraneless organelles and nuclear bodies via the process of phase separation. Phase transitions are involved in many functions linked to such bodies as well as in gene expression regulation and other cellular processes. In this work we describe how the genome organizer SATB1 utilizes its prion-like domains to undergo phase transitions. We have identified two SATB1 isoforms with distinct biophysical behavior and showed how phosphorylation and interaction with nuclear RNA, impact their phase transitions. Moreover, we show that SATB1 is associated with transcription and splicing, both of which evinced deregulation in Satb1 knockout mice. Thus, the tight regulation of different SATB1 isoforms levels and their post-translational modifications are imperative for SATB1’s physiological roles in T cell development while their deregulation may be linked to disorders such as cancer.

Positive feedback between the T cell kinase Zap70 and its substrate LAT acts as a clustering-dependent signaling switch.

blue CRY2/CRY2 iLID HEK293T Jurkat NIH/3T3 SYF Signaling cascade control Organelle manipulation
Cell Rep, 22 Jun 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109280 Link to full text
Abstract: Protein clustering is pervasive in cell signaling, yet how signaling from higher-order assemblies differs from simpler forms of molecular organization is still poorly understood. We present an optogenetic approach to switch between oligomers and heterodimers with a single point mutation. We apply this system to study signaling from the kinase Zap70 and its substrate linker for activation of T cells (LAT), proteins that normally form membrane-localized condensates during T cell activation. We find that fibroblasts expressing synthetic Zap70:LAT clusters activate downstream signaling, whereas one-to-one heterodimers do not. We provide evidence that clusters harbor a positive feedback loop among Zap70, LAT, and Src-family kinases that binds phosphorylated LAT and further activates Zap70. Finally, we extend our optogenetic approach to the native T cell signaling context, where light-induced LAT clustering is sufficient to drive a calcium response. Our study reveals a specific signaling function for protein clusters and identifies a biochemical circuit that robustly senses protein oligomerization state.

Optogenetic model reveals cell shape regulation through FAK and Fascin.

blue iLID NIH/3T3 RAW264.7 Control of cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell shape
J Cell Sci, 11 Jun 2021 DOI: 10.1242/jcs.258321 Link to full text
Abstract: Cell shape regulation is important but the mechanisms that govern shape are not fully understood, in part due to limited experimental models where cell shape changes and underlying molecular processes can be rapidly and non-invasively monitored in real time. Here, we use an optogenetic tool to activate RhoA in the middle of mononucleated macrophages to induce contraction, resulting in a side with the nucleus that retains its shape and a non-nucleated side which was unable to maintain its shape and collapsed. In cells overexpressing focal adhesion kinase (FAK), the non-nucleated side exhibited a wide flat morphology and was similar in adhesion area to the nucleated side. In cells overexpressing fascin, an actin bundling protein, the non-nucleated side assumed a spherical shape and was similar in height to the nucleated side. This effect of fascin was also observed in fibroblasts even without inducing furrow formation. Based on these results, we conclude that FAK and fascin work together to maintain cell shape by regulating adhesion area and height, respectively, in different cell types.

Pathogenic ACVR1R206H activation by Activin A-induced receptor clustering and autophosphorylation.

blue VfAU1-LOV NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
EMBO J, 18 May 2021 DOI: 10.15252/embj.2020106317 Link to full text
Abstract: Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) are debilitating diseases that share causal mutations in ACVR1, a TGF-β family type I receptor. ACVR1R206H is a frequent mutation in both diseases. Pathogenic signaling via the SMAD1/5 pathway is mediated by Activin A, but how the mutation triggers aberrant signaling is not known. We show that ACVR1 is essential for Activin A-mediated SMAD1/5 phosphorylation and is activated by two distinct mechanisms. Wild-type ACVR1 is activated by the Activin type I receptors, ACVR1B/C. In contrast, ACVR1R206H activation does not require upstream kinases, but is predominantly activated via Activin A-dependent receptor clustering, which induces its auto-activation. We use optogenetics and live-imaging approaches to demonstrate Activin A-induced receptor clustering and show it requires the type II receptors ACVR2A/B. Our data provide molecular mechanistic insight into the pathogenesis of FOP and DIPG by linking the causal activating genetic mutation to disrupted signaling.

Circularly permuted LOV2 as a modular photoswitch for optogenetic engineering.

blue AsLOV2 cpLID cpLOV2 cpLOVTRAP iLID LOVTRAP HEK293T HeLa human T cells in vitro Jurkat mouse in vivo NIH/3T3
Nat Chem Biol, 6 May 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s41589-021-00792-9 Link to full text
Abstract: Plant-based photosensors, such as the light-oxygen-voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) from oat phototropin 1, can be modularly wired into cell signaling networks to remotely control protein activity and physiological processes. However, the applicability of LOV2 is hampered by the limited choice of available caging surfaces and its preference to accommodate the effector domains downstream of the C-terminal Jα helix. Here, we engineered a set of LOV2 circular permutants (cpLOV2) with additional caging capabilities, thereby expanding the repertoire of genetically encoded photoswitches to accelerate the design of optogenetic devices. We demonstrate the use of cpLOV2-based optogenetic tools to reversibly gate ion channels, antagonize CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome engineering, control protein subcellular localization, reprogram transcriptional outputs, elicit cell suicide and generate photoactivatable chimeric antigen receptor T cells for inducible tumor cell killing. Our approach is widely applicable for engineering other photoreceptors to meet the growing need of optogenetic tools tailored for biomedical and biotechnological applications.

Vertebrate cells differentially interpret ciliary and extraciliary cAMP.

blue bPAC (BlaC) NIH/3T3 zebrafish in vivo Signaling cascade control Immediate control of second messengers
Cell, 30 Apr 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.04.002 Link to full text
Abstract: Hedgehog pathway components and select G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) localize to the primary cilium, an organelle specialized for signal transduction. We investigated whether cells distinguish between ciliary and extraciliary GPCR signaling. To test whether ciliary and extraciliary cyclic AMP (cAMP) convey different information, we engineered optogenetic and chemogenetic tools to control the subcellular site of cAMP generation. Generating equal amounts of ciliary and cytoplasmic cAMP in zebrafish and mammalian cells revealed that ciliary cAMP, but not cytoplasmic cAMP, inhibited Hedgehog signaling. Modeling suggested that the distinct geometries of the cilium and cell body differentially activate local effectors. The search for effectors identified a ciliary pool of protein kinase A (PKA). Blocking the function of ciliary PKA, but not extraciliary PKA, activated Hedgehog signal transduction and reversed the effects of ciliary cAMP. Therefore, cells distinguish ciliary and extraciliary cAMP using functionally and spatially distinct pools of PKA, and different subcellular pools of cAMP convey different information.
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