Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals selection of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
blue cyan CRY2/CIB1 Dronpa145K/N pdDronpa1 TULIP HEK293A rat hippocampal neurons U-87 MG Signaling cascade control Endogenous gene expression
Abstract: How protein signaling networks respond to different input strengths is an important but poorly understood problem in cell biology. For example, the small GTPase RhoA regulates both focal adhesion (FA) growth or disassembly, but whether RhoA serves as a switch selecting between cellular outcomes, or if outcomes are simply modulated by additional factors in the cell, is not clear. Here, we develop a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor, psRhoGEF, to precisely control endogenous RhoA activity. We also develop a FRET-based biosensor to allow visualization of RhoA activity together with psRhoGEF control. Using these new optical tools, we discover that low levels of RhoA activation preferentially induce FA disassembly in a Src-dependent manner, while high levels induce both FA growth and disassembly in a ROCK-dependent manner. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation with photoswitchable RhoGEF reveals that cells can use signal amplitude to produce multiple responses to a single biochemical signal.