Showing 51 - 67 of 67 results
The Dual Characteristics of Light-Induced Cryptochrome 2, Homo-oligomerization and Heterodimerization, for Optogenetic Manipulation in Mammalian Cells.
The photoreceptor cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) has become a powerful optogenetic tool that allows light-inducible manipulation of various signaling pathways and cellular processes in mammalian cells with high spatiotemporal precision and ease of application. However, it has also been shown that the behavior of CRY2 under blue light is complex, as the photoexcited CRY2 can both undergo homo-oligomerization and heterodimerization by binding to its dimerization partner CIB1. To better understand the light-induced CRY2 activities in mammalian cells, this article systematically characterizes CRY2 homo-oligomerization in different cellular compartments, as well as how CRY2 homo-oligomerization and heterodimerization activities affect each other. Quantitative analysis reveals that membrane-bound CRY2 has drastically enhanced oligomerization activity compared to that of its cytoplasmic form. While CRY2 homo-oligomerization and CRY2-CIB1 heterodimerization could happen concomitantly, the presence of certain CIB1 fusion proteins can suppress CRY2 homo-oligomerization. However, the homo-oligomerization of cytoplasmic CRY2 can be significantly intensified by its recruitment to the membrane via interaction with the membrane-bound CIB1. These results contribute to the understanding of the light-inducible CRY2-CRY2 and CRY2-CIB1 interaction systems and can be used as a guide to establish new strategies utilizing the dual optogenetic characteristics of CRY2 to probe cellular processes.
Probing Yeast Polarity with Acute, Reversible, Optogenetic Inhibition of Protein Function.
We recently developed a technique for rapidly and reversibly inhibiting protein function through light-inducible sequestration of proteins away from their normal sites of action. Here, we adapt this method for inducible inactivation of Bem1, a scaffold protein involved in budding yeast polarity. We find that acute inhibition of Bem1 produces profound defects in cell polarization and cell viability that are not observed in bem1Δ. By disrupting Bem1 activity at specific points in the cell cycle, we demonstrate that Bem1 is essential for the establishment of polarity and bud emergence but is dispensable for the growth of an emerged bud. By taking advantage of the reversibility of Bem1 inactivation, we show that pole size scales with cell size, and that this scaling is dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. Our experiments reveal how rapid reversible inactivation of protein function complements traditional genetic approaches. This strategy should be widely applicable to other biological contexts.
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.
Structural details of light activation of the LOV2-based photoswitch PA-Rac1.
Optical control of cellular processes is an emerging approach for studying biological systems, affording control with high spatial and temporal resolution. Specifically designed artificial photoswitches add an interesting extension to naturally occurring light-regulated functionalities. However, despite a great deal of structural information, the generation of new tools cannot be based fully on rational design yet; in many cases design is limited by our understanding of molecular details of light activation and signal transduction. Our biochemical and biophysical studies on the established optogenetic tool PA-Rac1, the photoactivatable small GTPase Rac1, reveal how unexpected details of the sensor-effector interface, such as metal coordination, significantly affect functionally important structural elements of this photoswitch. Together with solution scattering experiments, our results favor differences in the population of pre-existing conformations as the underlying allosteric activation mechanism of PA-Rac1, rather than the assumed release of the Rac1 domain from the caging photoreceptor domain. These results have implications for the design of new optogenetic tools and highlight the importance of including molecular details of the sensor-effector interface, which is however difficult to assess during the initial design of novel artificial photoswitches.
Benchmarking of optical dimerizer systems.
Optical dimerizers are a powerful new class of optogenetic tools that allow light-inducible control of protein-protein interactions. Such tools have been useful for regulating cellular pathways and processes with high spatiotemporal resolution in live cells, and a growing number of dimerizer systems are available. As these systems have been characterized by different groups using different methods, it has been difficult for users to compare their properties. Here, we set about to systematically benchmark the properties of four optical dimerizer systems, CRY2/CIB1, TULIPs, phyB/PIF3, and phyB/PIF6. Using a yeast transcriptional assay, we find significant differences in light sensitivity and fold-activation levels between the red light regulated systems but similar responses between the CRY2/CIB and TULIP systems. Further comparison of the ability of the CRY2/CIB1 and TULIP systems to regulate a yeast MAPK signaling pathway also showed similar responses, with slightly less background activity in the dark observed with CRY2/CIB. In the process of developing this work, we also generated an improved blue-light-regulated transcriptional system using CRY2/CIB in yeast. In addition, we demonstrate successful application of the CRY2/CIB dimerizers using a membrane-tethered CRY2, which may allow for better local control of protein interactions. Taken together, this work allows for a better understanding of the capacities of these different dimerization systems and demonstrates new uses of these dimerizers to control signaling and transcription in yeast.
Orthogonal optogenetic triple-gene control in Mammalian cells.
Optogenetic gene switches allow gene expression control at an unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Recently, light-responsive transgene expression systems that are activated by UV-B, blue, or red light have been developed. These systems perform well on their own, but their integration into genetic networks has been hampered by the overlapping absorbance spectra of the photoreceptors. We identified a lack of orthogonality between UV-B and blue light-controlled gene expression as the bottleneck and employed a model-based approach that identified the need for a blue light-responsive gene switch that is insensitive to low-intensity light. Based on this prediction, we developed a blue light-responsive and rapidly reversible expression system. Finally, we employed this expression system to demonstrate orthogonality between UV-B, blue, and red/far-red light-responsive gene switches in a single mammalian cell culture. We expect this approach to enable the spatiotemporal control of gene networks and to expand the applications of optogenetics in synthetic biology.
Refactoring and optimization of light-switchable Escherichia coli two-component systems.
Light-switchable proteins enable unparalleled control of molecular biological processes in live organisms. Previously, we have engineered red/far-red and green/red photoreversible two-component signal transduction systems (TCSs) with transcriptional outputs in E. coli and used them to characterize and control synthetic gene circuits with exceptional quantitative, temporal, and spatial precision. However, the broad utility of these light sensors is limited by bulky DNA encoding, incompatibility with commonly used ligand-responsive transcription factors, leaky output in deactivating light, and less than 10-fold dynamic range. Here, we compress the four genes required for each TCS onto two streamlined plasmids and replace all chemically inducible and evolved promoters with constitutive, engineered versions. Additionally, we systematically optimize the expression of each sensor histidine kinase and response regulator, and redesign both pathway output promoters, resulting in low leakiness and 72- and 117-fold dynamic range, respectively. These second-generation light sensors can be used to program the expression of more genes over a wider range and can be more easily combined with additional plasmids or moved to different host strains. This work demonstrates that bacterial TCSs can be optimized to function as high-performance sensors for scientific and engineering applications.
Manipulation of endogenous kinase activity in living cells using photoswitchable inhibitory peptides.
Optogenetic control of endogenous signaling can be an important tool for probing cell behavior. Using the photoresponse of the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1, we developed analogues of kinase inhibitors whose activity is light dependent. Inhibitory peptides were appended to the Jα helix, where they potently inhibited kinases in the light but were sterically blocked from kinase interaction in the dark. Photoactivatable inhibitors for cyclic-AMP dependent kinase (PKA) and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) are described, together with studies that shed light on proper positioning of the peptides in the LOV domain. These inhibitors altered endogenous signaling in living cells and produced light-dependent changes in cell morphodynamics.
Optical control of protein function through unnatural amino acid mutagenesis and other optogenetic approaches.
Biological processes are naturally regulated with high spatial and temporal resolution at the molecular, cellular, and systems level. To control and study processes with the same resolution, light-sensitive groups and domains have been employed to optically activate and deactivate protein function. Optical control is a noninvasive technique in which the amplitude, wavelength, spatial location, and timing of the light illumination can be easily controlled. This review focuses on applications of genetically encoded unnatural amino acids containing light-removable protecting groups to optically trigger protein function, while also discussing select optogenetic approaches using natural light-sensitive domains to engineer optical control of biological processes.
Optical control of the Ca2+ concentration in a live specimen with a genetically encoded Ca2+-releasing molecular tool.
Calcium ion (Ca2+) is an important second messenger implicated in the control of many different cellular processes in living organisms. Ca2+ is typically studied by direct visualization using chemically or genetically encoded indicators. A complementary, and perhaps more useful, approach involves direct manipulation of Ca2+ concentration; tools for this exist but are rather poorly developed compared to the indicators at least. Here, we report a photoactivatable Ca2+-releasing protein, photoactivatable Ca2+ releaser (PACR), made by the insertion of a photosensitive protein domain (LOV2) into a Ca2+ binding protein (calmodulin fused with the M13 peptide). As the PACR is genetically encoded, and unlike conventional optical control tools (e.g., channel rhodopsin) not membrane bound, we are able to restrict expression within the cell, to allow subcellular perturbation of Ca2+ levels. In whole animals, we are able to control the behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans with light by expressing the PACR only in the touch neuron.
Biophysical, mutational, and functional investigation of the chromophore-binding pocket of light-oxygen-voltage photoreceptors.
As light-regulated actuators, sensory photoreceptors underpin optogenetics and numerous applications in synthetic biology. Protein engineering has been applied to fine-tune the properties of photoreceptors and to generate novel actuators. For the blue-light-sensitive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) photoreceptors, mutations near the flavin chromophore modulate response kinetics and the effective light responsiveness. To probe for potential, inadvertent effects on receptor activity, we introduced these mutations into the engineered LOV photoreceptor YF1 and determined their impact on light regulation. While several mutations severely impaired the dynamic range of the receptor (e.g., I39V, R63K, and N94A), residue substitutions in a second group were benign with little effect on regulation (e.g., V28T, N37C, and L82I). Electron paramagnetic resonance and absorption spectroscopy identified correlated effects for certain of the latter mutations on chromophore environment and response kinetics in YF1 and the LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin 1. Carefully chosen mutations provide a powerful means to adjust the light-response function of photoreceptors as demanded for diverse applications.
Near-infrared light responsive synthetic c-di-GMP module for optogenetic applications.
Enormous potential of cell-based therapeutics is hindered by the lack of effective means to control genetically engineered cells in mammalian tissues. Here, we describe a synthetic module for remote photocontrol of engineered cells that can be adapted for such applications. The module involves photoactivated synthesis of cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP), a stable small molecule that is not produced by higher eukaryotes and therefore is suitable for orthogonal regulation. The key component of the photocontrol module is an engineered bacteriophytochrome diguanylate cyclase, which synthesizes c-di-GMP from GTP in a light-dependent manner. Bacteriophytochromes are particularly attractive photoreceptors because they respond to light in the near-infrared window of the spectrum, where absorption by mammalian tissues is minimal, and also because their chromophore, biliverdin IXα, is naturally available in mammalian cells. The second component of the photocontrol module, a c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase, maintains near-zero background levels of c-di-GMP in the absence of light, which enhances the photodynamic range of c-di-GMP concentrations. In the E. coli model used in this study, the intracellular c-di-GMP levels could be upregulated by light by >50-fold. Various c-di-GMP-responsive proteins and riboswitches identified in bacteria can be linked downstream of the c-di-GMP-mediated photocontrol module for orthogonal regulation of biological activities in mammals as well as in other organisms lacking c-di-GMP signaling. Here, we linked the photocontrol module to a gene expression output via a c-di-GMP-responsive transcription factor and achieved a 40-fold photoactivation of gene expression.
Genetically engineered photoinducible homodimerization system with improved dimer-forming efficiency.
Vivid (VVD) is a photoreceptor derived from Neurospora Crassa that rapidly forms a homodimer in response to blue light. Although VVD has several advantages over other photoreceptors as photoinducible homodimerization system, VVD has a critical limitation in its low dimer-forming efficiency. To overcome this limitation of wild-type VVD, here we conduct site-directed saturation mutagenesis in the homodimer interface of VVD. We have found that the Ile52Cys mutation of VVD (VVD-52C) substantially improves its homodimer-forming efficiency up to 180%. We have demonstrated the utility of VVD-52C for making a light-inducible gene expression system more robust. In addition, using VVD-52C, we have developed photoactivatable caspase-9, which enables optical control of apoptosis of mammalian cells. The present genetically engineered photoinducible homodimerization system can provide a powerful tool to optically control a broad range of molecular processes in the cell.
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.
Optogenetic control of protein kinase activity in mammalian cells.
Light-dependent dimerization is the basis for recently developed noninvasive optogenetic tools. Here we present a novel tool combining optogenetics with the control of protein kinase activity to investigate signal transduction pathways. Mediated by Arabidopsis thaliana photoreceptor cryptochrome 2, we activated the protein kinase C-RAF by blue light-dependent dimerization, allowing for decoupling from upstream signaling events induced by surface receptors. The activation by light is fast, reversible, and not only time but also dose dependent as monitored by phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Additionally, light-activated C-RAF controls serum response factor-mediated gene expression. Light-induced heterodimerization of C-RAF with a kinase-dead mutant of B-RAF demonstrates the enhancing role of B-RAF as a scaffold for C-RAF activity, which leads to the paradoxical activation of C-RAF found in human cancers. This optogenetic tool enables reversible control of protein kinase activity in signal duration and strength. These properties can help to shed light onto downstream signaling processes of protein kinases in living cells.
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.
Engineering a photoactivated caspase-7 for rapid induction of apoptosis.
Apoptosis is a cell death program involved in the development of multicellular organisms, immunity, and pathologies ranging from cancer to HIV/AIDS. We present an engineered protein that causes rapid apoptosis of targeted cells in monolayer culture after stimulation with blue light. Cells transfected with the protein switch L57V, a tandem fusion of the light-sensing LOV2 domain and the apoptosis-executing domain from caspase-7, rapidly undergo apoptosis within 60 min after light stimulation. Constant illumination of under 5 min or oscillating with 1 min exposure had no effect, suggesting that cells have natural tolerance to a short duration of caspase-7 activity. Furthermore, the overexpression of Bcl-2 prevented L57V-mediated apoptosis, suggesting that although caspase-7 activation is sufficient to start apoptosis, it requires mitochondrial contribution to fully commit.