Showing 1 - 25 of 43 results
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.
Engineering Improved Photoswitches for the Control of Nucleocytoplasmic Distribution.
Optogenetic techniques use light-responsive proteins to study dynamic processes in living cells and organisms. These techniques typically rely on repurposed naturally occurring light-sensitive proteins to control sub-cellular localization and activity. We previously engineered two optogenetic systems, the Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS) and the Light-Inducible Nuclear eXporter (LINX), by embedding nuclear import or export sequence motifs into the C-terminal helix of the light-responsive LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1, thus enabling light-dependent trafficking of a target protein into and out of the nucleus. While LANS and LINX are effective tools, we posited that mutations within the LOV2 hinge-loop, which connects the core PAS domain and the C-terminal helix, would further improve the functionality of these switches. Here, we identify hinge-loop mutations that favourably shift the dynamic range (the ratio of the on- to off-target subcellular accumulation) of the LANS and LINX photoswitches. We demonstrate the utility of these new optogenetic tools to control gene transcription and epigenetic modifications, thereby expanding the optogenetic 'tool kit' for the research community.
Real-Time Genetic Compensation Defines the Dynamic Demands of Feedback Control.
Biological signaling networks use feedback control to dynamically adjust their operation in real time. Traditional static genetic methods such as gene knockouts or rescue experiments can often identify the existence of feedback interactions but are unable to determine what feedback dynamics are required. Here, we implement a new strategy, closed-loop optogenetic compensation (CLOC), to address this problem. Using a custom-built hardware and software infrastructure, CLOC monitors, in real time, the output of a pathway deleted for a feedback regulator. A minimal model uses these measurements to calculate and deliver-on the fly-an optogenetically enabled transcriptional input designed to compensate for the effects of the feedback deletion. Application of CLOC to the yeast pheromone response pathway revealed surprisingly distinct dynamic requirements for three well-studied feedback regulators. CLOC, a marriage of control theory and traditional genetics, presents a broadly applicable methodology for defining the dynamic function of biological feedback regulators.
A Single-Component Optogenetic System Allows Stringent Switch of Gene Expression in Yeast Cells.
Light is a highly attractive actuator that allows spatiotemporal control of diverse cellular activities. In this study, we developed a single-component light-switchable gene expression system for yeast cells, termed yLightOn system. The yLightOn system is independent of exogenous cofactors, and exhibits more than a 500-fold ON/OFF ratio, extremely low leakage, fast expression kinetics, and high spatial resolution. We demonstrated the usefulness of the yLightOn system in regulating cell growth and cell cycle by stringently controlling the expression of His3 and ΔN Sic1 genes, respectively. Furthermore, we engineered a bidirectional expression module that allows the simultaneous control of the expression of two genes by light. With ClpX and ClpP as the reporters, the fast, quantitative, and spatially specific degradation of ssrA-tagged protein was observed. We suggest that this single-component optogenetic system will be immensely helpful in understanding cellular gene regulatory networks and in the design of robust genetic circuits for synthetic biology.
Pulsatile inputs achieve tunable attenuation of gene expression variability and graded multi-gene regulation.
Many natural transcription factors are regulated in a pulsatile fashion, but it remains unknown whether synthetic gene expression systems can benefit from such dynamic regulation. Here we find, using a fast-acting, optogenetic transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that dynamic pulsatile signals reduce cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. We then show that by encoding such signals into a single input, expression mean and variability can be independently tuned. Further, we construct a light-responsive promoter library and demonstrate how pulsatile signaling also enables graded multi-gene regulation at fixed expression ratios, despite differences in promoter dose-response characteristics. Pulsatile regulation can thus lead to beneficial functional behaviors in synthetic biological systems, which previously required laborious optimization of genetic parts or the construction of synthetic gene networks.
Fungal Light-Oxygen-Voltage Domains for Optogenetic Control of Gene Expression and Flocculation in Yeast.
Optogenetic switches permit accurate control of gene expression upon light stimulation. These synthetic switches have become a powerful tool for gene regulation, allowing modulation of customized phenotypes, overcoming the obstacles of chemical inducers, and replacing their use by an inexpensive resource: light. In this work, we implemented FUN-LOV, an optogenetic switch based on the photon-regulated interaction of WC-1 and VVD, two LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) blue-light photoreceptors from the fungus Neurospora crassa When tested in yeast, FUN-LOV yields light-controlled gene expression with exquisite temporal resolution and a broad dynamic range of over 1,300-fold, as measured by a luciferase reporter. We also tested the FUN-LOV switch for heterologous protein expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, where Western blot analysis confirmed strong induction upon light stimulation, surpassing by 2.5 times the levels achieved with a classic GAL4/galactose chemical-inducible system. Additionally, we utilized FUN-LOV to control the ability of yeast cells to flocculate. Light-controlled expression of the flocculin-encoding gene FLO1, by the FUN-LOV switch, yielded flocculation in light (FIL), whereas the light-controlled expression of the corepressor TUP1 provided flocculation in darkness (FID). Altogether, the results reveal the potential of the FUN-LOV optogenetic switch to control two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes such as heterologous protein expression and flocculation, paving the road for the engineering of new yeast strains for industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV's ability to accurately manipulate gene expression, with a high temporal dynamic range, can be exploited in the analysis of diverse biological processes in various organisms.IMPORTANCE Optogenetic switches are molecular devices which allow the control of different cellular processes by light, such as gene expression, providing a versatile alternative to chemical inducers. Here, we report a novel optogenetic switch (FUN-LOV) based on the LOV domain interaction of two blue-light photoreceptors (WC-1 and VVD) from the fungus N. crassa In yeast cells, FUN-LOV allowed tight regulation of gene expression, with low background in darkness and a highly dynamic and potent control by light. We used FUN-LOV to optogenetically manipulate, in yeast, two biotechnologically relevant phenotypes, heterologous protein expression and flocculation, resulting in strains with potential industrial applications. Importantly, FUN-LOV can be implemented in diverse biological platforms to orthogonally control a multitude of cellular processes.
Directly light-regulated binding of RGS-LOV photoreceptors to anionic membrane phospholipids.
We report natural light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) photoreceptors with a blue light-switched, high-affinity (KD ∼ 10-7 M), and direct electrostatic interaction with anionic phospholipids. Membrane localization of one such photoreceptor, BcLOV4 from Botrytis cinerea, is directly coupled to its flavin photocycle, and is mediated by a polybasic amphipathic helix in the linker region between the LOV sensor and its C-terminal domain of unknown function (DUF), as revealed through a combination of bioinformatics, computational protein modeling, structure-function studies, and optogenetic assays in yeast and mammalian cell line expression systems. In model systems, BcLOV4 rapidly translocates from the cytosol to plasma membrane (∼1 second). The reversible electrostatic interaction is nonselective among anionic phospholipids, exhibiting binding strengths dependent on the total anionic content of the membrane without preference for a specific headgroup. The in vitro and cellular responses were also observed with a BcLOV4 homolog and thus are likely to be general across the dikarya LOV class, whose members are associated with regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) domains. Natural photoreceptors are not previously known to directly associate with membrane phospholipids in a light-dependent manner, and thus this work establishes both a photosensory signal transmission mode and a single-component optogenetic tool with rapid membrane localization kinetics that approaches the diffusion limit.
L-SCRaMbLE as a tool for light-controlled Cre-mediated recombination in yeast.
The synthetic yeast genome constructed by the International Synthetic Yeast Sc2.0 consortium adds thousands of loxPsym recombination sites to all 16 redesigned chromosomes, allowing the shuffling of Sc2.0 chromosome parts by the Cre-loxP recombination system thereby enabling genome evolution experiments. Here, we present L-SCRaMbLE, a light-controlled Cre recombinase for use in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. L-SCRaMbLE allows tight regulation of recombinase activity with up to 179-fold induction upon exposure to red light. The extent of recombination depends on induction time and concentration of the chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which can be easily adjusted. The tool presented here provides improved recombination control over the previously reported estradiol-dependent SCRaMbLE induction system, mediating a larger variety of possible recombination events in SCRaMbLE-ing a reporter plasmid. Thereby, L-SCRaMbLE boosts the potential for further customization and provides a facile application for use in the S. cerevisiae genome re-engineering project Sc2.0 or in other recombination-based systems.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
Optogenetic regulation of engineered cellular metabolism for microbial chemical production.
The optimization of engineered metabolic pathways requires careful control over the levels and timing of metabolic enzyme expression. Optogenetic tools are ideal for achieving such precise control, as light can be applied and removed instantly without complex media changes. Here we show that light-controlled transcription can be used to enhance the biosynthesis of valuable products in engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We introduce new optogenetic circuits to shift cells from a light-induced growth phase to a darkness-induced production phase, which allows us to control fermentation with only light. Furthermore, optogenetic control of engineered pathways enables a new mode of bioreactor operation using periodic light pulses to tune enzyme expression during the production phase of fermentation to increase yields. Using these advances, we control the mitochondrial isobutanol pathway to produce up to 8.49 ± 0.31 g l-1of isobutanol and 2.38 ± 0.06 g l-1of 2-methyl-1-butanol micro-aerobically from glucose. These results make a compelling case for the application of optogenetics to metabolic engineering for the production of valuable products.
Light-dependent cytoplasmic recruitment enhances the dynamic range of a nuclear import photoswitch.
Cellular signal transduction is often regulated at multiple steps in order to achieve more complex logic or precise control of a pathway. For instance, some signaling mechanisms couple allosteric activation with localization to achieve high signal to noise. Here, we create a system for light activated nuclear import that incorporates two levels of control. It consists of a nuclear import photoswitch, Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS), and a protein engineered to preferentially interact with LANS in the dark, Zdk2. First, Zdk2 is tethered to a location in the cytoplasm, which sequesters LANS in the dark. Second, LANS incorporates a nuclear localization signal (NLS) that is sterically blocked from binding to the nuclear import machinery in the dark. When activated with light, LANS both dissociates from its tethered location and exposes its NLS, which leads to nuclear accumulation. We demonstrate that this coupled system improves the dynamic range of LANS in mammalian cells, yeast, and C. elegans and provides tighter control of transcription factors that have been fused to LANS.
PhiReX: a programmable and red light-regulated protein expression switch for yeast.
Highly regulated induction systems enabling dose-dependent and reversible fine-tuning of protein expression output are beneficial for engineering complex biosynthetic pathways. To address this, we developed PhiReX, a novel red/far-red light-regulated protein expression system for use in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PhiReX is based on the combination of a customizable synTALE DNA-binding domain, the VP64 activation domain and the light-sensitive dimerization of the photoreceptor PhyB and its interacting partner PIF3 from Arabidopsis thaliana. Robust gene expression and high protein levels are achieved by combining genome integrated red light-sensing components with an episomal high-copy reporter construct. The gene of interest as well as the synTALE DNA-binding domain can be easily exchanged, allowing the flexible regulation of any desired gene by targeting endogenous or heterologous promoter regions. To allow low-cost induction of gene expression for industrial fermentation processes, we engineered yeast to endogenously produce the chromophore required for the effective dimerization of PhyB and PIF3. Time course experiments demonstrate high-level induction over a period of at least 48 h.
Cell cycle entry triggers a switch between two modes of Cdc42 activation during yeast polarization.
Cell polarization underlies many cellular and organismal functions. The GTPase Cdc42 orchestrates polarization in many contexts. In budding yeast, polarization is associated with a focus of Cdc42•GTP which is thought to self sustain by recruiting a complex containing Cla4, a Cdc42-binding effector, Bem1, a scaffold, and Cdc24, a Cdc42 GEF. Using optogenetics, we probe yeast polarization and find that local recruitment of Cdc24 or Bem1 is sufficient to induce polarization by triggering self-sustaining Cdc42 activity. However, the response to these perturbations depends on the recruited molecule, the cell cycle stage, and existing polarization sites. Before cell cycle entry, recruitment of Cdc24, but not Bem1, induces a metastable pool of Cdc42 that is sustained by positive feedback. Upon Cdk1 activation, recruitment of either Cdc24 or Bem1 creates a stable site of polarization that induces budding and inhibits formation of competing sites. Local perturbations have therefore revealed unexpected features of polarity establishment.
A light- and calcium-gated transcription factor for imaging and manipulating activated neurons.
Activity remodels neurons, altering their molecular, structural, and electrical characteristics. To enable the selective characterization and manipulation of these neurons, we present FLARE, an engineered transcription factor that drives expression of fluorescent proteins, opsins, and other genetically encoded tools only in the subset of neurons that experienced activity during a user-defined time window. FLARE senses the coincidence of elevated cytosolic calcium and externally applied blue light, which together produce translocation of a membrane-anchored transcription factor to the nucleus to drive expression of any transgene. In cultured rat neurons, FLARE gives a light-to-dark signal ratio of 120 and a high- to low-calcium signal ratio of 10 after 10 min of stimulation. Opsin expression permitted functional manipulation of FLARE-marked neurons. In adult mice, FLARE also gave light- and motor-activity-dependent transcription in the cortex. Due to its modular design, minute-scale temporal resolution, and minimal dark-state leak, FLARE should be useful for the study of activity-dependent processes in neurons and other cells that signal with calcium.
Development of a Synthetic Switch to Control Protein Stability in Eukaryotic Cells with Light.
In eukaryotic cells, virtually all regulatory processes are influenced by proteolysis. Thus, synthetic control of protein stability is a powerful approach to influence cellular behavior. To achieve this, selected target proteins are modified with a conditional degradation sequence (degron) that responds to a distinct signal. For development of a synthetic degron, an appropriate sensor domain is fused with a degron such that activity of the degron is under control of the sensor. This chapter describes the development of a light-activated, synthetic degron in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This photosensitive degron module is composed of the light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) 2 photoreceptor domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phototropin 1 and a degron derived from murine ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). Excitation of the photoreceptor with blue light induces a conformational change that leads to exposure and activation of the degron. Subsequently, the protein is targeted for degradation by the proteasome. Here, the strategy for degron module development and optimization is described in detail together with experimental aspects, which were pivotal for successful implementation of light-controlled proteolysis. The engineering of the photosensitive degron (psd) module may well serve as a blueprint for future development of sophisticated synthetic switches.
Model-guided optogenetic study of PKA signaling in budding yeast.
In eukaryotes, protein kinase A (PKA) is a master regulator of cell proliferation and survival. The activity of PKA is subject to elaborate control and exhibits complex time dynamics. To probe the quantitative attributes of PKA dynamics in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we developed an optogenetic strategy that uses a photoactivatable adenylate cyclase to achieve real-time regulation of cAMP and the PKA pathway. We capitalize on the precise and rapid control afforded by this optogenetic tool, together with quantitative computational modeling, to study the properties of feedback in the PKA signaling network and dissect the nonintuitive dynamic effects that ensue from perturbing its components. Our analyses reveal that negative feedback channeled through the Ras1/2 GTPase is delayed, pinpointing its time scale and its contribution to the dynamic features of the cAMP/PKA signaling network.
An open-hardware platform for optogenetics and photobiology.
In optogenetics, researchers use light and genetically encoded photoreceptors to control biological processes with unmatched precision. However, outside of neuroscience, the impact of optogenetics has been limited by a lack of user-friendly, flexible, accessible hardware. Here, we engineer the Light Plate Apparatus (LPA), a device that can deliver two independent 310 to 1550 nm light signals to each well of a 24-well plate with intensity control over three orders of magnitude and millisecond resolution. Signals are programmed using an intuitive web tool named Iris. All components can be purchased for under $400 and the device can be assembled and calibrated by a non-expert in one day. We use the LPA to precisely control gene expression from blue, green, and red light responsive optogenetic tools in bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells and simplify the entrainment of cyanobacterial circadian rhythm. The LPA dramatically reduces the entry barrier to optogenetics and photobiology experiments.
Light-induced nuclear export reveals rapid dynamics of epigenetic modifications.
We engineered a photoactivatable system for rapidly and reversibly exporting proteins from the nucleus by embedding a nuclear export signal in the LOV2 domain from phototropin 1. Fusing the chromatin modifier Bre1 to the photoswitch, we achieved light-dependent control of histone H2B monoubiquitylation in yeast, revealing fast turnover of the ubiquitin mark. Moreover, this inducible system allowed us to dynamically monitor the status of epigenetic modifications dependent on H2B ubiquitylation.
Optimized second-generation CRY2-CIB dimerizers and photoactivatable Cre recombinase.
Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (AtCRY2), a light-sensitive photosensory protein, was previously adapted for use in controlling protein-protein interactions through light-dependent binding to a partner protein, CIB1. While the existing CRY2-CIB dimerization system has been used extensively for optogenetic applications, some limitations exist. Here, we set out to optimize function of the CRY2-CIB system by identifying versions of CRY2-CIB that are smaller, show reduced dark interaction, and maintain longer or shorter signaling states in response to a pulse of light. We describe minimal functional CRY2 and CIB1 domains maintaining light-dependent interaction and new signaling mutations affecting AtCRY2 photocycle kinetics. The latter work implicates an α13-α14 turn motif within plant CRYs whose perturbation alters signaling-state lifetime. Using a long-lived L348F photocycle mutant, we engineered a second-generation photoactivatable Cre recombinase, PA-Cre2.0, that shows five-fold improved dynamic range, allowing robust recombination following exposure to a single, brief pulse of light.
Controlling Protein Activity and Degradation Using Blue Light.
Regulation of protein stability is a fundamental process in eukaryotic cells and pivotal to, e.g., cell cycle progression, faithful chromosome segregation, or protein quality control. Synthetic regulation of protein stability requires conditional degradation sequences (degrons) that induce a stability switch upon a specific signal. Fusion to a selected target protein permits to influence virtually every process in a cell. Light as signal is advantageous due to its precise applicability in time, space, quality, and quantity. Light control of protein stability was achieved by fusing the LOV2 photoreceptor domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phototropin1 with a synthetic degron (cODC1) derived from the carboxy-terminal degron of ornithine decarboxylase to obtain the photosensitive degron (psd) module. The psd module can be attached to the carboxy terminus of target proteins that are localized to the cytosol or nucleus to obtain light control over their stability. Blue light induces structural changes in the LOV2 domain, which in turn lead to activation of the degron and thus proteasomal degradation of the whole fusion protein. Variants of the psd module with diverse characteristics are useful to fine-tune the stability of a selected target at permissive (darkness) and restrictive conditions (blue light).
Optical Control of Peroxisomal Trafficking.
The blue-light-responsive LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin1 (AsLOV2) has been used to regulate activity and binding of diverse protein targets with light. Here, we used AsLOV2 to photocage a peroxisomal targeting sequence, allowing light regulation of peroxisomal protein import. We generated a protein tag, LOV-PTS1, that can be appended to proteins of interest to direct their import to the peroxisome with light. This method provides a means to inducibly trigger peroxisomal protein trafficking in specific cells at user-defined times.
Correlating in Vitro and in Vivo Activities of Light-Inducible Dimers: A Cellular Optogenetics Guide.
Light-inducible dimers are powerful tools for cellular optogenetics, as they can be used to control the localization and activity of proteins with high spatial and temporal resolution. Despite the generality of the approach, application of light-inducible dimers is not always straightforward, as it is frequently necessary to test alternative dimer systems and fusion strategies before the desired biological activity is achieved. This process is further hindered by an incomplete understanding of the biophysical/biochemical mechanisms by which available dimers behave and how this correlates to in vivo function. To better inform the engineering process, we examined the biophysical and biochemical properties of three blue-light-inducible dimer variants (cryptochrome2 (CRY2)/CIB1, iLID/SspB, and LOVpep/ePDZb) and correlated these characteristics to in vivo colocalization and functional assays. We find that the switches vary dramatically in their dark and lit state binding affinities and that these affinities correlate with activity changes in a variety of in vivo assays, including transcription control, intracellular localization studies, and control of GTPase signaling. Additionally, for CRY2, we observe that light-induced changes in homo-oligomerization can have significant effects on activity that are sensitive to alternative fusion strategies.
Iterative experiment design guides the characterization of a light-inducible gene expression circuit.
Systems biology rests on the idea that biological complexity can be better unraveled through the interplay of modeling and experimentation. However, the success of this approach depends critically on the informativeness of the chosen experiments, which is usually unknown a priori. Here, we propose a systematic scheme based on iterations of optimal experiment design, flow cytometry experiments, and Bayesian parameter inference to guide the discovery process in the case of stochastic biochemical reaction networks. To illustrate the benefit of our methodology, we apply it to the characterization of an engineered light-inducible gene expression circuit in yeast and compare the performance of the resulting model with models identified from nonoptimal experiments. In particular, we compare the parameter posterior distributions and the precision to which the outcome of future experiments can be predicted. Moreover, we illustrate how the identified stochastic model can be used to determine light induction patterns that make either the average amount of protein or the variability in a population of cells follow a desired profile. Our results show that optimal experiment design allows one to derive models that are accurate enough to precisely predict and regulate the protein expression in heterogeneous cell populations over extended periods of time.
Control of Protein Activity and Cell Fate Specification via Light-Mediated Nuclear Translocation.
Light-activatable proteins allow precise spatial and temporal control of biological processes in living cells and animals. Several approaches have been developed for controlling protein localization with light, including the conditional inhibition of a nuclear localization signal (NLS) with the Light Oxygen Voltage (AsLOV2) domain of phototropin 1 from Avena sativa. In the dark, the switch adopts a closed conformation that sterically blocks the NLS motif. Upon activation with blue light the C-terminus of the protein unfolds, freeing the NLS to direct the protein to the nucleus. A previous study showed that this approach can be used to control the localization and activity of proteins in mammalian tissue culture cells. Here, we extend this result by characterizing the binding properties of a LOV/NLS switch and demonstrating that it can be used to control gene transcription in yeast. Additionally, we show that the switch, referred to as LANS (light-activated nuclear shuttle), functions in the C. elegans embryo and allows for control of nuclear localization in individual cells. By inserting LANS into the C. elegans lin-1 locus using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination, we demonstrated control of cell fate via light-dependent manipulation of a native transcription factor. We conclude that LANS can be a valuable experimental method for spatial and temporal control of nuclear localization in vivo.
Probing Yeast Polarity with Acute, Reversible, Optogenetic Inhibition of Protein Function.
We recently developed a technique for rapidly and reversibly inhibiting protein function through light-inducible sequestration of proteins away from their normal sites of action. Here, we adapt this method for inducible inactivation of Bem1, a scaffold protein involved in budding yeast polarity. We find that acute inhibition of Bem1 produces profound defects in cell polarization and cell viability that are not observed in bem1Δ. By disrupting Bem1 activity at specific points in the cell cycle, we demonstrate that Bem1 is essential for the establishment of polarity and bud emergence but is dispensable for the growth of an emerged bud. By taking advantage of the reversibility of Bem1 inactivation, we show that pole size scales with cell size, and that this scaling is dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. Our experiments reveal how rapid reversible inactivation of protein function complements traditional genetic approaches. This strategy should be widely applicable to other biological contexts.