Optogenetic engineering: light-directed cell motility.
Abstract: Genetically encoded, light-activatable proteins provide the means to probe biochemical pathways at specific subcellular locations with exquisite temporal control. However, engineering these systems in order to provide a dramatic jump in localized activity, while retaining a low dark-state background remains a significant challenge. When placed within the framework of a genetically encodable, light-activatable heterodimerizer system, the actin-remodelling protein cofilin induces dramatic changes in the F-actin network and consequent cell motility upon illumination. We demonstrate that the use of a partially impaired mutant of cofilin is critical for maintaining low background activity in the dark. We also show that light-directed recruitment of the reduced activity cofilin mutants to the cytoskeleton is sufficient to induce F-actin remodeling, formation of filopodia, and directed cell motility.