Showing 1 - 25 of 45 results
Liquid Nuclear Condensates Mechanically Sense and Restructure the Genome.
Phase transitions involving biomolecular liquids are a
fundamental mechanism underlying intracellular organization.
In the cell nucleus, liquid-liquid phase
separation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs)
is implicated in assembly of the nucleolus, as well
as transcriptional clusters, and other nuclear bodies.
However, it remains unclear whether and how physical
forces associated with nucleation, growth, and
wetting of liquid condensates can directly restructure
chromatin. Here, we use CasDrop, a novel
CRISPR-Cas9-based optogenetic technology, to
show that various IDPs phase separate into liquid
condensates that mechanically exclude chromatin
as they grow and preferentially form in low-density,
largely euchromatic regions. A minimal physical
model explains how this stiffness sensitivity arises
from lower mechanical energy associated with deforming
softer genomic regions. Targeted genomic
loci can nonetheless be mechanically pulled together
through surface tension-driven coalescence. Nuclear
condensates may thus function as mechanoactive
chromatin filters, physically pulling in targeted
genomic loci while pushing out non-targeted regions
of the neighboring genome.
Mapping Local and Global Liquid Phase Behavior in Living Cells Using Photo-Oligomerizable Seeds.
Liquid-liquid phase separation plays a key role in the
assembly of diverse intracellular structures. However,
the biophysical principles by which phase separation
can be precisely localized within subregions
of the cell are still largely unclear, particularly for
low-abundance proteins. Here, we introduce an oligomerizing
biomimetic system, ‘‘Corelets,’’ and utilize
its rapid and quantitative light-controlled
tunability to map full intracellular phase diagrams,
which dictate the concentrations at which phase
separation occurs and the transition mechanism, in
a protein sequence dependent manner. Surprisingly,
both experiments and simulations show that while
intracellular concentrations may be insufficient for
global phase separation, sequestering protein ligands
to slowly diffusing nucleation centers can
move the cell into a different region of the phase diagram,
resulting in localized phase separation. This
diffusive capture mechanism liberates the cell from
the constraints of global protein abundance and is
likely exploited to pattern condensates associated
with diverse biological processes.
Membrane dynamics induced by a PIP3 optogenetic tool.
Membrane dynamic structures such as filopodia, lamellipodia, and ruffles have important cellular functions in phagocytosis and cell motility, and in pathological states such as cancer metastasis. Phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) is a crucial lipid that regulates PIP3 dynamics. Investigations of how PIP3 is involved in these functions have mainly relied on pharmacological interventions, and therefore have not generated detailed spatiotemporal information of membrane dynamics upon PIP3 production. In the present study, we applied an optogenetic approach using the CRY2–CIBN system. Using this system, we revealed that local PIP3 generation induced directional cell motility and membrane ruffles in COS7 cells. Furthermore, combined with structured illumination microscopy (SIM), membrane dynamics were investigated with high spatial resolution. We observed PIP3-induced apical ruffles and unique actin fiber behavior in that a single actin fiber protruded from the plasma membrane was taken up into the plasma membrane without depolymerization. This system has the potential to investigate other high-level cell motility and dynamic behaviors such as cancer cell invasion and wound healing with high spatiotemporal resolution, and could provide new insights of biological sciences for membrane dynamics.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
Cancer mutations and targeted drugs can disrupt dynamic signal encoding by the Ras-Erk pathway.
The Ras-Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) pathway encodes information in its dynamics; the duration and frequency of Erk activity can specify distinct cell fates. To enable dynamic encoding, temporal information must be accurately transmitted from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. We used optogenetic profiling to show that both oncogenic B-Raf mutations and B-Raf inhibitors can cause corruption of this transmission, so that short pulses of input Ras activity are distorted into abnormally long Erk outputs. These changes can reshape downstream transcription and cell fates, resulting in improper decisions to proliferate. These findings illustrate how altered dynamic signal transmission properties, and not just constitutively increased signaling, can contribute to cell proliferation and perhaps cancer, and how optogenetic profiling can dissect mechanisms of signaling dysfunction in disease.
Optical activation of TrkA signaling.
Nerve growth factor/tropomyosin receptor kinase A (NGF/TrkA) signaling plays a key role in neuronal development, function, survival, and growth. The pathway is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, inflammation, and cancer. NGF binds the extracellular domain of TrkA, leading to the activation of the receptor's intracellular kinase domain. TrkA signaling is highly dynamic, thus mechanistic studies would benefit from a tool with high spatial and temporal resolution. Here we present the design and evaluation of four strategies for light-inducible activation of TrkA in the absence of NGF. Our strategies involve the light-sensitive protein Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and its binding partner CIB1. We demonstrate successful recapitulation of native NGF/TrkA functions by optical induction of plasma membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkA. This approach activates PI3K/AKT and Raf/ERK signaling pathways, promotes neurite growth in PC12 cells, and supports the survival of dorsal root ganglion neurons in the absence of NGF. This ability to activate TrkA using light bestows high spatial and temporal resolution for investigating NGF/TrkA signaling.
Four Key Steps Control Glycolytic Flux in Mammalian Cells.
Altered glycolysis is a hallmark of diseases including diabetes and cancer. Despite intensive study of the contributions of individual glycolytic enzymes, systems-level analyses of flux control through glycolysis remain limited. Here, we overexpress in two mammalian cell lines the individual enzymes catalyzing each of the 12 steps linking extracellular glucose to excreted lactate, and find substantial flux control at four steps: glucose import, hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, and lactate export (and not at any steps of lower glycolysis). The four flux-controlling steps are specifically upregulated by the Ras oncogene: optogenetic Ras activation rapidly induces the transcription of isozymes catalyzing these four steps and enhances glycolysis. At least one isozyme catalyzing each of these four steps is consistently elevated in human tumors. Thus, in the studied contexts, flux control in glycolysis is concentrated in four key enzymatic steps. Upregulation of these steps in tumors likely underlies the Warburg effect.
Protein Phase Separation Provides Long-Term Memory of Transient Spatial Stimuli.
Protein/RNA clusters arise frequently in spatially regulated biological processes, from the asymmetric distribution of P granules and PAR proteins in developing embryos to localized receptor oligomers in migratory cells. This co-occurrence suggests that protein clusters might possess intrinsic properties that make them a useful substrate for spatial regulation. Here, we demonstrate that protein droplets show a robust form of spatial memory, maintaining the spatial pattern of an inhibitor of droplet formation long after it has been removed. Despite this persistence, droplets can be highly dynamic, continuously exchanging monomers with the diffuse phase. We investigate the principles of biophysical spatial memory in three contexts: a computational model of phase separation; a novel optogenetic system where light can drive rapid, localized dissociation of liquid-like protein droplets; and membrane-localized signal transduction from clusters of receptor tyrosine kinases. Our results suggest that the persistent polarization underlying many cellular and developmental processes could arise through a simple biophysical process, without any additional biochemical feedback loops.
Activation of EphB2 Forward Signaling Enhances Memory Consolidation.
EphB2 is involved in enhancing synaptic transmission and gene expression. To explore the roles of EphB2 in memory formation and enhancement, we used a photoactivatable EphB2 (optoEphB2) to activate EphB2 forward signaling in pyramidal neurons in lateral amygdala (LA). Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning, but not minutes afterward, enhanced long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning. Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning led to activation of the cAMP/Ca2+ responsive element binding (CREB) protein. Application of light to a kinase-dead optoEphB2 in LA did not lead to enhancement of long-term fear conditioning memory or to activation of CREB. Long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning memory was impaired in mice lacking EphB2 forward signaling (EphB2lacZ/lacZ). Activation of optoEphB2 in LA of EphB2lacZ/lacZ mice enhanced long-term fear conditioning memory. The present findings show that the level of EphB2 forward signaling activity during learning determines the strength of long-term memory consolidation.
A green light-responsive system for the control of transgene expression in mammalian and plant cells.
The ever-increasing complexity of synthetic gene networks and applications of synthetic biology requires precise and orthogonal gene expression systems. Of particular interest are systems responsive to light as they enable the control of gene expression dynamics with unprecedented resolution in space and time. While broadly used in mammalian backgrounds, however, optogenetic approaches in plant cells are still limited due to interference of the activating light with endogenous photoreceptors. Here, we describe the development of the first synthetic light-responsive system for the targeted control of gene expression in mammalian and plant cells that responds to the green range of the light spectrum in which plant photoreceptors have minimal activity. We first engineered a system based on the light-sensitive bacterial transcription factor CarH6 and its cognate DNA operator sequence CarO from Thermus thermophilus to control gene expression in mammalian cells. The system was functional in various mammalian cell lines, showing high induction (up to 350-fold) along with low leakiness, as well as high reversibility. We quantitatively described the systems characteristics by the development and experimental validation of a mathematical model. Finally, we transferred the system into A. thaliana protoplasts and demonstrated gene expression in response to green light. We expect that this system will provide new opportunities in applications based on synthetic gene networks and will open up perspectives for optogenetic studies in mammalian and plant cells.
Biosynthesis of Orthogonal Molecules Using Ferredoxin and Ferredoxin-NADP+ Reductase Systems Enables Genetically Encoded PhyB Optogenetics.
Transplanting metabolic reactions from one species into another has many uses as a research tool with applications ranging from optogenetics to crop production. Ferredoxin (Fd), the enzyme that most often supplies electrons to these reactions, is often overlooked when transplanting enzymes from one species to another because most cells already contain endogenous Fd. However, we have shown that the production of chromophores used in Phytochrome B (PhyB) optogenetics, is greatly enhanced in mammalian cells by expressing bacterial and plant Fds with ferredoxin-NADP+ reductases (FNR). We delineated the rate limiting factors and found that the main metabolic precursor, heme, was not the primary limiting factor for producing either the cyanobacterial or plant chromophores, phycocyanobilin or phytochromobilin, respectively. In fact, Fd is limiting, followed by Fd+FNR and finally heme. Using these findings, we optimized the PCB production system and for the first time, combined it with a tissue penetrating red/far-red sensing PhyB optogenetic gene switch in animal cells. We further characterized this system in several mammalian cell lines using red and far-red light. Importantly, we found that the light-switchable gene system remains active for several hours upon illumination, even with a short light pulse and requires very small amounts of light for maximal activation. Boosting chromophore production by matching metabolic pathways with specific ferredoxin systems will enable the unparalleled use of the many PhyB optogenetic tools and has broader implications for optimizing synthetic metabolic pathways.
Optogenetic Control of Endoplasmic Reticulum-Mitochondria Tethering.
The organelle interface emerges as a dynamic platform for a variety of biological responses. However, their study has been limited by the lack of tools to manipulate their occurrence in live cells spatiotemporally. Here, we report the development of a genetically encoded light-inducible tethering (LIT) system allowing the induction of contacts between endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and mitochondria, taking advantage of a pair of light-dependent heterodimerization called an iLID system. We demonstrate that the iLID-based LIT approach enables control of ER-mitochondria tethering with high spatiotemporal precision in various cell types including primary neurons, which will facilitate the functional study of ER-mitochondrial contacts.
Optimized light-inducible transcription in mammalian cells using Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box1/GIGANTEA and CRY2/CIB1.
Light-inducible systems allow spatiotemporal control of a variety of biological activities. Here, we report newly optimized optogenetic tools to induce transcription with light in mammalian cells, using the Arabidopsis photoreceptor Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box 1 (FKF1) and its binding partner GIGANTEA (GI) as well as CRY2/CIB1. By combining the mutagenesis of FKF1 with the optimization of a split FKF1/GI dimerized Gal4-VP16 transcriptional system, we identified constructs enabling significantly improved light-triggered transcriptional induction. In addition, we have improved the CRY2/CIB1-based light-inducible transcription with split construct optimization. The improvements regarding the FKF1/GI- and CRY2/CIB1-based systems will be widely applicable for the light-dependent control of transcription in mammalian cells.
Tracing Information Flow from Erk to Target Gene Induction Reveals Mechanisms of Dynamic and Combinatorial Control.
Cell signaling networks coordinate specific patterns of protein expression in response to external cues, yet the logic by which signaling pathway activity determines the eventual abundance of target proteins is complex and poorly understood. Here, we describe an approach for simultaneously controlling the Ras/Erk pathway and monitoring a target gene’s transcription and protein accumulation in single live cells. We apply our approach to dissect how Erk activity is decoded by immediate early genes (IEGs). We find that IEG transcription decodes Erk dynamics through a shared band-pass filtering circuit; repeated Erk pulses transcribe IEGs more efficiently than sustained Erk inputs. However, despite highly similar transcriptional responses, each IEG exhibits dramatically different protein-level accumulation, demonstrating a high degree of post-transcriptional regulation by combinations of multiple pathways. Our results demonstrate that the Ras/Erk pathway is decoded by both dynamic filters and logic gates to shape target gene responses in a context-specific manner.
Optogenetic Control of Ras/Erk Signaling Using the Phy-PIF System.
The Ras/Erk signaling pathway plays a central role in diverse cellular processes ranging from development to immune cell activation to neural plasticity to cancer. In recent years, this pathway has been widely studied using live-cell fluorescent biosensors, revealing complex Erk dynamics that arise in many cellular contexts. Yet despite these high-resolution tools for measurement, the field has lacked analogous tools for control over Ras/Erk signaling in live cells. Here, we provide detailed methods for one such tool based on the optical control of Ras activity, which we call "Opto-SOS." Expression of the Opto-SOS constructs can be coupled with a live-cell reporter of Erk activity to reveal highly quantitative input-to-output maps of the pathway. Detailed herein are protocols for expressing the Opto-SOS system in cultured cells, purifying the small molecule cofactor necessary for optical stimulation, imaging Erk responses using live-cell microscopy, and processing the imaging data to quantify Ras/Erk signaling dynamics.
Optogenetic control of RhoA reveals zyxin-mediated elasticity of stress fibres.
Cytoskeletal mechanics regulates cell morphodynamics and many physiological processes. While contractility is known to be largely RhoA-dependent, the process by which localized biochemical signals are translated into cell-level responses is poorly understood. Here we combine optogenetic control of RhoA, live-cell imaging and traction force microscopy to investigate the dynamics of actomyosin-based force generation. Local activation of RhoA not only stimulates local recruitment of actin and myosin but also increased traction forces that rapidly propagate across the cell via stress fibres and drive increased actin flow. Surprisingly, this flow reverses direction when local RhoA activation stops. We identify zyxin as a regulator of stress fibre mechanics, as stress fibres are fluid-like without flow reversal in its absence. Using a physical model, we demonstrate that stress fibres behave elastic-like, even at timescales exceeding turnover of constituent proteins. Such molecular control of actin mechanics likely plays critical roles in regulating morphodynamic events.
Optogenetic control of the Dab1 signaling pathway.
The Reelin-Dab1 signaling pathway regulates development of the mammalian brain, including neuron migrations in various brain regions, as well as learning and memory in adults. Extracellular Reelin binds to cell surface receptors and activates phosphorylation of the intracellular Dab1 protein. Dab1 is required for most effects of Reelin, but Dab1-independent pathways may contribute. Here we developed a single-component, photoactivatable Dab1 (opto-Dab1) by using the blue light-sensitive dimerization/oligomerization property of A. thaliana Cryptochrome 2 (Cry2). Opto-Dab1 can activate downstream signals rapidly, locally, and reversibly upon blue light illumination. The high spatiotemporal resolution of the opto-Dab1 probe also allows us to control membrane protrusion, retraction and ruffling by local illumination in both COS7 cells and in primary neurons. This shows that Dab1 activation is sufficient to orient cell movement in the absence of other signals. Opto-Dab1 may be useful to study the biological functions of the Reelin-Dab1 signaling pathway both in vitro and in vivo.
Optical control of cell signaling by single-chain photoswitchable kinases.
Protein kinases transduce signals to regulate a wide array of cellular functions in eukaryotes. A generalizable method for optical control of kinases would enable fine spatiotemporal interrogation or manipulation of these various functions. We report the design and application of single-chain cofactor-free kinases with photoswitchable activity. We engineered a dimeric protein, pdDronpa, that dissociates in cyan light and reassociates in violet light. Attaching two pdDronpa domains at rationally selected locations in the kinase domain, we created the photoswitchable kinases psRaf1, psMEK1, psMEK2, and psCDK5. Using these photoswitchable kinases, we established an all-optical cell-based assay for screening inhibitors, uncovered a direct and rapid inhibitory feedback loop from ERK to MEK1, and mediated developmental changes and synaptic vesicle transport in vivo using light.
Spatiotemporal Control of Intracellular Phase Transitions Using Light-Activated optoDroplets.
Phase transitions driven by intrinsically disordered protein regions (IDRs) have emerged as a ubiquitous mechanism for assembling liquid-like RNA/protein (RNP) bodies and other membrane-less organelles. However, a lack of tools to control intracellular phase transitions limits our ability to understand their role in cell physiology and disease. Here, we introduce an optogenetic platform that uses light to activate IDR-mediated phase transitions in living cells. We use this "optoDroplet" system to study condensed phases driven by the IDRs of various RNP body proteins, including FUS, DDX4, and HNRNPA1. Above a concentration threshold, these constructs undergo light-activated phase separation, forming spatiotemporally definable liquid optoDroplets. FUS optoDroplet assembly is fully reversible even after multiple activation cycles. However, cells driven deep within the phase boundary form solid-like gels that undergo aging into irreversible aggregates. This system can thus elucidate not only physiological phase transitions but also their link to pathological aggregates.
A photoactivatable Cre-loxP recombination system for optogenetic genome engineering.
Genome engineering techniques represented by the Cre-loxP recombination system have been used extensively for biomedical research. However, powerful and useful techniques for genome engineering that have high spatiotemporal precision remain elusive. Here we develop a highly efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) to optogenetically control genome engineering in vivo. PA-Cre is based on the reassembly of split Cre fragments by light-inducible dimerization of the Magnet system. PA-Cre enables sharp induction (up to 320-fold) of DNA recombination and is efficiently activated even by low-intensity illumination (∼0.04 W m(-2)) or short periods of pulsed illumination (∼30 s). We demonstrate that PA-Cre allows for efficient DNA recombination in an internal organ of living mice through noninvasive external illumination using a LED light source. The present PA-Cre provides a powerful tool to greatly facilitate optogenetic genome engineering in vivo.
The Timing of Raf/ERK and AKT Activation in Protecting PC12 Cells against Oxidative Stress.
Acute brain injuries such as ischemic stroke or traumatic brain injury often cause massive neural death and irreversible brain damage with grave consequences. Previous studies have established that a key participant in the events leading to neural death is the excessive production of reactive oxygen species. Protecting neuronal cells by activating their endogenous defense mechanisms is an attractive treatment strategy for acute brain injuries. In this work, we investigate how the precise timing of the Raf/ERK and the AKT pathway activation affects their protective effects against oxidative stress. For this purpose, we employed optogenetic systems that use light to precisely and reversibly activate either the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway. We find that preconditioning activation of the Raf/ERK or the AKT pathway immediately before oxidant exposure provides significant protection to cells. Notably, a 15-minute transient activation of the Raf/ERK pathway is able to protect PC12 cells against oxidant strike that is applied 12 hours later, while the transient activation of the AKT pathway fails to protect PC12 cells in such a scenario. On the other hand, if the pathways are activated after the oxidative insult, i.e. postconditioning, the AKT pathway conveys greater protective effect than the Raf/ERK pathway. We find that postconditioning AKT activation has an optimal delay period of 2 hours. When the AKT pathway is activated 30min after the oxidative insult, it exhibits very little protective effect. Therefore, the precise timing of the pathway activation is crucial in determining its protective effect against oxidative injury. The optogenetic platform, with its precise temporal control and its ability to activate specific pathways, is ideal for the mechanistic dissection of intracellular pathways in protection against oxidative stress.
Optogenetic oligomerization of Rab GTPases regulates intracellular membrane trafficking.
Intracellular membrane trafficking, which is involved in diverse cellular processes, is dynamic and difficult to study in a spatiotemporal manner. Here we report an optogenetic strategy, termed light-activated reversible inhibition by assembled trap of intracellular membranes (IM-LARIAT), that uses various Rab GTPases combined with blue-light-induced hetero-interaction between cryptochrome 2 and CIB1. In this system, illumination induces a rapid and reversible intracellular membrane aggregation that disrupts the dynamics and functions of the targeted membrane. We applied IM-LARIAT to specifically perturb several Rab-mediated trafficking processes, including receptor transport, protein sorting and secretion, and signaling initiated from endosomes. We finally used this tool to reveal different functions of local Rab5-mediated and Rab11-mediated membrane trafficking in growth cones and soma of young hippocampal neurons. Our results show that IM-LARIAT is a versatile tool that can be used to dissect spatiotemporal functions of intracellular membranes in diverse systems.
Light-Activated Nuclear Translocation of Adeno-Associated Virus Nanoparticles Using Phytochrome B for Enhanced, Tunable, and Spatially Programmable Gene Delivery.
Gene delivery vectors that are activated by external stimuli may allow improved control over the location and the degree of gene expression in target populations of cells. Light is an attractive stimulus because it does not cross-react with cellular signaling networks, has negligible toxicity, is noninvasive, and can be applied in space and time with unparalleled precision. We used the previously engineered red (R)/far-red (FR) light-switchable protein phytochrome B (PhyB) and its R light dependent interaction partner phytochrome interacting factor 6 (PIF6) from Arabidopsis thaliana to engineer an adeno-associated virus (AAV) platform whose gene delivery efficiency is controlled by light. Upon exposure to R light, AAV engineered to display PIF6 motifs on the capsid bind to PhyB tagged with a nuclear localization sequence (NLS), resulting in significantly increased translocation of viruses into the host cell nucleus and overall gene delivery efficiency. By modulating the ratio of R to FR light, the gene delivery efficiency can be tuned to as little as 35% or over 600% of the unengineered AAV. We also demonstrate spatial control of gene delivery using projected patterns of codelivered R and FR light. Overall, our successful use of light-switchable proteins in virus capsid engineering extends these important optogenetic tools into the adjacent realm of nucleic acid delivery and enables enhanced, tunable, and spatially controllable regulation of viral gene delivery. Our current light-triggered viral gene delivery prototype may be broadly useful for genetic manipulation of cells ex vivo or in vivo in transgenic model organisms, with the ultimate prospect of achieving dose- and site-specific gene expression profiles for either therapeutic (e.g., regenerative medicine) or fundamental discovery research efforts.
Predictive Spatiotemporal Manipulation of Signaling Perturbations Using Optogenetics.
Recently developed optogenetic methods promise to revolutionize cell biology by allowing signaling perturbations to be controlled in space and time with light. However, a quantitative analysis of the relationship between a custom-defined illumination pattern and the resulting signaling perturbation is lacking. Here, we characterize the biophysical processes governing the localized recruitment of the Cryptochrome CRY2 to its membrane-anchored CIBN partner. We develop a quantitative framework and present simple procedures that enable predictive manipulation of protein distributions on the plasma membrane with a spatial resolution of 5 μm. We show that protein gradients of desired levels can be established in a few tens of seconds and then steadily maintained. These protein gradients can be entirely relocalized in a few minutes. We apply our approach to the control of the Cdc42 Rho GTPase activity. By inducing strong localized signaling perturbation, we are able to monitor the initiation of cell polarity and migration with a remarkable reproducibility despite cell-to-cell variability.
Optogenetic control of endogenous Ca(2+) channels in vivo.
Calcium (Ca(2+)) signals that are precisely modulated in space and time mediate a myriad of cellular processes, including contraction, excitation, growth, differentiation and apoptosis. However, study of Ca(2+) responses has been hampered by technological limitations of existing Ca(2+)-modulating tools. Here we present OptoSTIM1, an optogenetic tool for manipulating intracellular Ca(2+) levels through activation of Ca(2+)-selective endogenous Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channels. Using OptoSTIM1, which combines a plant photoreceptor and the CRAC channel regulator STIM1 (ref. 4), we quantitatively and qualitatively controlled intracellular Ca(2+) levels in various biological systems, including zebrafish embryos and human embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate that activating OptoSTIM1 in the CA1 hippocampal region of mice selectively reinforced contextual memory formation. The broad utility of OptoSTIM1 will expand our mechanistic understanding of numerous Ca(2+)-associated processes and facilitate screening for drug candidates that antagonize Ca(2+) signals.