Showing 1 - 16 of 16 results
Plant phytochrome B is an asymmetric dimer with unique signalling potential.
Many aspects of plant photoperception are mediated by the phytochrome (Phy) family of bilin-containing photoreceptors that reversibly interconvert between inactive Pr and active Pfr conformers1,2. Despite extensive biochemical studies, full understanding of plant Phy signalling has remained unclear due to the absence of relevant 3D models. Here we report a cryo-electron microscopy structure of Arabidopsis PhyB in the Pr state that reveals a topologically complex dimeric organization that is substantially distinct from its prokaryotic relatives. Instead of an anticipated parallel architecture, the C-terminal histidine-kinase-related domains (HKRDs) associate head-to-head, whereas the N-terminal photosensory regions associate head-to-tail to form a parallelogram-shaped platform with near two-fold symmetry. The platform is internally linked by the second of two internal Per/Arnt/Sim domains that binds to the photosensory module of the opposing protomer and a preceding 'modulator' loop that assembles tightly with the photosensory module of its own protomer. Both connections accelerate the thermal reversion of Pfr back to Pr, consistent with an inverse relationship between dimer assembly and Pfr stability. Lopsided contacts between the HKRDs and the platform create profound asymmetry to PhyB that might imbue distinct signalling potentials to the protomers. We propose that this unique structural dynamism creates an extensive photostate-sensitive surface for conformation-dependent interactions between plant Phy photoreceptors and their signalling partners.
Hypothalamic dopamine neurons motivate mating through persistent cAMP signalling.
Transient neuromodulation can have long-lasting effects on neural circuits and motivational states1-4. Here we examine the dopaminergic mechanisms that underlie mating drive and its persistence in male mice. Brief investigation of females primes a male's interest to mate for tens of minutes, whereas a single successful mating triggers satiety that gradually recovers over days5. We found that both processes are controlled by specialized anteroventral and preoptic periventricular (AVPV/PVpo) dopamine neurons in the hypothalamus. During the investigation of females, dopamine is transiently released in the medial preoptic area (MPOA)-an area that is critical for mating behaviours. Optogenetic stimulation of AVPV/PVpo dopamine axons in the MPOA recapitulates the priming effect of exposure to a female. Using optical and molecular methods for tracking and manipulating intracellular signalling, we show that this priming effect emerges from the accumulation of mating-related dopamine signals in the MPOA through the accrual of cyclic adenosine monophosphate levels and protein kinase A activity. Dopamine transients in the MPOA are abolished after a successful mating, which is likely to ensure abstinence. Consistent with this idea, the inhibition of AVPV/PVpo dopamine neurons selectively demotivates mating, whereas stimulating these neurons restores the motivation to mate after sexual satiety. We therefore conclude that the accumulation or suppression of signals from specialized dopamine neurons regulates mating behaviours across minutes and days.
Composition-dependent thermodynamics of intracellular phase separation.
Intracellular bodies such as nucleoli, Cajal bodies and various signalling assemblies represent membraneless organelles, or condensates, that form via liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS)1,2. Biomolecular interactions-particularly homotypic interactions mediated by self-associating intrinsically disordered protein regions-are thought to underlie the thermodynamic driving forces for LLPS, forming condensates that can facilitate the assembly and processing of biochemically active complexes, such as ribosomal subunits within the nucleolus. Simplified model systems3-6 have led to the concept that a single fixed saturation concentration is a defining feature of endogenous LLPS7-9, and has been suggested as a mechanism for intracellular concentration buffering2,7,8,10. However, the assumption of a fixed saturation concentration remains largely untested within living cells, in which the richly multicomponent nature of condensates could complicate this simple picture. Here we show that heterotypic multicomponent interactions dominate endogenous LLPS, and give rise to nucleoli and other condensates that do not exhibit a fixed saturation concentration. As the concentration of individual components is varied, their partition coefficients change in a manner that can be used to determine the thermodynamic free energies that underlie LLPS. We find that heterotypic interactions among protein and RNA components stabilize various archetypal intracellular condensates-including the nucleolus, Cajal bodies, stress granules and P-bodies-implying that the composition of condensates is finely tuned by the thermodynamics of the underlying biomolecular interaction network. In the context of RNA-processing condensates such as the nucleolus, this manifests in the selective exclusion of fully assembled ribonucleoprotein complexes, providing a thermodynamic basis for vectorial ribosomal RNA flux out of the nucleolus. This methodology is conceptually straightforward and readily implemented, and can be broadly used to extract thermodynamic parameters from microscopy images. These approaches pave the way for a deeper understanding of the thermodynamics of multicomponent intracellular phase behaviour and its interplay with the nonequilibrium activity that is characteristic of endogenous condensates.
Coupling delay controls synchronized oscillation in the segmentation clock.
Individual cellular activities fluctuate but are constantly coordinated at the population level via cell-cell coupling. A notable example is the somite segmentation clock, in which the expression of clock genes (such as Hes7) oscillates in synchrony between the cells that comprise the presomitic mesoderm (PSM)1,2. This synchronization depends on the Notch signalling pathway; inhibiting this pathway desynchronizes oscillations, leading to somite fusion3-7. However, how Notch signalling regulates the synchronicity of HES7 oscillations is unknown. Here we establish a live-imaging system using a new fluorescent reporter (Achilles), which we fuse with HES7 to monitor synchronous oscillations in HES7 expression in the mouse PSM at a single-cell resolution. Wild-type cells can rapidly correct for phase fluctuations in HES7 oscillations, whereas the absence of the Notch modulator gene lunatic fringe (Lfng) leads to a loss of synchrony between PSM cells. Furthermore, HES7 oscillations are severely dampened in individual cells of Lfng-null PSM. However, when Lfng-null PSM cells were completely dissociated, the amplitude and periodicity of HES7 oscillations were almost normal, which suggests that LFNG is involved mostly in cell-cell coupling. Mixed cultures of control and Lfng-null PSM cells, and an optogenetic Notch signalling reporter assay, revealed that LFNG delays the signal-sending process of intercellular Notch signalling transmission. These results-together with mathematical modelling-raised the possibility that Lfng-null PSM cells shorten the coupling delay, thereby approaching a condition known as the oscillation or amplitude death of coupled oscillators8. Indeed, a small compound that lengthens the coupling delay partially rescues the amplitude and synchrony of HES7 oscillations in Lfng-null PSM cells. Our study reveals a delay control mechanism of the oscillatory networks involved in somite segmentation, and indicates that intercellular coupling with the correct delay is essential for synchronized oscillation.
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.
Micromanagement with light.
The optogenetics techniques that have long been used in neuroscience are now giving biologists the power to probe cellular structures with unprecedented precision.
Structural basis for gene regulation by a B12-dependent photoreceptor.
Photoreceptor proteins enable organisms to sense and respond to light. The newly discovered CarH-type photoreceptors use a vitamin B12 derivative, adenosylcobalamin, as the light-sensing chromophore to mediate light-dependent gene regulation. Here we present crystal structures of Thermus thermophilus CarH in all three relevant states: in the dark, both free and bound to operator DNA, and after light exposure. These structures provide visualizations of how adenosylcobalamin mediates CarH tetramer formation in the dark, how this tetramer binds to the promoter -35 element to repress transcription, and how light exposure leads to a large-scale conformational change that activates transcription. In addition to the remarkable functional repurposing of adenosylcobalamin from an enzyme cofactor to a light sensor, we find that nature also repurposed two independent protein modules in assembling CarH. These results expand the biological role of vitamin B12 and provide fundamental insight into a new mode of light-dependent gene regulation.
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 control of organelle transport and positioning.
Proper positioning of organelles by cytoskeleton-based motor proteins underlies cellular events such as signalling, polarization and growth. For many organelles, however, the precise connection between position and function has remained unclear, because strategies to control intracellular organelle positioning with spatiotemporal precision are lacking. Here we establish optical control of intracellular transport by using light-sensitive heterodimerization to recruit specific cytoskeletal motor proteins (kinesin, dynein or myosin) to selected cargoes. We demonstrate that the motility of peroxisomes, recycling endosomes and mitochondria can be locally and repeatedly induced or stopped, allowing rapid organelle repositioning. We applied this approach in primary rat hippocampal neurons to test how local positioning of recycling endosomes contributes to axon outgrowth and found that dynein-driven removal of endosomes from axonal growth cones reversibly suppressed axon growth, whereas kinesin-driven endosome enrichment enhanced growth. Our strategy for optogenetic control of organelle positioning will be widely applicable to explore site-specific organelle functions in different model systems.
Optical control of mammalian endogenous transcription and epigenetic states.
The dynamic nature of gene expression enables cellular programming, homeostasis and environmental adaptation in living systems. Dissection of causal gene functions in cellular and organismal processes therefore necessitates approaches that enable spatially and temporally precise modulation of gene expression. Recently, a variety of microbial and plant-derived light-sensitive proteins have been engineered as optogenetic actuators, enabling high-precision spatiotemporal control of many cellular functions. However, versatile and robust technologies that enable optical modulation of transcription in the mammalian endogenous genome remain elusive. Here we describe the development of light-inducible transcriptional effectors (LITEs), an optogenetic two-hybrid system integrating the customizable TALE DNA-binding domain with the light-sensitive cryptochrome 2 protein and its interacting partner CIB1 from Arabidopsis thaliana. LITEs do not require additional exogenous chemical cofactors, are easily customized to target many endogenous genomic loci, and can be activated within minutes with reversibility. LITEs can be packaged into viral vectors and genetically targeted to probe specific cell populations. We have applied this system in primary mouse neurons, as well as in the brain of freely behaving mice in vivo to mediate reversible modulation of mammalian endogenous gene expression as well as targeted epigenetic chromatin modifications. The LITE system establishes a novel mode of optogenetic control of endogenous cellular processes and enables direct testing of the causal roles of genetic and epigenetic regulation in normal biological processes and disease states.
Structural basis of ultraviolet-B perception by UVR8.
The Arabidopsis thaliana protein UVR8 is a photoreceptor for ultraviolet-B. Upon ultraviolet-B irradiation, UVR8 undergoes an immediate switch from homodimer to monomer, which triggers a signalling pathway for ultraviolet protection. The mechanism by which UVR8 senses ultraviolet-B remains largely unknown. Here we report the crystal structure of UVR8 at 1.8 Å resolution, revealing a symmetric homodimer of seven-bladed β-propeller that is devoid of any external cofactor as the chromophore. Arginine residues that stabilize the homodimeric interface, principally Arg 286 and Arg 338, make elaborate intramolecular cation-π interactions with surrounding tryptophan amino acids. Two of these tryptophans, Trp 285 and Trp 233, collectively serve as the ultraviolet-B chromophore. Our structural and biochemical analyses identify the molecular mechanism for UVR8-mediated ultraviolet-B perception, in which ultraviolet-B radiation results in destabilization of the intramolecular cation-π interactions, causing disruption of the critical intermolecular hydrogen bonds mediated by Arg 286 and Arg 338 and subsequent dissociation of the UVR8 homodimer.
Spatiotemporal control of cell signalling using a light-switchable protein interaction.
Genetically encodable optical reporters, such as green fluorescent protein, have revolutionized the observation and measurement of cellular states. However, the inverse challenge of using light to control precisely cellular behaviour has only recently begun to be addressed; semi-synthetic chromophore-tethered receptors and naturally occurring channel rhodopsins have been used to perturb directly neuronal networks. The difficulty of engineering light-sensitive proteins remains a significant impediment to the optical control of most cell-biological processes. Here we demonstrate the use of a new genetically encoded light-control system based on an optimized, reversible protein-protein interaction from the phytochrome signalling network of Arabidopsis thaliana. Because protein-protein interactions are one of the most general currencies of cellular information, this system can, in principle, be generically used to control diverse functions. Here we show that this system can be used to translocate target proteins precisely and reversibly to the membrane with micrometre spatial resolution and at the second timescale. We show that light-gated translocation of the upstream activators of Rho-family GTPases, which control the actin cytoskeleton, can be used to precisely reshape and direct the cell morphology of mammalian cells. The light-gated protein-protein interaction that has been optimized here should be useful for the design of diverse light-programmable reagents, potentially enabling a new generation of perturbative, quantitative experiments in cell biology.
A genetically encoded photoactivatable Rac controls the motility of living cells.
The precise spatio-temporal dynamics of protein activity are often critical in determining cell behaviour, yet for most proteins they remain poorly understood; it remains difficult to manipulate protein activity at precise times and places within living cells. Protein activity has been controlled by light, through protein derivatization with photocleavable moieties or using photoreactive small-molecule ligands. However, this requires use of toxic ultraviolet wavelengths, activation is irreversible, and/or cell loading is accomplished via disruption of the cell membrane (for example, through microinjection). Here we have developed a new approach to produce genetically encoded photoactivatable derivatives of Rac1, a key GTPase regulating actin cytoskeletal dynamics in metazoan cells. Rac1 mutants were fused to the photoreactive LOV (light oxygen voltage) domain from phototropin, sterically blocking Rac1 interactions until irradiation unwound a helix linking LOV to Rac1. Photoactivatable Rac1 (PA-Rac1) could be reversibly and repeatedly activated using 458- or 473-nm light to generate precisely localized cell protrusions and ruffling. Localized Rac activation or inactivation was sufficient to produce cell motility and control the direction of cell movement. Myosin was involved in Rac control of directionality but not in Rac-induced protrusion, whereas PAK was required for Rac-induced protrusion. PA-Rac1 was used to elucidate Rac regulation of RhoA in cell motility. Rac and Rho coordinate cytoskeletal behaviours with seconds and submicrometre precision. Their mutual regulation remains controversial, with data indicating that Rac inhibits and/or activates Rho. Rac was shown to inhibit RhoA in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, with inhibition modulated at protrusions and ruffles. A PA-Rac crystal structure and modelling revealed LOV-Rac interactions that will facilitate extension of this photoactivation approach to other proteins.
Structure and mechanism of a bacterial light-regulated cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase.
The ability to respond to light is crucial for most organisms. BLUF is a recently identified photoreceptor protein domain that senses blue light using a FAD chromophore. BLUF domains are present in various proteins from the Bacteria, Euglenozoa and Fungi. Although structures of single-domain BLUF proteins have been determined, none are available for a BLUF protein containing a functional output domain; the mechanism of light activation in this new class of photoreceptors has thus remained poorly understood. Here we report the biochemical, structural and mechanistic characterization of a full-length, active photoreceptor, BlrP1 (also known as KPN_01598), from Klebsiella pneumoniae. BlrP1 consists of a BLUF sensor domain and a phosphodiesterase EAL output domain which hydrolyses cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP). This ubiquitous second messenger controls motility, biofilm formation, virulence and antibiotic resistance in the Bacteria. Crystal structures of BlrP1 complexed with its substrate and metal ions involved in catalysis or in enzyme inhibition provide a detailed understanding of the mechanism of the EAL-domain c-di-GMP phosphodiesterases. These structures also sketch out a path of light activation of the phosphodiesterase output activity. Photon absorption by the BLUF domain of one subunit of the antiparallel BlrP1 homodimer activates the EAL domain of the second subunit through allosteric communication transmitted through conserved domain-domain interfaces.
Synthetic biology: engineering Escherichia coli to see light.
We have designed a bacterial system that is switched between different states by red light. The system consists of a synthetic sensor kinase that allows a lawn of bacteria to function as a biological film, such that the projection of a pattern of light on to the bacteria produces a high-definition (about 100 megapixels per square inch), two-dimensional chemical image. This spatial control of bacterial gene expression could be used to 'print' complex biological materials, for example, and to investigate signalling pathways through precise spatial and temporal control of their phosphorylation steps.
Binding of phytochrome B to its nuclear signalling partner PIF3 is reversibly induced by light.
The phytochrome photoreceptor family directs plant gene expression by switching between biologically inactive and active conformers in response to the sequential absorption of red and farred photons. Several intermediates that act late in the phytochrome signalling pathway have been identified, but fewer have been identified that act early in the pathway. We have cloned a nuclear basic helix-loop-helix protein, PIF3, which can bind to non-photoactive carboxy-terminal fragments of phytochromes A and B and functions in phytochrome signalling in vivo. Here we show that full-length photoactive phytochrome B binds PIF3 in vitro only upon light-induced conversion to its active form, and that photoconversion back to its inactive form causes dissociation from PIF3. We conclude that photosensory signalling by phytochrome B involves light-induced, conformer-specific recognition of the putative transcriptional regulator PIF3, providing a potential mechanism for direct photoregulation of gene expression.