Showing 1 - 8 of 8 results
Enlightening Allostery: Designing Switchable Proteins by Photoreceptor Fusion.
Optogenetics harnesses natural photoreceptors to non-invasively control selected processes in cells with previously unmet spatiotemporal precision. Linking the activity of a protein of choice to the conformational state of a photosensor domain through allosteric coupling represents a powerful method for engineering light-responsive proteins. It enables the design of compact and highly potent single-component optogenetic systems with fast on- and off-switching kinetics. However, designing protein-photoreceptor chimeras, in which structural changes of the photoreceptor are effectively propagated to the fused effector protein, is a challenging engineering problem and often relies on trial and error. Here, recent advances in the design and application of optogenetic allosteric switches are reviewed. First, an overview of existing optogenetic tools based on inducible allostery is provided and their utility for cell biology applications is highlighted. Focusing on light-oxygen-voltage domains, a widely applied class of small blue light sensors, the available strategies for engineering light-dependent allostery are presented and their individual advantages and limitations are highlighted. Finally, high-throughput screening technologies based on comprehensive insertion libraries, which could accelerate the creation of stimulus-responsive receptor-protein chimeras for use in optogenetics and beyond, are discussed.
Multichromatic Control of Signaling Pathways in Mammalian Cells.
The precise control of signaling proteins is a prerequisite to decipher the complexity of the signaling network and to reveal and to study pathways involved in regulating cellular metabolism and gene expression. Optogenetic approaches play an emerging role as they enable the spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Herein, a multichromatic system is developed by combining the blue light cryptochrome 2 system and the red/far-red light phytochrome B system. The use of three wavelengths allows the orthogonal control of the RAF/ERK and the AKT signaling pathway. Continuous exposure of cells to blue light leads to activation of AKT while simultaneous pulses of red and far-red light enable the modulation of ERK signaling in cells with constantly active AKT signaling. The optimized, orthogonal multichromatic system presented here is a valuable tool to better understand the fine grained and intricate processes involved in cell fate decisions.
Optogenetically Controlled TrkA Activity Improves the Regenerative Capacity of Hair-Follicle-Derived Stem Cells to Differentiate into Neurons and Glia.
Hair-follicle-derived stem cells (HSCs) originating from the bulge region of the mouse vibrissa hair follicle are able to differentiate into neuronal and glial lineage cells. The tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA) receptor that is expressed on these cells plays key roles in mediating the survival and differentiation of neural progenitors as well as in the regulation of the growth and regeneration of different neural systems. In this study, the OptoTrkA system is introduced, which is able to stimulate TrkA activity via blue-light illumination in HSCs. This allows to determine whether TrkA signaling is capable of influencing the proliferation, migration, and neural differentiation of these somatic stem cells. It is found that OptoTrkA is able to activate downstream molecules such as ERK and AKT with blue-light illumination, and subsequently able to terminate this kinase activity in the dark. HSCs with OptoTrkA activity show an increased ability for proliferation and migration and also exhibited accelerated neuronal and glial cell differentiation. These findings suggest that the precise control of TrkA activity using optogenetic tools is a viable strategy for the regeneration of neurons from HSCs, and also provides a novel insight into the clinical application of optogenetic tools in cell-transplantation therapy.
Photo‐ECM: A Blue Light Photoswitchable Synthetic Extracellular Matrix Protein for Reversible Control over Cell–Matrix Adhesion.
The dynamic and spatiotemporal control of integrin‐mediated cell adhesion to RGD motifs in its extracellular matrix (ECM) is important for understating cell biology and biomedical applications because cell adhesion fundamentally regulates cellular behavior. Herein, the first photoswitchable synthetic ECM protein, Photo‐ECM, based on the blue light switchable protein LOV2 is engineered. The Photo‐ECM protein includes a RGD sequence, which is hidden in the folded LOV2 protein structure in the dark and is exposed under blue light so that integrins can bind and cells can adhere. The switchable presentation of the RGD motif allows to reversibly mediate and modulate integrin‐based cell adhesions using noninvasive blue light. With this protein cell adhesions in live cells could be reversed and the dynamics at the cellular level is observed. Hence, the Photo‐ECM opens a new possibility to investigate the spatiotemporal regulation of cell adhesions in cell biology and is the first step toward a genetically encoded and light‐responsive ECM.
Blue Light Switchable Cell–Cell Interactions Provide
Reversible and Spatiotemporal Control Towards
Bottom-Up Tissue Engineering.
Controlling cell–cell interactions is central for understanding key cellular
processes and bottom-up tissue assembly from single cells. The challenge is
to control cell–cell interactions dynamically and reversibly with high spati-
otemporal precision noninvasively and sustainably. In this study, cell–cell
interactions are controlled with visible light using an optogenetic approach by
expressing the blue light switchable proteins CRY2 or CIBN on the surfaces of
cells. CRY2 and CIBN expressing cells form specific heterophilic interactions
under blue light providing precise control in space and time. Further, these
interactions are reversible in the dark and can be repeatedly and dynamically
switched on and off. Unlike previous approaches, these genetically encoded
proteins allow for long-term expression of the interaction domains and
respond to nontoxic low intensity blue light. In addition, these interactions
are suitable to assemble cells into 3D multicellular architectures. Overall, this
approach captures the dynamic and reversible nature of cell–cell interactions
and controls them noninvasively and sustainably both in space and time. This
provides a new way of studying cell–cell interactions and assembling cellular
building blocks into tissues with unmatched flexibility.
Using Synthetic Biology to Engineer Spatial Patterns.
Synthetic biology has emerged as a multidisciplinary field that provides new tools and approaches to address longstanding problems in biology. It integrates knowledge from biology, engineering, mathematics, and biophysics to build—rather than to simply observe and perturb—biological systems that emulate natural counterparts or display novel properties. The interface between synthetic and developmental biology has greatly benefitted both fields and allowed to address questions that would remain challenging with classical approaches due to the intrinsic complexity and essentiality of developmental processes. This Progress Report provides an overview of how synthetic biology can help to understand a process that is crucial for the development of multicellular organisms: pattern formation. It reviews the major mechanisms of genetically encoded synthetic systems that have been engineered to establish spatial patterns at the population level. Limitations, challenges, applications, and potential opportunities of synthetic pattern formation are also discussed.
Cyclic Stiffness Modulation of Cell‐Laden Protein–Polymer Hydrogels in Response to User‐Specified Stimuli Including Light.
Although mechanical signals presented by the extracellular matrix are known to regulate many essential cell functions, the specific effects of these interactions, particularly in response to dynamic and heterogeneous cues, remain largely unknown. Here, a modular semisynthetic approach is introduced to create protein–polymer hydrogel biomaterials that undergo reversible stiffening in response to user‐specified inputs. Employing a novel dual‐chemoenzymatic modification strategy, fusion protein‐based gel crosslinkers are created that exhibit stimuli‐dependent intramolecular association. Linkers based on calmodulin yield calcium‐sensitive materials, while those containing the photosensitive light, oxygen, and voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) protein give phototunable constructs whose moduli can be cycled on demand with spatiotemporal control about living cells. These unique materials are exploited to demonstrate the significant role that cyclic mechanical loading plays on fibroblast‐to‐myofibroblast transdifferentiation in 3D space. The moduli‐switchable materials should prove useful for studies in mechanobiology, providing new avenues to probe and direct matrix‐driven changes in 4D cell physiology.
Controlling Cells with Light and LOV.
Optogenetics is a powerful method for studying dynamic processes in living cells and has advanced cell biology research over the recent past. Key to the successful application of optogenetics is the careful design of the light‐sensing module, typically employing a natural or engineered photoreceptor that links the exogenous light input to the cellular process under investigation. Light–oxygen–voltage (LOV) domains, a highly diverse class of small blue light sensors, have proven to be particularly versatile for engineering optogenetic input modules. These can function via diverse modalities, including inducible allostery, protein recruitment, dimerization, or dissociation. This study reviews recent advances in the development of LOV domain‐based optogenetic tools and their application for studying and controlling selected cellular functions. Focusing on the widely employed LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin‐1, this review highlights the broad spectrum of engineering opportunities that can be explored to achieve customized optogenetic regulation. Finally, major bottlenecks in the development of optogenetic methods are discussed and strategies to overcome these with recent synthetic biology approaches are pointed out.