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 81 results
1.

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.
2.

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

blue CRY2/CRY2 iLID NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
bioRxiv, 21 Mar 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.27.453955 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 feedbacks 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.
3.

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.
4.

LITOS - a versatile LED illumination tool for optogenetic stimulation.

blue CRY2/CRY2 MCF10A NIH/3T3
bioRxiv, 2 Mar 2022 DOI: 10.1101/2022.03.02.482623 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 32x64 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 ease of use aims at democratizing optogenetics in any laboratory.
5.

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.
6.

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.
7.

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.
8.

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.
9.

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.
10.

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.
11.

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.
12.

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.
13.

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.
14.

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.
15.

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.
16.

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.
17.

Dynamics and heterogeneity of Erk-induced immediate-early gene expression.

blue red iLID PhyB/PIF mouse epidermal keratinocytes NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
bioRxiv, 30 Apr 2021 DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.30.442166 Link to full text
Abstract: Many canonical signaling pathways exhibit complex time-varying responses, yet how minutes-timescale pulses of signaling interact with the dynamics of transcription and gene expression remains poorly understood. Erk-induced immediate early gene (IEG) expression is a model of this interface, exemplifying both dynamic pathway activity and a rapid, potent transcriptional response. Here, we quantitatively characterize IEG expression downstream of dynamic Erk stimuli in individual cells. We find that IEG expression responds rapidly to acute changes in Erk activity, but only in a sub-population of stimulus-responsive cells. We find that while Erk activity partially predicts IEG expression, a majority of response heterogeneity is independent of Erk and can be rapidly tuned by different mitogenic stimuli and parallel signaling pathways. We extend our findings to an in vivo context, the mouse epidermis, where we observe heterogenous immediate-early gene accumulation in both fixed tissue and single-cell RNA-sequencing data. Our results demonstrate that signaling dynamics can be faithfully transmitted to gene expression and suggest that the signaling-responsive population is an important parameter for interpreting gene expression responses.
18.

Optogenetic Control of Myocardin‐Related Transcription Factor A Subcellular Localization and Transcriptional Activity Steers Membrane Blebbing and Invasive Cancer Cell Motility.

blue AsLOV2 HEK293 HeLa NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression
Adv Biol, 8 Feb 2021 DOI: 10.1002/adbi.202000208 Link to full text
Abstract: The myocardin‐related transcription factor A (MRTF‐A) controls the transcriptional activity of the serum response factor (SRF) in a tightly controlled actin‐dependent manner. In turn, MRTF‐A is crucial for many actin‐dependent processes including adhesion, migration, and contractility and has emerged as novel targets for anti‐tumor strategies. MRTF‐A rapidly shuttles between cytoplasmic and nuclear compartment via dynamic actin interactions within its N‐terminal RPEL domain. Here, optogenetics is used to spatiotemporally control MRTF‐A nuclear localization by blue light using the light‐oxygen‐voltage‐sensing domain 2‐domain based system LEXY (light‐inducible nuclear export system). It is found that light‐regulated nuclear export of MRTF‐A occurs within 10–20 min. Importantly, MRTF‐A‐LEXY shuttling is independent of perturbations of actin dynamics. Furthermore, light‐regulation of MRTF‐A‐LEXY is reversible and repeatable for several cycles of illumination and its subcellular localization correlates with SRF transcriptional activity. As a consequence, optogenetic control of MRTF‐A subcellular localization determines subsequent cytoskeletal dynamics such as non‐apoptotic plasma membrane blebbing as well as invasive tumor‐cell migration through 3D collagen matrix. This data demonstrate robust optogenetic regulation of MRTF as a powerful tool to control SRF‐dependent transcription as well as cell motile behavior.
19.

Optogenetic Control of Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate Production by Light‐sensitive Cryptochrome Proteins on the Plasma Membrane.

blue CRY2/CIB1 C2C12 CHO-K1 NIH/3T3
Chin J Chem, 21 Jan 2021 DOI: 10.1002/cjoc.202000648 Link to full text
Abstract: Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate (PIP3), acts as a fundamental second messenger, is emerging as a promising biomarker for disease diagnosis and prognosis. However, the real time analysis of phosphoinositide in living cells remains key challenge owing to the low basal abundance and its fast metabolic rate. Herein, we design an optogenetic system that uses light sensitive protein‐protein interaction between Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and CIB1 to spatiotemporally visualize the PIP3 production with sub‐second timescale. In this system, a CIBN is anchored on the plasma membrane, whereas a CRY2 fused with a constitutively active PI3‐kinase (acPI3K) would be driven from the cytosol to the membrane by the blue‐light‐activated CRY2‐CIB1 interaction upon light irradiation. The PIP3 production is visualized via a fused fluorescent protein by the translocation of a Pleckstrin Homology (PH) domain(GRP1) from the cytosol to the plasma membrane with high specificity. We demonstrated the fast dynamics and reversibility of the optogenetic system initiated PIP3 synthesis on the plasma membrane. Notably, the real‐time cell movements were also observed upon localized light stimulation. The established optogenetic method provides a novel spatiotemporal strategy for specific PIP3 visualization, which is beneficial to improve the understanding of PIP3 functions.
20.

Clustering-based positive feedback between a kinase and its substrate enables effective T-cell receptor signaling.

blue CRY2/CRY2 iLID HEK293T MEF-1 NIH/3T3 Signaling cascade control
bioRxiv, 6 Oct 2020 DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.06.328708 Link to full text
Abstract: Protein clusters and condensates are pervasive in mammalian signaling. Yet how the signaling capacity of higher-order assemblies differs from simpler forms of molecular organization is still poorly understood. Here, we present an optogenetic approach to switch between light-induced clusters and simple protein heterodimers with a single point mutation. We apply this system to study how clustering affects signaling from the kinase Zap70 and its substrate LAT, proteins that normally form membrane-localized clusters during T cell activation. We find that light-induced clusters of LAT and Zap70 trigger potent activation of downstream signaling pathways even in non-T cells, whereas one-to-one dimers do not. We provide evidence that clusters harbor a local positive feedback loop between three components: Zap70, LAT, and Src-family kinases that bind to phosphorylated LAT and further activate Zap70. Overall, our study provides evidence for a specific role of protein condensates in cell signaling, and identifies a simple biochemical circuit that can robustly sense protein oligomerization state.
21.

DMA-tudor interaction modules control the specificity of in vivo condensates.

blue CRY2/CRY2 MEF-1 NIH/3T3
bioRxiv, 16 Sep 2020 DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.15.297994 Link to full text
Abstract: Biomolecular condensation is a widespread mechanism of cellular compartmentalization. Because the ‘survival of motor neuron protein’ (SMN) is required for the formation of three different membraneless organelles (MLOs), we hypothesized that at least one region of SMN employs a unifying mechanism of condensation. Unexpectedly, we show here that SMN’s globular tudor domain was sufficient for dimerization-induced condensation in vivo, while its two intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) were not. The condensate-forming property of the SMN tudor domain required binding to its ligand, dimethylarginine (DMA), and was shared by at least seven additional tudor domains in six different proteins. Remarkably, asymmetric versus symmetric DMA determined whether two distinct nuclear MLOs – gems and Cajal bodies – were separate or overlapping. These findings show that the combination of a tudor domain bound to its DMA ligand – DMA-tudor – represents a versatile yet specific interaction module that regulates MLO assembly and defines their composition.
22.

Nucleated transcriptional condensates amplify gene expression.

blue CRY2olig NIH/3T3 Endogenous gene expression Organelle manipulation
Nat Cell Biol, 14 Sep 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41556-020-00578-6 Link to full text
Abstract: Membraneless organelles or condensates form through liquid-liquid phase separation1-4, which is thought to underlie gene transcription through condensation of the large-scale nucleolus5-7 or in smaller assemblies known as transcriptional condensates8-11. Transcriptional condensates have been hypothesized to phase separate at particular genomic loci and locally promote the biomolecular interactions underlying gene expression. However, there have been few quantitative biophysical tests of this model in living cells, and phase separation has not yet been directly linked with dynamic transcriptional outputs12,13. Here, we apply an optogenetic approach to show that FET-family transcriptional regulators exhibit a strong tendency to phase separate within living cells, a process that can drive localized RNA transcription. We find that TAF15 has a unique charge distribution among the FET family members that enhances its interactions with the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Nascent C-terminal domain clusters at primed genomic loci lower the energetic barrier for nucleation of TAF15 condensates, which in turn further recruit RNA polymerase II to drive transcriptional output. These results suggest that positive feedback between interacting transcriptional components drives localized phase separation to amplify gene expression.
23.

CL6mN: Rationally Designed Optogenetic Photoswitches with Tunable Dissociation Dynamics.

blue CRY2/CIB1 HEK293T NIH/3T3
ACS Synth Biol, 14 Aug 2020 DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.0c00362 Link to full text
Abstract: The field of optogenetics uses genetically encoded photoswitches to modulate biological phenomena with high spatiotemporal resolution. We report a set of rationally designed optogenetic photoswitches that use the photolyase homology region of A. thaliana cryptochrome 2 (Cry2PHR) as a building block and exhibit highly efficient and tunable clustering in a blue-light dependent manner. CL6mN (Cry2-mCherry-LRP6c with N mutated PPPAP motifs) proteins were designed by mutating and/or truncating five crucial PPP(S/T)P motifs near the C-terminus of the optogenetic Wnt activator Cry2-mCherry-LRP6c, thus eliminating its Wnt activity. Light-induced CL6mN clusters have significantly greater dissociation half-lives than clusters of wild-type Cry2PHR. Moreover, the dissociation half-lives can be tuned by varying the number of PPPAP motifs, with the half-life increasing as much as 6-fold for a variant with five motifs (CL6m5) relative to Cry2PHR. Finally, we demonstrate the compatibility of CL6mN with previously reported Cry2-based photoswitches by optogenetically activating RhoA in mammalian cells.
24.

Engineering combinatorial and dynamic decoders using synthetic immediate-early genes.

blue iLID NIH/3T3
Commun Biol, 13 Aug 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-01171-1 Link to full text
Abstract: Many cell- and tissue-level functions are coordinated by intracellular signaling pathways that trigger the expression of context-specific target genes. Yet the input-output relationships that link pathways to the genes they activate are incompletely understood. Mapping the pathway-decoding logic of natural target genes could also provide a basis for engineering novel signal-decoding circuits. Here we report the construction of synthetic immediate-early genes (SynIEGs), target genes of Erk signaling that implement complex, user-defined regulation and can be monitored by using live-cell biosensors to track their transcription and translation. We demonstrate the power of this approach by confirming Erk duration-sensing by FOS, elucidating how the BTG2 gene is differentially regulated by external stimuli, and designing a synthetic immediate-early gene that selectively responds to the combination of growth factor and DNA damage stimuli. SynIEGs pave the way toward engineering molecular circuits that decode signaling dynamics and combinations across a broad range of cellular contexts.
25.

Development of light-responsive protein binding in the monobody non-immunoglobulin scaffold.

blue AsLOV2 iLID HEK293T in vitro NIH/3T3 Extracellular optogenetics
Nat Commun, 13 Aug 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17837-7 Link to full text
Abstract: Monobodies are synthetic non-immunoglobulin customizable protein binders invaluable to basic and applied research, and of considerable potential as future therapeutics and diagnostic tools. The ability to reversibly control their binding activity to their targets on demand would significantly expand their applications in biotechnology, medicine, and research. Here we present, as proof-of-principle, the development of a light-controlled monobody (OptoMB) that works in vitro and in cells and whose affinity for its SH2-domain target exhibits a 330-fold shift in binding affinity upon illumination. We demonstrate that our αSH2-OptoMB can be used to purify SH2-tagged proteins directly from crude E. coli extract, achieving 99.8% purity and over 40% yield in a single purification step. By virtue of their ability to be designed to bind any protein of interest, OptoMBs have the potential to find new powerful applications as light-switchable binders of untagged proteins with the temporal and spatial precision afforded by light.
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