Showing 1 - 25 of 80 results
Systematic In Vivo Characterization of Fluorescent Protein Maturation in Budding Yeast.
Fluorescent protein (FP) maturation can limit the accuracy with which dynamic intracellular processes are captured and reduce the in vivo brightness of a given FP in fast-dividing cells. The knowledge of maturation timescales can therefore help users determine the appropriate FP for each application. However, in vivo maturation rates can greatly deviate from in vitro estimates that are mostly available. In this work, we present the first systematic study of in vivo maturation for 12 FPs in budding yeast. To overcome the technical limitations of translation inhibitors commonly used to study FP maturation, we implemented a new approach based on the optogenetic stimulations of FP expression in cells grown under constant nutrient conditions. Combining the rapid and orthogonal induction of FP transcription with a mathematical model of expression and maturation allowed us to accurately estimate maturation rates from microscopy data in a minimally invasive manner. Besides providing a useful resource for the budding yeast community, we present a new joint experimental and computational approach for characterizing FP maturation, which is applicable to a wide range of organisms.
Far-Red Light Triggered Production of Bispecific T Cell Engagers (BiTEs) from Engineered Cells for Antitumor Application.
Bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs), which have shown potent antitumor activity in humans, are emerging as one of the most promising immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer treatment in recent years. However, the clinical application of BiTEs nowadays has been hampered by their short half-life in the circulatory system due to their low molecular weight and rapid renal clearance. Inevitable continuous infusion of BiTEs has become a routine operation in order to achieve effective treatment, although it is costly, inconvenient, time-consuming, and even painful for patients in some cases. To develop an on-demand, tunable, and reversible approach to overcome these limitations, we assembled a transcription-control device into mammalian cells based on a bacterial far-red light (FRL) responsive signaling pathway to drive the expression of a BiTE against Glypican 3 (GPC3), which is a highly tumor-specific antigen expressed in most hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). As demonstrated in in vitro experiments, we proved that the FRL sensitive device spatiotemporally responded to the control of FRL illumination and produced a therapeutic level of BiTEs that recruited and activated human T cells to eliminate GPC3 positive tumor cells. By functionally harnessing the power of optogenetics to remotely regulate the production of BiTEs from bioengineered cells and demonstrating its effectiveness in treating tumor cells, this study provides a novel approach to achieve an in vivo supply of BiTEs, which could be potentially applied to other formats of bispecific antibodies and facilitate their clinical applications.
Design and Characterization of an Optogenetic System in Pichia pastoris.
Pichia pastoris (P. pastoris) is the workhorse in the commercial production of many valuable proteins. Traditionally, the regulation of gene expression in P. pastoris is achieved through induction by methanol which is toxic and flammable. The emerging optogenetic technology provides an alternative and cleaner gene regulation method. Based on the photosensitive protein EL222, we designed a novel "one-component" optogenetic system. The highest induction ratio was 79.7-fold under blue light compared to the group under darkness. After switching cells from dark to blue illumination, the system induced expression in just 1 h. Only 2 h after the system was switched back to the darkness from blue illumination, the target gene expression was inactivated 5-fold. The induction intensity of the optogenetic system is positively correlated with the dose and periodicity of blue illumination, and it has good spatial control. These results provide the first credible case of optogenetically induced protein expression in P. pastoris.
Designing Single-Component Optogenetic Membrane Recruitment Systems: The Rho-Family GTPase Signaling Toolbox.
We describe the efficient creation of single-component optogenetic tools for membrane recruitment-based signaling perturbation using BcLOV4 technology. The workflow requires two plasmids to create six different domain arrangements of the dynamic membrane binder BcLOV4, a fluorescent reporter, and the fused signaling protein of interest. Screening of this limited set of genetic constructs for expression characteristics and dynamic translocation in response to one pulse of light is sufficient to identify viable signaling control tools. The reliability of this streamlined approach is demonstrated by the creation of an optogenetic Cdc42 GTPase and Rac1-activating Tiam1 GEF protein, which together with our other recently reported technologies, completes a toolbox for spatiotemporally precise induction of Rho-family GTPase signaling at the GEF or GTPase level, for driving filopodial protrusions, lamellipodial protrusions, and cell contractility, respectively mediated by Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoA.
Analysis of Three Architectures for Controlling PTP1B with Light.
Photosensory domains are powerful tools for placing proteins under optical control, but their integration into light-sensitive chimeras is often challenging. Many designs require structural iterations, and direct comparisons of alternative approaches are rare. This study uses protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), an influential regulatory enzyme, to compare three architectures for controlling PTPs with light: a protein fusion, an insertion chimera, and a split construct. All three designs permitted optical control of PTP1B activity in vitro (i.e., kinetic assays of purified enzyme) and in mammalian cells; photoresponses measured under both conditions, while different in magnitude, were linearly correlated. The fusion- and insertion-based architectures exhibited the highest dynamic range and maintained native localization patterns in mammalian cells. A single insertion architecture enabled optical control of both PTP1B and TCPTP, but not SHP2, where the analogous chimera was active but not photoswitchable. Findings suggest that PTPs are highly tolerant of domain insertions and support the use of in vitro screens to evaluate different optogenetic designs.
An Optogenetic Toolbox for Synergistic Regulation of Protein Abundance.
Optogenetic tools have been proven to be useful in regulating cellular processes via an external signal. Light can be applied with high spatial and temporal precision as well as easily modulated in quantity and quality. Natural photoreceptors of the light oxygen voltage (LOV) domain family have been characterized in depth, especially the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa (As) phototropin 1 and its derivatives. Information on the behavior of LOV2 variants with changes in the photocycle or the light response has been recorded. Here, we applied well-described photocycle mutations on the AsLOV2 domain of a photosensitive transcription factor (psTF) as well as its variant that is part of the photosensitive degron (psd) psd3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In vivo and in vitro measurements revealed that each photoreceptor component of the light-sensitive transcription factor and the psd3 module can be modulated in its light sensitivity by mutations that are known to prolong or shorten the dark-reversion time of AsLOV2. Yet, only two of the mutations showed differences in the in vivo behavior in the context of the psd3 module. For the AsLOV2 domain in the context of the psTF, we observed different characteristics for all four variants. Molecular dynamics simulations showed distinct influences of the shortened Jα helix and the V416L mutation in the context of the psd3 photoreceptor. In conclusion, we demonstrated the tunability of two optogenetic tools with a set of mutations that affect the photocycle of the inherent photoreceptors. As these optogenetic tools are concurrent in their action, pleiotropic effects on target protein abundance are achievable with the simultaneous action of the diverse photoreceptor variants.
Optogenetic Control of Microbial Consortia Populations for Chemical Production.
Microbial co-culture fermentations can improve chemical production from complex biosynthetic pathways over monocultures by distributing enzymes across multiple strains, thereby reducing metabolic burden, overcoming endogenous regulatory mechanisms, or exploiting natural traits of different microbial species. However, stabilizing and optimizing microbial subpopulations for maximal chemical production remains a major obstacle in the field. In this study, we demonstrate that optogenetics is an effective strategy to dynamically control populations in microbial co-cultures. Using a new optogenetic circuit we call OptoTA, we regulate an endogenous toxin-antitoxin system, enabling tunability of Escherichia coli growth using only blue light. With this system we can control the population composition of co-cultures of E. coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. When introducing in each strain different metabolic modules of biosynthetic pathways for isobutyl acetate or naringenin, we found that the productivity of co-cultures increases by adjusting the population ratios with specific light duty cycles. This study shows the feasibility of using optogenetics to control microbial consortia populations and the advantages of using light to control their chemical production.
The Neurospora crassa Inducible Q System Enables Simultaneous Optogenetic Amplification and Inversion in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for Bidirectional Control of Gene Expression.
Bidirectional optogenetic control of yeast gene expression has great potential for biotechnological applications. Our group has developed optogenetic inverter circuits that activate transcription using darkness, as well as amplifier circuits that reach high expression levels under limited light. However, because both types of circuits harness Gal4p and Gal80p from the galactose (GAL) regulon they cannot be used simultaneously. Here, we apply the Q System, a transcriptional activator/inhibitor system from Neurospora crassa, to build circuits in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that are inducible using quinic acid, darkness, or blue light. We develop light-repressed OptoQ-INVRT circuits that initiate darkness-triggered transcription within an hour of induction, as well as light-activated OptoQ-AMP circuits that achieve up to 39-fold induction. The Q System does not exhibit crosstalk with the GAL regulon, allowing coutilization of OptoQ-AMP circuits with previously developed OptoINVRT circuits. As a demonstration of practical applications in metabolic engineering, we show how simultaneous use of these circuits can be used to dynamically control both growth and production to improve acetoin production, as well as enable light-tunable co-production of geraniol and linalool, two terpenoids implicated in the hoppy flavor of beer. OptoQ-AMP and OptoQ-INVRT circuits enable simultaneous optogenetic signal amplification and inversion, providing powerful additions to the yeast optogenetic toolkit.
Engineering Gac/Rsm Signaling Cascade for Optogenetic Induction of the Pathogenicity Switch in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Bacterial pathogens operate by tightly controlling the pathogenicity to facilitate invasion and survival in host. While small molecule inducers can be designed to modulate pathogenicity to perform studies of pathogen-host interaction, these approaches, due to the diffusion property of chemicals, may have unintended, or pleiotropic effects that can impose limitations on their use. By contrast, light provides superior spatial and temporal resolution. Here, using optogenetics we reengineered GacS of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, signal transduction protein of the global regulatory Gac/Rsm cascade which is of central importance for the regulation of infection factors. The resultant protein (termed YGS24) displayed significant light-dependent activity of GacS kinases in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. When introduced in the Caenorhabditis elegans host systems, YGS24 stimulated the pathogenicity of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1 in a brain-heart infusion and of another strain, PA14, in slow killing media progressively upon blue-light exposure. This optogenetic system provides an accessible way to spatiotemporally control bacterial pathogenicity in defined hosts, even specific tissues, to develop new pathogenesis systems, which may in turn expedite development of innovative therapeutics.
Optimized iLID Membrane Anchors for Local Optogenetic Protein Recruitment.
Optogenetic protein dimerization systems are powerful tools to investigate the biochemical networks that cells use to make decisions and coordinate their activities. These tools, including the improved Light-Inducible Dimer (iLID) system, offer the ability to selectively recruit components to subcellular locations, such as micron-scale regions of the plasma membrane. In this way, the role of individual proteins within signaling networks can be examined with high spatiotemporal resolution. Currently, consistent recruitment is limited by heterogeneous optogenetic component expression, and spatial precision is diminished by protein diffusion, especially over long time scales. Here, we address these challenges within the iLID system with alternative membrane anchoring domains and fusion configurations. Using live cell imaging and mathematical modeling, we demonstrate that the anchoring strategy affects both component expression and diffusion, which in turn impact recruitment strength, kinetics, and spatial dynamics. Compared to the commonly used C-terminal iLID fusion, fusion proteins with large N-terminal anchors show stronger local recruitment, slower diffusion of recruited components, efficient recruitment over wider gene expression ranges, and improved spatial control over signaling outputs. We also define guidelines for component expression regimes for optimal recruitment for both cell-wide and subcellular recruitment strategies. Our findings highlight key sources of imprecision within light-inducible dimer systems and provide tools that allow greater control of subcellular protein localization across diverse cell biological applications.
Optogenetic Amplification Circuits for Light-Induced Metabolic Control.
Dynamic control of microbial metabolism is an effective strategy to improve chemical production in fermentations. While dynamic control is most often implemented using chemical inducers, optogenetics offers an attractive alternative due to the high tunability and reversibility afforded by light. However, a major concern of applying optogenetics in metabolic engineering is the risk of insufficient light penetration at high cell densities, especially in large bioreactors. Here, we present a new series of optogenetic circuits we call OptoAMP, which amplify the transcriptional response to blue light by as much as 23-fold compared to the basal circuit (OptoEXP). These circuits show as much as a 41-fold induction between dark and light conditions, efficient activation at light duty cycles as low as ∼1%, and strong homogeneous light-induction in bioreactors of at least 5 L, with limited illumination at cell densities above 40 OD600. We demonstrate the ability of OptoAMP circuits to control engineered metabolic pathways in novel three-phase fermentations using different light schedules to control enzyme expression and improve production of lactic acid, isobutanol, and naringenin. These circuits expand the applicability of optogenetics to metabolic engineering.
Structural Determinants for Light-Dependent Membrane Binding of a Photoswitchable Polybasic Domain.
OptoPB is an optogenetic tool engineered by fusion of the phosphoinositide (PI)-binding polybasic domain of Rit1 (Rit-PB) to a photoreactive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain. OptoPB selectively and reversibly binds the plasma membrane (PM) under blue light excitation, and in the dark, it releases back to the cytoplasm. However, the molecular mechanism of optical regulation and lipid recognition is still unclear. Here using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, liposome pulldown assay, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), we find that OptoPB binds to membrane mimetics containing di- or triphosphorylated phosphatidylinositols, particularly phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2), an acidic phospholipid predominantly located in the eukaryotic PM. In the dark, steric hindrance prevented this protein-membrane interaction, while 470 nm blue light illumination activated it. NMR titration and site-directed mutagenesis revealed that both cationic and hydrophobic Rit-PB residues are essential to the membrane interaction, indicating that OptoPB binds the membrane via a specific PI(4,5)P2-dependent mechanism.
Optogenetic Modification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Enables Controllable Twitching Motility and Host Infection.
Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is an important secondary messenger that controls carbon metabolism, type IVa pili biogenesis, and virulence in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Precise manipulation of bacterial intracellular cAMP levels may enable tunable control of twitching motility or virulence, and optogenetic tools are attractive because they afford excellent spatiotemporal resolution and are easy to operate. Here, we developed an engineered P. aeruginosa strain (termed pactm) with light-dependent intracellular cAMP levels through introducing a photoactivated adenylate cyclase gene (bPAC) into bacteria. On blue light illumination, pactm displayed a 15-fold increase in the expression of the cAMP responsive promoter and an 8-fold increase in its twitching activity. The skin lesion area of nude mouse in a subcutaneous infection model after 2-day pactm inoculation was increased 14-fold by blue light, making pactm suitable for applications in controllable bacterial host infection. In addition, we achieved directional twitching motility of pactm colonies through localized light illumination, which will facilitate the studies of contact-dependent interactions between microbial species.
Dynamical Modeling of Optogenetic Circuits in Yeast for Metabolic Engineering Applications.
Dynamic control of engineered microbes using light via optogenetics has been demonstrated as an effective strategy for improving the yield of biofuels, chemicals, and other products. An advantage of using light to manipulate microbial metabolism is the relative simplicity of interfacing biological and computer systems, thereby enabling in silico control of the microbe. Using this strategy for control and optimization of product yield requires an understanding of how the microbe responds in real-time to the light inputs. Toward this end, we present mechanistic models of a set of yeast optogenetic circuits. We show how these models can predict short- and long-time response to varying light inputs and how they are amenable to use with model predictive control (the industry standard among advanced control algorithms). These models reveal dynamics characterized by time-scale separation of different circuit components that affect the steady and transient levels of the protein under control of the circuit. Ultimately, this work will help enable real-time control and optimization tools for improving yield and consistency in the production of biofuels and chemicals using microbial fermentations.
Optogenetics in Sinorhizobium meliloti Enables Spatial Control of Exopolysaccharide Production and Biofilm Structure.
Microorganisms play a vital role in shaping the soil environment and enhancing plant growth by interacting with plant root systems. Because of the vast diversity of cell types involved, combined with dynamic and spatial heterogeneity, identifying the causal contribution of a defined factor, such as a microbial exopolysaccharide (EPS), remains elusive. Synthetic approaches that enable orthogonal control of microbial pathways are a promising means to dissect such complexity. Here we report the implementation of a synthetic, light-activated, transcriptional control platform using the blue-light responsive DNA binding protein EL222 in the nitrogen fixing soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. By fine-tuning the system, we successfully achieved optical control of an EPS production pathway without significant basal expression under noninducing (dark) conditions. Optical control of EPS recapitulated important behaviors such as a mucoid plate phenotype and formation of structured biofilms, enabling spatial control of biofilm structures in S. meliloti. The successful implementation of optically controlled gene expression in S. meliloti enables systematic investigation of how genotype and microenvironmental factors together shape phenotype in situ.
Engineering an Optogenetic CRISPRi Platform for Improved Chemical Production.
Microbial synthesis of chemicals typically requires the redistribution of metabolic flux toward the synthesis of targeted products. Dynamic control is emerging as an effective approach for solving the hurdles mentioned above. As light could control the cell behavior in a spatial and temporal manner, the optogenetic-CRISPR interference (opto-CRISPRi) technique that allocates the metabolic resources according to different optical signal frequencies will enable bacteria to be controlled between the growth phase and the production stage. In this study, we applied a blue light-sensitive protein EL222 to regulate the expression of the dCpf1-mediated CRISPRi system that turns off the competitive pathways and redirects the metabolic flux toward the heterologous muconic acid synthesis in Escherichia coli. We found that the opto-CRISPRi system dynamically regulating the suppression of the central metabolism and competitive pathways could increase the muconic acid production by 130%. These results demonstrated that the opto-CRISPRi platform is an effective method for enhancing chemical synthesis with broad utilities.
Design and Characterization of Rapid Optogenetic Circuits for Dynamic Control in Yeast Metabolic Engineering.
The use of optogenetics in metabolic engineering for light-controlled microbial chemical production raises the prospect of utilizing control and optimization techniques routinely deployed in traditional chemical manufacturing. However, such mechanisms require well-characterized, customizable tools that respond fast enough to be used as real-time inputs during fermentations. Here, we present OptoINVRT7, a new rapid optogenetic inverter circuit to control gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The circuit induces gene expression in only 0.6 h after switching cells from light to darkness, which is at least 6 times faster than previous OptoINVRT optogenetic circuits used for chemical production. In addition, we introduce an engineered inducible GAL1 promoter (PGAL1-S), which is stronger than any constitutive or inducible promoter commonly used in yeast. Combining OptoINVRT7 with PGAL1-S achieves strong and light-tunable levels of gene expression with as much as 132.9 ± 22.6-fold induction in darkness. The high performance of this new optogenetic circuit in controlling metabolic enzymes boosts production of lactic acid and isobutanol by more than 50% and 15%, respectively. The strength and controllability of OptoINVRT7 and PGAL1-S open the door to applying process control tools to engineered metabolisms to improve robustness and yields in microbial fermentations for chemical production.
Creating Red Light-Switchable Protein Dimerization Systems as Genetically Encoded Actuators with High Specificity.
Protein dimerization systems controlled by red light with increased tissue penetration depth are a highly needed tool for clinical applications such as cell and gene therapies. However, mammalian applications of existing red light-induced dimerization systems are hampered by limitations of their two components: a photosensory protein (or photoreceptor) which often requires a mammalian exogenous chromophore and a naturally occurring photoreceptor binding protein typically having a complex structure and nonideal binding properties. Here, we introduce an efficient, generalizable method (COMBINES-LID) for creating highly specific, reversible light-induced heterodimerization systems independent of any existing binders to a photoreceptor. It involves a two-step binder screen (phage display and yeast two-hybrid) of a combinatorial nanobody library to obtain binders that selectively engage a light-activated form of a photoswitchable protein or domain not the dark form. Proof-of-principle was provided by engineering nanobody-based, red light-induced dimerization (nanoReD) systems comprising a truncated bacterial phytochrome sensory module using a mammalian endogenous chromophore, biliverdin, and light-form specific nanobodies. Selected nanoReD systems were biochemically characterized, exhibiting low dark activity and high induction specificity, and further demonstrated for the reversible control of protein translocation and activation of gene expression in mice. Overall, COMBINES-LID opens new opportunities for creating genetically encoded actuators for the optical manipulation of biological processes.
Optogenetic Control of the BMP Signaling Pathway.
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are members of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) superfamily and have crucial roles during development; including mesodermal patterning and specification of renal, hepatic, and skeletal tissues. In vitro developmental models currently rely upon costly and unreliable recombinant BMP proteins that do not enable dynamic or precise activation of the BMP signaling pathway. Here, we report the development of an optogenetic BMP signaling system (optoBMP) that enables rapid induction of the canonical BMP signaling pathway driven by illumination with blue light. We demonstrate the utility of the optoBMP system in multiple human cell lines to initiate signal transduction through phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of SMAD1/5, leading to upregulation of BMP target genes including Inhibitors of DNA binding ID2 and ID4. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the optoBMP system can be used to fine-tune activation of the BMP signaling pathway through variable light stimulation. Optogenetic control of BMP signaling will enable dynamic and high-throughput intervention across a variety of applications in cellular and developmental systems.
CL6mN: Rationally Designed Optogenetic Photoswitches with Tunable Dissociation Dynamics.
The field of optogenetics uses genetically encoded photoswitches to modulate biological phenomena with high spatiotemporal resolution. We report a set of rationally designed optogenetic photoswitches that use the photolyase homology region of A. thaliana cryptochrome 2 (Cry2PHR) as a building block and exhibit highly efficient and tunable clustering in a blue-light dependent manner. CL6mN (Cry2-mCherry-LRP6c with N mutated PPPAP motifs) proteins were designed by mutating and/or truncating five crucial PPP(S/T)P motifs near the C-terminus of the optogenetic Wnt activator Cry2-mCherry-LRP6c, thus eliminating its Wnt activity. Light-induced CL6mN clusters have significantly greater dissociation half-lives than clusters of wild-type Cry2PHR. Moreover, the dissociation half-lives can be tuned by varying the number of PPPAP motifs, with the half-life increasing as much as 6-fold for a variant with five motifs (CL6m5) relative to Cry2PHR. Finally, we demonstrate the compatibility of CL6mN with previously reported Cry2-based photoswitches by optogenetically activating RhoA in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic control of heterologous metabolism in E. coli.
Multi-objective optimization of microbial chassis for the production of xenobiotic compounds requires the implementation of metabolic control strategies that permit dynamic distribution of cellular resources between biomass and product formation. We addressed this need in a previous study by engineering the T7 RNA polymerase to be thermally responsive. The modified polymerase is activated only after the temperature of the host cell falls below 18oC, and Escherichia coli cells that employ the protein to transcribe the heterologous lycopene biosynthetic pathway exhibit impressive improvements in productivity. We have expanded our toolbox of metabolic switches in the current study by engineering a version of the T7 RNA polymerase that drives the transition between biomass and product formation upon stimulation with red light. The engineered polymerase is expressed as two distinct polypeptide chains. Each chain comprises one of two photoactive components from Arabidopsis thaliana, phytochrome B (PhyB) and phytochrome-integrating factor 3 (PIF3), as well as the N- or C-terminus domains of both, the vacuolar ATPase subunit (VMA) intein of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the polymerase. Red light drives photodimerization of PhyB and PIF3, which then brings together the N- and C-terminus domains of the VMA intein. Trans-splicing of the intein follows suit and produces an active form of the polymerase that subsequently transcribes any sequence that is under the control of a T7 promoter. The photodimerization also involves a third element, the cyanobacterial chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which too is expressed heterologously by E. coli. We deployed this version of the T7 RNA polymerase to control the production of lycopene in E. coli and observed tight control of pathway expression. We tested a variety of expression configurations to identify one that imposes the lowest metabolic burden on the strain, and we subsequently optimized key parameters such as the source, moment and duration of photostimulation. We also identified targets for future refinement of the circuit. In summary, our work is a significant advance for the field and greatly expands on previous work by other groups that have used optogenetic circuits to control heterologous metabolism in prokaryotic hosts.
Orthogonal Blue and Red Light Controlled Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable Sorting-out in Multicellular Structures.
The self-assembly of different cell types into multicellular structures and their organization into spatiotemporally controlled patterns are both challenging and extremely powerful to understand how cells function within tissues and for bottom-up tissue engineering. Here, we not only independently control the self-assembly of two cell types into multicellular architectures with blue and red light, but also achieve their self-sorting into distinct assemblies. This required developing two cell types that form selective and homophilic cell-cell interactions either under blue or red light using photoswitchable proteins as artificial adhesion molecules. The interactions were individually triggerable with different colors of light, reversible in the dark, and provide noninvasive and temporal control over the cell-cell adhesions. In mixtures of the two cells, each cell type self-assembled independently upon orthogonal photoactivation, and cells sorted out into separate assemblies based on specific self-recognition. These self-sorted multicellular architectures provide us with a powerful tool for producing tissue-like structures from multiple cell types and investigate principles that govern them.
Bringing Light into Cell-Free Expression.
Cell-free systems, as part of the synthetic biology field, have become a critical platform in biological studies. However, there is a lack of research into developing a switch for a dynamical control of the transcriptional and translational process. The optogenetic tool has been widely proven as an ideal control switch for protein synthesis due to its nontoxicity and excellent time-space conversion. Hence, in this study, a blue light-regulated two-component system named YF1/FixJ was incorporated into an Escherichia coli-based cell-free system to control protein synthesis. The corresponding cell-free system successfully achieved a 5-fold dynamic protein expression by blue light repression and 3-fold dynamic expression by blue light activation. With the aim of expanding the applications of cell-free synthetic biology, the cell-free blue light-sensing system was used to perform imaging, light-controlled antibody synthesis, and light-triggered artificial cell assembly. This study can provide a guide for further research into the field of cell-free optical sensing. Moreover, it will also promote the development of cell-free synthetic biology and optogenetics through applying the cell-free optical sensing system to synthetic biology education, biopharmaceutical research, and artificial cell construction.
Blue-Light-Switchable Bacterial Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable the Control of Multicellular Bacterial Communities.
Although the fundamental importance and biotechnological potential of multibacterial communities, also called biofilms, are well-known, our ability to control them is limited. We present a new way of dynamically controlling bacteria-bacteria adhesions by using blue light and how these photoswitchable adhesions can be used to regulate multicellularity and associated bacterial behavior. To achieve this, the photoswitchable proteins nMagHigh and pMagHigh were expressed on bacterial surfaces as adhesins to allow multicellular clusters to assemble under blue light and reversibly disassemble in the dark. Regulation of the bacterial cell-cell adhesions with visible light provides unique advantages including high spatiotemporal control, tunability, and noninvasive remote regulation. Moreover, these photoswitchable adhesions make it possible to regulate collective bacterial functions including aggregation, quorum sensing, biofilm formation, and metabolic cross-feeding between auxotrophic bacteria with light. Overall, the photoregulation of bacteria-bacteria adhesions provides a new way of studying bacterial cell biology and will enable the design of biofilms for biotechnological applications.
Light-inducible generation of membrane curvature in live cells with engineered BAR domain proteins.
Nanoscale membrane curvature is now understood to play an active role in essential cellular processes such as endocytosis, exocytosis and actin dynamics. Previous studies have shown that membrane curvature can directly affect protein function and intracellular signaling. However, few methods are able to precisely manipulate membrane curvature in live cells. Here, we report the development of a new method of generating nanoscale membrane curvature in live cells that is controllable, reversible, and capable of precise spatial and temporal manipulation. For this purpose, we make use of BAR domain proteins, a family of well-studied membrane-remodeling and membrane-sculpting proteins. Specifically, we engineered two optogenetic systems, opto-FBAR and opto-IBAR, that allow light-inducible formation of positive and negative membrane curvature, respectively. Using opto-FBAR, blue light activation results in the formation of tubular membrane invaginations (positive curvature), controllable down to the subcellular level. Using opto-IBAR, blue light illumination results in the formation of membrane protrusions or filopodia (negative curvature). These systems present a novel approach for light-inducible manipulation of nanoscale membrane curvature in live cells.