Showing 1 - 6 of 6 results
Directed evolution improves the catalytic efficiency of TEV protease.
Tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) is one of the most widely used proteases in biotechnology because of its exquisite sequence specificity. A limitation, however, is its slow catalytic rate. We developed a generalizable yeast-based platform for directed evolution of protease catalytic properties. Protease activity is read out via proteolytic release of a membrane-anchored transcription factor, and we temporally regulate access to TEV's cleavage substrate using a photosensory LOV domain. By gradually decreasing light exposure time, we enriched faster variants of TEV over multiple rounds of selection. Our TEV-S153N mutant (uTEV1Δ), when incorporated into the calcium integrator FLARE, improved the signal/background ratio by 27-fold, and enabled recording of neuronal activity in culture with 60-s temporal resolution. Given the widespread use of TEV in biotechnology, both our evolved TEV mutants and the directed-evolution platform used to generate them could be beneficial across a wide range of applications.
Filopodia Conduct Target Selection in Cortical Neurons Using Differences in Signal Kinetics of a Single Kinase.
Dendritic filopodia select synaptic partner axons by interviewing the cell surface of potential targets, but how filopodia decipher the complex pattern of adhesive and repulsive molecular cues to find appropriate contacts is unknown. Here, we demonstrate in cortical neurons that a single cue is sufficient for dendritic filopodia to reject or select specific axonal contacts for elaboration as synaptic sites. Super-resolution and live-cell imaging reveals that EphB2 is located in the tips of filopodia and at nascent synaptic sites. Surprisingly, a genetically encoded indicator of EphB kinase activity, unbiased classification, and a photoactivatable EphB2 reveal that simple differences in the kinetics of EphB kinase signaling at the tips of filopodia mediate the choice between retraction and synaptogenesis. This may enable individual filopodia to choose targets based on differences in the activation rate of a single tyrosine kinase, greatly simplifying the process of partner selection and suggesting a general principle.
Near-infrared light-controlled gene expression and protein targeting in neurons and non-neuronal cells.
Near-infrared (NIR) light-inducible binding of bacterial phytochrome BphP1 to its engineered partner QPAS1 is used for optical protein regulation in mammalian cells. However, there are no data on the application of the BphP1-QPAS1 pair in cells derived from various mammalian tissues. Here, we tested functionality of two BphP1-QPAS1-based optogenetic tools, such as an NIR and blue light-sensing system for control of protein localization (iRIS) and an NIR light-sensing system for transcription activation (TA), in several cell types including cortical neurons. We found that the performance of these optogenetic tools often rely on physiological properties of a specific cell type, such as nuclear transport, which may limit applicability of blue light-sensitive component of iRIS. In contrast, the NIR-light-sensing part of iRIS performed well in all tested cell types. The TA system showed the best performance in HeLa, U-2 OS and HEK-293 cells. Small size of the QPAS1 component allows designing AAV viral particles, which were applied to deliver the TA system to neurons.
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.
Labelling and optical erasure of synaptic memory traces in the motor cortex.
Dendritic spines are the major loci of synaptic plasticity and are considered as possible structural correlates of memory. Nonetheless, systematic manipulation of specific subsets of spines in the cortex has been unattainable, and thus, the link between spines and memory has been correlational. We developed a novel synaptic optoprobe, AS-PaRac1 (activated synapse targeting photoactivatable Rac1), that can label recently potentiated spines specifically, and induce the selective shrinkage of AS-PaRac1-containing spines. In vivo imaging of AS-PaRac1 revealed that a motor learning task induced substantial synaptic remodelling in a small subset of neurons. The acquired motor learning was disrupted by the optical shrinkage of the potentiated spines, whereas it was not affected by the identical manipulation of spines evoked by a distinct motor task in the same cortical region. Taken together, our results demonstrate that a newly acquired motor skill depends on the formation of a task-specific dense synaptic ensemble.
Optogenetic inhibition of synaptic release with chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI).
Optogenetic techniques provide effective ways of manipulating the functions of selected neurons with light. In the current study, we engineered an optogenetic technique that directly inhibits neurotransmitter release. We used a genetically encoded singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, to conduct chromophore assisted light inactivation (CALI) of synaptic proteins. Fusions of miniSOG to VAMP2 and synaptophysin enabled disruption of presynaptic vesicular release upon illumination with blue light. In cultured neurons and hippocampal organotypic slices, synaptic release was reduced up to 100%. Such inhibition lasted >1 hr and had minimal effects on membrane electrical properties. When miniSOG-VAMP2 was expressed panneuronally in Caenorhabditis elegans, movement of the worms was reduced after illumination, and paralysis was often observed. The movement of the worms recovered overnight. We name this technique Inhibition of Synapses with CALI (InSynC). InSynC is a powerful way to silence genetically specified synapses with light in a spatially and temporally precise manner.