Showing 1 - 22 of 22 results
Optimizing photoswitchable MEK.
Optogenetic approaches are transforming quantitative studies of cell-signaling systems. A recently developed photoswitchable mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 (MEK1) enzyme (psMEK) short-circuits the highly conserved Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase (ERK)-signaling cascade at the most proximal step of effector kinase activation. However, since this optogenetic tool relies on phosphorylation-mimicking substitutions in the activation loop of MEK, its catalytic activity is predicted to be substantially lower than that of wild-type MEK that has been phosphorylated at these residues. Here, we present evidence that psMEK indeed has suboptimal functionality in vivo and propose a strategy to circumvent this limitation by harnessing gain-of-function, destabilizing mutations in MEK. Specifically, we demonstrate that combining phosphomimetic mutations with additional mutations in MEK, chosen for their activating potential, restores maximal kinase activity in vitro. We establish that this modification can be tuned by the choice of the destabilizing mutation and does not interfere with reversible activation of psMEK in vivo in both Drosophila and zebrafish. To illustrate the types of perturbations enabled by optimized psMEK, we use it to deliver pulses of ERK activation during zebrafish embryogenesis, revealing rheostat-like responses of an ERK-dependent morphogenetic event.
CreLite: An Optogenetically Controlled Cre/loxP System Using Red Light.
Precise manipulation of gene expression with temporal and spatial control is essential for functional studies and the determination of cell lineage relationships in complex biological systems.The Cre-loxP system is commonly used for gene manipulation at desired times and places. However, specificity is dependent on the availability of tissue- or cell-specific regulatory elements used in combination with Cre or CreER (tamoxifen-inducible). Here we present CreLite, an optogenetically-controlled Cre system using red light in developing zebrafish embryos. Cre activity is disabled by splitting Cre and fusing the inactive halves with the Arabidopsis thaliana red light-inducible binding partners, PhyB and PIF6. In addition, PhyB-PIF6 binding requires phycocyanobilin (PCB), providing an additional layer of control. Upon exposure to red light (660 nm) illumination, the PhyB-CreC and PIF6-CreN fusion proteins come together in the presence of PCB to restore Cre activity. Red-light exposure of transgenic zebrafish embryos harboring a Cre-dependent multi-color fluorescent protein reporter (ubi:zebrabow) injected with CreLite mRNAs and PCB, resulted in Cre activity as measured by the generation of multi-spectral cell labeling in various tissues, including heart, skeletal muscle and epithelium. We show that CreLite can be used for gene manipulations in whole embryos or small groups of cells at different stages of development. CreLite provides a novel optogenetic tool for precise temporal and spatial control of gene expression in zebrafish embryos that may also be useful in cell culture, ex vivo organ culture, and other animal models for developmental biology studies.
Optogenetic modulation of TDP-43 oligomerization fast-forwards ALS-related pathologies in the spinal motor neurons.
Cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 characterizes degenerating neurons in most cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), yet the mechanisms and cellular outcomes of TDP-43 pathology remain largely elusive. Here, we develop an optogenetic TDP-43 variant (opTDP-43), whose multimerization status can be modulated in vivo through external light illumination. Using the translucent zebrafish neuromuscular system, we demonstrate that short-term light stimulation reversibly induces cytoplasmic opTDP-43 mislocalization, but not aggregation, in the spinal motor neuron, leading to an axon outgrowth defect associated with myofiber denervation. In contrast, opTDP-43 forms pathological aggregates in the cytoplasm after longer-term illumination and seeds non-optogenetic TDP-43 aggregation. Furthermore, we find that an ALS-linked mutation in the intrinsically disordered region (IDR) exacerbates the light-dependent opTDP-43 toxicity on locomotor behavior. Together, our results propose that IDR-mediated TDP-43 oligomerization triggers both acute and long-term pathologies of motor neurons, which may be relevant to the pathogenesis and progression of ALS.
Targeted cell ablation in zebrafish using optogenetic transcriptional control.
Cell ablation is a powerful method forelucidatingthe contributions of individual cell populations toembryonicdevelopment and tissue regeneration. Targeted cell lossin whole organisms has been typically achieved through expression of a cytotoxic or prodrug-activating gene productin the cell type of interest. This approach depends on the availability of tissue-specific promoters, and it does not allow further spatial selectivity within the promoter-defined region(s). To address this limitation, we have developedablative methodsthat combine genetically encoded toxins, thetissue specificity afforded by cis-regulatory elements,and the conditionalityof optogenetics.Using this integrative approach, we have ablated cellsin zebrafish embryoswith spatial and temporal precision.
Reversible induction of mitophagy by an optogenetic bimodular system.
Autophagy-mediated degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy) is a key process in cellular quality control. Although mitophagy impairment is involved in several patho-physiological conditions, valuable methods to induce mitophagy with low toxicity in vivo are still lacking. Herein, we describe a new optogenetic tool to stimulate mitophagy, based on light-dependent recruitment of pro-autophagy protein AMBRA1 to mitochondrial surface. Upon illumination, AMBRA1-RFP-sspB is efficiently relocated from the cytosol to mitochondria, where it reversibly mediates mito-aggresome formation and reduction of mitochondrial mass. Finally, as a proof of concept of the biomedical relevance of this method, we induced mitophagy in an in vitro model of neurotoxicity, fully preventing cell death, as well as in human T lymphocytes and in zebrafish in vivo. Given the unique features of this tool, we think it may turn out to be very useful for a wide range of both therapeutic and research applications.
Optogenetic Control of Subcellular Protein Location and Signaling in Vertebrate Embryos.
This chapter describes the use of optogenetic heterodimerization in single cells within whole-vertebrate embryos. This method allows the use of light to reversibly bind together an "anchor" protein and a "bait" protein. Proteins can therefore be directed to specific subcellular compartments, altering biological processes such as cell polarity and signaling. I detail methods for achieving transient expression of fusion proteins encoding the phytochrome heterodimerization system in early zebrafish embryos (Buckley et al., Dev Cell 36(1):117-126, 2016) and describe the imaging parameters used to achieve subcellular light patterning.
Potassium channel-based optogenetic silencing.
Optogenetics enables manipulation of biological processes with light at high spatio-temporal resolution to control the behavior of cells, networks, or even whole animals. In contrast to the performance of excitatory rhodopsins, the effectiveness of inhibitory optogenetic tools is still insufficient. Here we report a two-component optical silencer system comprising photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and the small cyclic nucleotide-gated potassium channel SthK. Activation of this 'PAC-K' silencer by brief pulses of low-intensity blue light causes robust and reversible silencing of cardiomyocyte excitation and neuronal firing. In vivo expression of PAC-K in mouse and zebrafish neurons is well tolerated, where blue light inhibits neuronal activity and blocks motor responses. In combination with red-light absorbing channelrhodopsins, the distinct action spectra of PACs allow independent bimodal control of neuronal activity. PAC-K represents a reliable optogenetic silencer with intrinsic amplification for sustained potassium-mediated hyperpolarization, conferring high operational light sensitivity to the cells of interest.
A light-gated potassium channel for sustained neuronal inhibition.
Currently available inhibitory optogenetic tools provide short and transient silencing of neurons, but they cannot provide long-lasting inhibition because of the requirement for high light intensities. Here we present an optimized blue-light-sensitive synthetic potassium channel, BLINK2, which showed good expression in neurons in three species. The channel is activated by illumination with low doses of blue light, and in our experiments it remained active over (tens of) minutes in the dark after the illumination was stopped. This activation caused long periods of inhibition of neuronal firing in ex vivo recordings of mouse neurons and impaired motor neuron response in zebrafish in vivo. As a proof-of-concept application, we demonstrated that in a freely moving rat model of neuropathic pain, the activation of a small number of BLINK2 channels caused a long-lasting (>30 min) reduction in pain sensation.
Bidirectional approaches for optogenetic regulation of gene expression in mammalian cells using Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2.
Optogenetic tools allow regulation of cellular processes with light, which can be delivered with spatiotemporal resolution. In previous work, we used cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and CIB1, Arabidopsis proteins that interact upon light illumination, to regulate transcription with light in yeast. While adopting this approach to regulate transcription in mammalian cells, we observed light-dependent redistribution and clearing of CRY2-tethered proteins within the nucleus. The nuclear clearing phenotype was dependent on the presence of a dimerization domain contained within the CRY2-fused transcriptional activators. We used this knowledge to develop two different approaches to regulate cellular protein levels with light: a system using CRY2 and CIB1 to induce protein expression with light through stimulation of transcription, and a system using CRY2 and a LOV-fused degron to simultaneously block transcription and deplete protein levels with light. These tools will allow precise, bi-directional control of gene expression in a variety of cells and model systems.
Green-Light-Induced Inactivation of Receptor Signaling Using Cobalamin-Binding Domains.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology provide spatiotemporally precise control over protein interactions and protein function in cells and animals. Optogenetic methods that are sensitive to green light and can be used to break protein complexes are not broadly available but would enable multichromatic experiments with previously inaccessible biological targets. Herein, we repurposed cobalamin (vitamin B12) binding domains of bacterial CarH transcription factors for green-light-induced receptor dissociation. In cultured cells, we observed oligomerization-induced cell signaling for the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 fused to cobalamin-binding domains in the dark that was rapidly eliminated upon illumination. In zebrafish embryos expressing fusion receptors, green light endowed control over aberrant fibroblast growth factor signaling during development. Green-light-induced domain dissociation and light-inactivated receptors will critically expand the optogenetic toolbox for control of biological processes.
TAEL: a zebrafish-optimized optogenetic gene expression system with fine spatial and temporal control.
Here, we describe an optogenetic gene expression system optimized for use in zebrafish. This system overcomes the limitations of current inducible expression systems by enabling robust spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression in living organisms. Because existing optogenetic systems show toxicity in zebrafish, we re-engineered the blue-light-activated EL222 system for minimal toxicity while exhibiting a large range of induction, fine spatial precision and rapid kinetics. We validate several strategies to spatially restrict illumination and thus gene induction with our new TAEL (TA4-EL222) system. As a functional example, we show that TAEL is able to induce ectopic endodermal cells in the presumptive ectoderm via targeted sox32 induction. We also demonstrate that TAEL can be used to resolve multiple roles of Nodal signaling at different stages of embryonic development. Finally, we show how inducible gene editing can be achieved by combining the TAEL and CRISPR/Cas9 systems. This toolkit should be a broadly useful resource for the fish community.
Optogenetic Control of Nodal Signaling Reveals a Temporal Pattern of Nodal Signaling Regulating Cell Fate Specification during Gastrulation.
During metazoan development, the temporal pattern of morphogen signaling is critical for organizing cell fates in space and time. Yet, tools for temporally controlling morphogen signaling within the embryo are still scarce. Here, we developed a photoactivatable Nodal receptor to determine how the temporal pattern of Nodal signaling affects cell fate specification during zebrafish gastrulation. By using this receptor to manipulate the duration of Nodal signaling in vivo by light, we show that extended Nodal signaling within the organizer promotes prechordal plate specification and suppresses endoderm differentiation. Endoderm differentiation is suppressed by extended Nodal signaling inducing expression of the transcriptional repressor goosecoid (gsc) in prechordal plate progenitors, which in turn restrains Nodal signaling from upregulating the endoderm differentiation gene sox17 within these cells. Thus, optogenetic manipulation of Nodal signaling identifies a critical role of Nodal signaling duration for organizer cell fate specification during gastrulation.
Reversible Optogenetic Control of Subcellular Protein Localization in a Live Vertebrate Embryo.
We demonstrate the utility of the phytochrome system to rapidly and reversibly recruit proteins to specific subcellular regions within specific cells in a living vertebrate embryo. Light-induced heterodimerization using the phytochrome system has previously been used as a powerful tool to dissect signaling pathways for single cells in culture but has not previously been used to reversibly manipulate the precise subcellular location of proteins in multicellular organisms. Here we report the experimental conditions necessary to use this system to manipulate proteins in vivo. As proof of principle, we demonstrate that we can manipulate the localization of the apical polarity protein Pard3 with high temporal and spatial precision in both the neural tube and the embryo's enveloping layer epithelium. Our optimizations of optogenetic component expression and chromophore purification and delivery should significantly lower the barrier for establishing this powerful optogenetic system in other multicellular organisms.
Optogenetic control of endogenous Ca(2+) channels in vivo.
Calcium (Ca(2+)) signals that are precisely modulated in space and time mediate a myriad of cellular processes, including contraction, excitation, growth, differentiation and apoptosis. However, study of Ca(2+) responses has been hampered by technological limitations of existing Ca(2+)-modulating tools. Here we present OptoSTIM1, an optogenetic tool for manipulating intracellular Ca(2+) levels through activation of Ca(2+)-selective endogenous Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channels. Using OptoSTIM1, which combines a plant photoreceptor and the CRAC channel regulator STIM1 (ref. 4), we quantitatively and qualitatively controlled intracellular Ca(2+) levels in various biological systems, including zebrafish embryos and human embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate that activating OptoSTIM1 in the CA1 hippocampal region of mice selectively reinforced contextual memory formation. The broad utility of OptoSTIM1 will expand our mechanistic understanding of numerous Ca(2+)-associated processes and facilitate screening for drug candidates that antagonize Ca(2+) signals.
Optogenetics. Engineering of a light-gated potassium channel.
The present palette of opsin-based optogenetic tools lacks a light-gated potassium (K(+)) channel desirable for silencing of excitable cells. Here, we describe the construction of a blue-light-induced K(+) channel 1 (BLINK1) engineered by fusing the plant LOV2-Jα photosensory module to the small viral K(+) channel Kcv. BLINK1 exhibits biophysical features of Kcv, including K(+) selectivity and high single-channel conductance but reversibly photoactivates in blue light. Opening of BLINK1 channels hyperpolarizes the cell to the K(+) equilibrium potential. Ectopic expression of BLINK1 reversibly inhibits the escape response in light-exposed zebrafish larvae. BLINK1 therefore provides a single-component optogenetic tool that can establish prolonged, physiological hyperpolarization of cells at low light intensities.
Red Light-Regulated Reversible Nuclear Localization of Proteins in Mammalian Cells and Zebrafish.
Protein trafficking in and out of the nucleus represents a key step in controlling cell fate and function. Here we report the development of a red light-inducible and far-red light-reversible synthetic system for controlling nuclear localization of proteins in mammalian cells and zebrafish. First, we synthetically reconstructed and validated the red light-dependent Arabidopsis phytochrome B nuclear import mediated by phytochrome-interacting factor 3 in a nonplant environment and support current hypotheses on the import mechanism in planta. On the basis of this principle we next regulated nuclear import and activity of target proteins by the spatiotemporal projection of light patterns. A synthetic transcription factor was translocated into the nucleus of mammalian cells and zebrafish to drive transgene expression. These data demonstrate the first in vivo application of a plant phytochrome-based optogenetic tool in vertebrates and expand the repertoire of available light-regulated molecular devices.
Engineering of a red-light-activated human cAMP/cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase.
Sensory photoreceptors elicit vital physiological adaptations in response to incident light. As light-regulated actuators, photoreceptors underpin optogenetics, which denotes the noninvasive, reversible, and spatiotemporally precise perturbation by light of living cells and organisms. Of particular versatility, naturally occurring photoactivated adenylate cyclases promote the synthesis of the second messenger cAMP under blue light. Here, we have engineered a light-activated phosphodiesterase (LAPD) with complementary light sensitivity and catalytic activity by recombining the photosensor module of Deinococcus radiodurans bacterial phytochrome with the effector module of Homo sapiens phosphodiesterase 2A. Upon red-light absorption, LAPD up-regulates hydrolysis of cAMP and cGMP by up to sixfold, whereas far-red light can be used to down-regulate activity. LAPD also mediates light-activated cAMP and cGMP hydrolysis in eukaryotic cell cultures and in zebrafish embryos; crucially, the biliverdin chromophore of LAPD is available endogenously and does not need to be provided exogenously. LAPD thus establishes a new optogenetic modality that permits light control over diverse cAMP/cGMP-mediated physiological processes. Because red light penetrates tissue more deeply than light of shorter wavelengths, LAPD appears particularly attractive for studies in living organisms.
An optogenetic gene expression system with rapid activation and deactivation kinetics.
Optogenetic gene expression systems can control transcription with spatial and temporal detail unequaled with traditional inducible promoter systems. However, current eukaryotic light-gated transcription systems are limited by toxicity, dynamic range or slow activation and deactivation. Here we present an optogenetic gene expression system that addresses these shortcomings and demonstrate its broad utility. Our approach uses an engineered version of EL222, a bacterial light-oxygen-voltage protein that binds DNA when illuminated with blue light. The system has a large (>100-fold) dynamic range of protein expression, rapid activation (<10 s) and deactivation kinetics (<50 s) and a highly linear response to light. With this system, we achieve light-gated transcription in several mammalian cell lines and intact zebrafish embryos with minimal basal gene activation and toxicity. Our approach provides a powerful new tool for optogenetic control of gene expression in space and time.
General method for regulating protein stability with light.
Post-translational regulation of protein abundance in cells is a powerful tool for studying protein function. Here, we describe a novel genetically encoded protein domain that is degraded upon exposure to nontoxic blue light. We demonstrate that fusion proteins containing this domain are rapidly degraded in cultured cells and in zebrafish upon illumination.
Blue light-mediated manipulation of transcription factor activity in vivo.
We developed a novel technique for manipulating the activity of transcription factors with blue light (termed "PICCORO") using the bacterial BLUF-type photoreceptor protein PixD. The chimeric dominant-negative T-box transcription factor No Tail formed heterologous complexes with a PixD decamer in a light-dependent manner, and these complexes affected transcription repressor activity. When applied to zebrafish embryos, PICCORO permitted regulation of the activity of the mutant No Tail in response to 472-nm light provided by a light-emitting diode.
Optogenetic elevation of endogenous glucocorticoid level in larval zebrafish.
The stress response is a suite of physiological and behavioral processes that help to maintain or reestablish homeostasis. Central to the stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as it releases crucial hormones in response to stress. Glucocorticoids (GCs) are the final effector hormones of the HPA axis, and exert a variety of actions under both basal and stress conditions. Despite their far-reaching importance for health, specific GC effects have been difficult to pin-down due to a lack of methods for selectively manipulating endogenous GC levels. Hence, in order to study stress-induced GC effects, we developed a novel optogenetic approach to selectively manipulate the rise of GCs triggered by stress. Using this approach, we could induce both transient hypercortisolic states and persistent forms of hypercortisolaemia in freely behaving larval zebrafish. Our results also established that transient hypercortisolism leads to enhanced locomotion shortly after stressor exposure. Altogether, we present a highly specific method for manipulating the gain of the stress axis with high temporal accuracy, altering endocrine and behavioral responses to stress as well as basal GC levels. Our study offers a powerful tool for the analysis of rapid (non-genomic) and delayed (genomic) GC effects on brain function and behavior, feedbacks within the stress axis and developmental programming by GCs.
Optogenetic control of transcription in zebrafish.
Light inducible protein-protein interactions are powerful tools to manipulate biological processes. Genetically encoded light-gated proteins for controlling precise cellular behavior are a new and promising technology, called optogenetics. Here we exploited the blue light-induced transcription system in yeast and zebrafish, based on the blue light dependent interaction between two plant proteins, blue light photoreceptor Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and the bHLH transcription factor CIB1 (CRY-interacting bHLH 1). We demonstrate the utility of this system by inducing rapid transcription suppression and activation in zebrafish.