Showing 1 - 25 of 71 results
Optogenetic Delineation of Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Subcircuits in PC12 Cell Differentiation.
Nerve growth factor elicits signaling outcomes by interacting with both its high-affinity receptor, TrkA, and its low-affinity receptor, p75NTR. Although these two receptors can regulate distinct cellular outcomes, they both activate the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway upon nerve growth factor stimulation. To delineate TrkA subcircuits in PC12 cell differentiation, we developed an optogenetic system whereby light was used to specifically activate TrkA signaling in the absence of nerve growth factor. By using tyrosine mutants of the optogenetic TrkA in combination with pathway-specific pharmacological inhibition, we find that Y490 and Y785 each contributes to PC12 cell differentiation through the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway in an additive manner. Optogenetic activation of TrkA eliminates the confounding effect of p75NTR and other potential off-target effects of the ligand. This approach can be generalized for the mechanistic study of other receptor-mediated signaling pathways.
Liquid Nuclear Condensates Mechanically Sense and Restructure the Genome.
Phase transitions involving biomolecular liquids are a
fundamental mechanism underlying intracellular organization.
In the cell nucleus, liquid-liquid phase
separation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs)
is implicated in assembly of the nucleolus, as well
as transcriptional clusters, and other nuclear bodies.
However, it remains unclear whether and how physical
forces associated with nucleation, growth, and
wetting of liquid condensates can directly restructure
chromatin. Here, we use CasDrop, a novel
CRISPR-Cas9-based optogenetic technology, to
show that various IDPs phase separate into liquid
condensates that mechanically exclude chromatin
as they grow and preferentially form in low-density,
largely euchromatic regions. A minimal physical
model explains how this stiffness sensitivity arises
from lower mechanical energy associated with deforming
softer genomic regions. Targeted genomic
loci can nonetheless be mechanically pulled together
through surface tension-driven coalescence. Nuclear
condensates may thus function as mechanoactive
chromatin filters, physically pulling in targeted
genomic loci while pushing out non-targeted regions
of the neighboring genome.
Mechanobiology of Protein Droplets: Force Arises from Disorder.
The use of optogenetic approaches has revealed new roles for intracellular protein condensates
described in two papers in this issue of Cell (Bracha et. al., 2018; Shin et al., 2018). These results
show that growing condensates are able to exert mechanical forces resulting in chromatin
rearrangement, establishing a new role for liquid-liquid phase separation in the mechanobiology
of the cell.
Mapping Local and Global Liquid Phase Behavior in Living Cells Using Photo-Oligomerizable Seeds.
Liquid-liquid phase separation plays a key role in the
assembly of diverse intracellular structures. However,
the biophysical principles by which phase separation
can be precisely localized within subregions
of the cell are still largely unclear, particularly for
low-abundance proteins. Here, we introduce an oligomerizing
biomimetic system, ‘‘Corelets,’’ and utilize
its rapid and quantitative light-controlled
tunability to map full intracellular phase diagrams,
which dictate the concentrations at which phase
separation occurs and the transition mechanism, in
a protein sequence dependent manner. Surprisingly,
both experiments and simulations show that while
intracellular concentrations may be insufficient for
global phase separation, sequestering protein ligands
to slowly diffusing nucleation centers can
move the cell into a different region of the phase diagram,
resulting in localized phase separation. This
diffusive capture mechanism liberates the cell from
the constraints of global protein abundance and is
likely exploited to pattern condensates associated
with diverse biological processes.
Real-Time Genetic Compensation Defines the Dynamic Demands of Feedback Control.
Biological signaling networks use feedback control to dynamically adjust their operation in real time. Traditional static genetic methods such as gene knockouts or rescue experiments can often identify the existence of feedback interactions but are unable to determine what feedback dynamics are required. Here, we implement a new strategy, closed-loop optogenetic compensation (CLOC), to address this problem. Using a custom-built hardware and software infrastructure, CLOC monitors, in real time, the output of a pathway deleted for a feedback regulator. A minimal model uses these measurements to calculate and deliver-on the fly-an optogenetically enabled transcriptional input designed to compensate for the effects of the feedback deletion. Application of CLOC to the yeast pheromone response pathway revealed surprisingly distinct dynamic requirements for three well-studied feedback regulators. CLOC, a marriage of control theory and traditional genetics, presents a broadly applicable methodology for defining the dynamic function of biological feedback regulators.
Light Control of the Tet Gene Expression System in Mammalian Cells.
Gene expression and its network structure are dynamically altered in multicellular systems during morphological, functional, and pathological changes. To precisely analyze the functional roles of dynamic gene expression changes, tools that manipulate gene expression at fine spatiotemporal resolution are needed. The tetracycline (Tet)-controlled gene expression system is a reliable drug-inducible method, and it is used widely in many mammalian cultured cells and model organisms. Here, we develop a photoactivatable (PA)-Tet-OFF/ON system for precise temporal control of gene expression at single-cell resolution. By integrating the cryptochrome 2-cryptochrome-interacting basic helix-loop-helix 1 (Cry2-CIB1) light-inducible binding switch, expression of the gene of interest is tightly regulated under the control of light illumination and drug application in our PA-Tet-OFF/ON system. This system has a large dynamic range of downstream gene expression and rapid activation/deactivation kinetics. We also demonstrate the optogenetic regulation of exogenous gene expression in vivo, such as in developing and adult mouse brains.
Fam49/CYRI interacts with Rac1 and locally suppresses protrusions.
Actin-based protrusions are reinforced through positive feedback, but it is unclear what restricts their size, or limits positive signals when they retract or split. We identify an evolutionarily conserved regulator of actin-based protrusion: CYRI (CYFIP-related Rac interactor) also known as Fam49 (family of unknown function 49). CYRI binds activated Rac1 via a domain of unknown function (DUF1394) shared with CYFIP, defining DUF1394 as a Rac1-binding module. CYRI-depleted cells have broad lamellipodia enriched in Scar/WAVE, but reduced protrusion-retraction dynamics. Pseudopods induced by optogenetic Rac1 activation in CYRI-depleted cells are larger and longer lived. Conversely, CYRI overexpression suppresses recruitment of active Scar/WAVE to the cell edge, resulting in short-lived, unproductive protrusions. CYRI thus focuses protrusion signals and regulates pseudopod complexity by inhibiting Scar/WAVE-induced actin polymerization. It thus behaves like a 'local inhibitor' as predicted in widely accepted mathematical models, but not previously identified in cells. CYRI therefore regulates chemotaxis, cell migration and epithelial polarization by controlling the polarity and plasticity of protrusions.
CRAC channel-based optogenetics.
Store-operated Ca²+ entry (SOCE) constitutes a major Ca2+ influx pathway in mammals to regulate a myriad of physiological processes, including muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, gene expression, and metabolism. In non-excitable cells, the Ca²+ release-activated Ca²+ (CRAC) channel, composed of ORAI and stromal interaction molecules (STIM), constitutes a prototypical example of SOCE to mediate Ca2+ entry at specialized membrane contact sites (MCSs) between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane (PM). The key steps of SOCE activation include the oligomerization of the luminal domain of the ER-resident Ca2+ sensor STIM1 upon Ca²+ store depletion, subsequent signal propagation toward the cytoplasmic domain to trigger a conformational switch and overcome the intramolecular autoinhibition, and ultimate exposure of the minimal ORAI-activating domain to directly engage and gate ORAI channels in the plasma membrane. This exquisitely coordinated cellular event is also facilitated by the C-terminal polybasic domain of STIM1, which physically associates with negatively charged phosphoinositides embedded in the inner leaflet of the PM to enable efficient translocation of STIM1 into ER-PM MCSs. Here, we present recent progress in recapitulating STIM1-mediated SOCE activation by engineering CRAC channels with optogenetic approaches. These STIM1-based optogenetic tools make it possible to not only mechanistically recapture the key molecular steps of SOCE activation, but also remotely and reversibly control Ca²+-dependent cellular processes, inter-organellar tethering at MCSs, and transcriptional reprogramming when combined with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome-editing tools.
"Rho"ing a Cellular Boat with Rearward Membrane Flow.
The physicist Edward Purcell wrote in 1977 about mechanisms that cells could use to propel themselves in a low Reynolds number environment. Reporting in Developmental Cell, O'Neill et al. (2018) provide direct evidence for one of these mechanisms by optogenetically driving the migration of cells suspended in liquid through RhoA activation.
Four Key Steps Control Glycolytic Flux in Mammalian Cells.
Altered glycolysis is a hallmark of diseases including diabetes and cancer. Despite intensive study of the contributions of individual glycolytic enzymes, systems-level analyses of flux control through glycolysis remain limited. Here, we overexpress in two mammalian cell lines the individual enzymes catalyzing each of the 12 steps linking extracellular glucose to excreted lactate, and find substantial flux control at four steps: glucose import, hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, and lactate export (and not at any steps of lower glycolysis). The four flux-controlling steps are specifically upregulated by the Ras oncogene: optogenetic Ras activation rapidly induces the transcription of isozymes catalyzing these four steps and enhances glycolysis. At least one isozyme catalyzing each of these four steps is consistently elevated in human tumors. Thus, in the studied contexts, flux control in glycolysis is concentrated in four key enzymatic steps. Upregulation of these steps in tumors likely underlies the Warburg effect.
Membrane Flow Drives an Adhesion-Independent Amoeboid Cell Migration Mode.
Cells migrate by applying rearward forces against extracellular media. It is unclear how this is achieved in amoeboid migration, which lacks adhesions typical of lamellipodia-driven mesenchymal migration. To address this question, we developed optogenetically controlled models of lamellipodia-driven and amoeboid migration. On a two-dimensional surface, migration speeds in both modes were similar. However, when suspended in liquid, only amoeboid cells exhibited rapid migration accompanied by rearward membrane flow. These cells exhibited increased endocytosis at the back and membrane trafficking from back to front. Genetic or pharmacological perturbation of this polarized trafficking inhibited migration. The ratio of cell migration and membrane flow speeds matched the predicted value from a model where viscous forces tangential to the cell-liquid interface propel the cell forward. Since this mechanism does not require specific molecular interactions with the surrounding medium, it can facilitate amoeboid migration observed in diverse microenvironments during immune function and cancer metastasis.
Regulation of cell cycle progression by cell-cell and cell-matrix forces.
It has long been proposed that the cell cycle is regulated by physical forces at the cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interfaces1-12. However, the evolution of these forces during the cycle has never been measured in a tissue, and whether this evolution affects cell cycle progression is unknown. Here, we quantified cell-cell tension and cell-ECM traction throughout the complete cycle of a large cell population in a growing epithelium. These measurements unveil temporal mechanical patterns that span the entire cell cycle and regulate its duration, the G1-S transition and mitotic rounding. Cells subjected to higher intercellular tension exhibit a higher probability to transition from G1 to S, as well as shorter G1 and S-G2-M phases. Moreover, we show that tension and mechanical energy are better predictors of the duration of G1 than measured geometric properties. Tension increases during the cell cycle but decreases 3 hours before mitosis. Using optogenetic control of contractility, we show that this tension drop favours mitotic rounding. Our results establish that cell cycle progression is regulated cooperatively by forces between the dividing cell and its neighbours.
Protein Phase Separation Provides Long-Term Memory of Transient Spatial Stimuli.
Protein/RNA clusters arise frequently in spatially regulated biological processes, from the asymmetric distribution of P granules and PAR proteins in developing embryos to localized receptor oligomers in migratory cells. This co-occurrence suggests that protein clusters might possess intrinsic properties that make them a useful substrate for spatial regulation. Here, we demonstrate that protein droplets show a robust form of spatial memory, maintaining the spatial pattern of an inhibitor of droplet formation long after it has been removed. Despite this persistence, droplets can be highly dynamic, continuously exchanging monomers with the diffuse phase. We investigate the principles of biophysical spatial memory in three contexts: a computational model of phase separation; a novel optogenetic system where light can drive rapid, localized dissociation of liquid-like protein droplets; and membrane-localized signal transduction from clusters of receptor tyrosine kinases. Our results suggest that the persistent polarization underlying many cellular and developmental processes could arise through a simple biophysical process, without any additional biochemical feedback loops.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
Activation of EphB2 Forward Signaling Enhances Memory Consolidation.
EphB2 is involved in enhancing synaptic transmission and gene expression. To explore the roles of EphB2 in memory formation and enhancement, we used a photoactivatable EphB2 (optoEphB2) to activate EphB2 forward signaling in pyramidal neurons in lateral amygdala (LA). Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning, but not minutes afterward, enhanced long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning. Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning led to activation of the cAMP/Ca2+ responsive element binding (CREB) protein. Application of light to a kinase-dead optoEphB2 in LA did not lead to enhancement of long-term fear conditioning memory or to activation of CREB. Long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning memory was impaired in mice lacking EphB2 forward signaling (EphB2lacZ/lacZ). Activation of optoEphB2 in LA of EphB2lacZ/lacZ mice enhanced long-term fear conditioning memory. The present findings show that the level of EphB2 forward signaling activity during learning determines the strength of long-term memory consolidation.
Optogenetic reversible knocksideways, laser ablation, and photoactivation on the mitotic spindle in human cells.
At the onset of mitosis, cells assemble the mitotic spindle, a dynamic micromachine made of microtubules and associated proteins. Although most of these proteins have been identified, it is still unknown how their collective behavior drives spindle formation and function. Over the last decade, RNA interference has been the main tool for revealing the role of spindle proteins. However, the effects of this method are evident only after a longer time period, leading to difficulties in the interpretation of phenotypes. Optogenetics is a novel technology that enables fast, reversible, and precise control of protein activity by utilization of light. In this chapter, we present an optogenetic knocksideways method for rapid and reversible translocation of proteins from the mitotic spindle to mitochondria using blue light. Furthermore, we discuss other optical approaches, such as laser ablation of microtubule bundles in the spindle and creation of reference marks on the bundles by photoactivation of photoactivatable GFP. Finally, we show how different optical perturbations can be combined in order to acquire deeper understanding of the mechanics of mitosis.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
Local control of intracellular microtubule dynamics by EB1 photodissociation.
End-binding proteins (EBs) are adaptors that recruit functionally diverse microtubule plus-end-tracking proteins (+TIPs) to growing microtubule plus ends. To test with high spatial and temporal accuracy how, when and where +TIP complexes contribute to dynamic cell biology, we developed a photo-inactivated EB1 variant (π-EB1) by inserting a blue-light-sensitive protein–protein interaction module between the microtubule-binding and +TIP-binding domains of EB1. π-EB1 replaces endogenous EB1 function in the absence of blue light. By contrast, blue-light-mediated π-EB1 photodissociation results in rapid +TIP complex disassembly, and acutely and reversibly attenuates microtubule growth independent of microtubule end association of the microtubule polymerase CKAP5 (also known as ch-TOG and XMAP215). Local π-EB1 photodissociation allows subcellular control of microtubule dynamics at the second and micrometre scale, and elicits aversive turning of migrating cancer cells. Importantly, light-mediated domain splitting can serve as a template to optically control other intracellular protein activities.
Control of microtubule dynamics using an optogenetic microtubule plus end-F-actin cross-linker.
We developed a novel optogenetic tool, SxIP-improved light-inducible dimer (iLID), to facilitate the reversible recruitment of factors to microtubule (MT) plus ends in an end-binding protein-dependent manner using blue light. We show that SxIP-iLID can track MT plus ends and recruit tgRFP-SspB upon blue light activation. We used this system to investigate the effects of cross-linking MT plus ends and F-actin in Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells to gain insight into spectraplakin function and mechanism. We show that SxIP-iLID can be used to temporally recruit an F-actin binding domain to MT plus ends and cross-link the MT and F-actin networks. Cross-linking decreases MT growth velocities and generates a peripheral MT exclusion zone. SxIP-iLID facilitates the general recruitment of specific factors to MT plus ends with temporal control enabling researchers to systematically regulate MT plus end dynamics and probe MT plus end function in many biological processes.
Illuminating information transfer in signaling dynamics by optogenetics.
Cells receive diverse signaling cues from their environment that trigger cascades of biochemical reactions in a dynamic manner. Single-cell imaging technologies have revealed that not only molecular species but also dynamic patterns of signaling inputs determine the fates of signal-receiving cells; however it has been challenging to elucidate how such dynamic information is delivered and decoded in complex networks of inter-cellular and inter-molecular interactions. The recent development of optogenetic technology with photo-sensitive proteins has changed this situation; the combination of microscopy and optogenetics provides fruitful insights into the mechanism of dynamic information processing at the single-cell level. Here, we review recent efforts to visualize the flows of dynamic patterns in signaling pathways, which utilize methods integrating single-cell imaging and optogenetics.
Gradients of Rac1 Nanoclusters Support Spatial Patterns of Rac1 Signaling.
Rac1 is a small RhoGTPase switch that orchestrates actin branching in space and time and protrusion/retraction cycles of the lamellipodia at the cell front during mesenchymal migration. Biosensor imaging has revealed a graded concentration of active GTP-loaded Rac1 in protruding regions of the cell. Here, using single-molecule imaging and super-resolution microscopy, we show an additional supramolecular organization of Rac1. We find that Rac1 partitions and is immobilized into nanoclusters of 50-100 molecules each. These nanoclusters assemble because of the interaction of the polybasic tail of Rac1 with the phosphoinositide lipids PIP2 and PIP3. The additional interactions with GEFs and possibly GAPs, downstream effectors, and other partners are responsible for an enrichment of Rac1 nanoclusters in protruding regions of the cell. Our results show that subcellular patterns of Rac1 activity are supported by gradients of signaling nanodomains of heterogeneous molecular composition, which presumably act as discrete signaling platforms.
Shedding light on the role of cAMP in mammalian sperm physiology.
Mammalian fertilization relies on sperm finding the egg and penetrating the egg vestments. All steps in a sperm's lifetime crucially rely on changes in the second messenger cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate). In recent years, it has become clear that signal transduction in sperm is not a continuum, but rather organized in subcellular domains, e.g. the sperm head and the sperm flagellum, with the latter being further separated into the midpiece, principal piece, and endpiece. To understand the underlying signaling pathways controlling sperm function in more detail, experimental approaches are needed that allow to study sperm signaling with spatial and temporal precision. Here, we will give a comprehensive overview on cAMP signaling in mammalian sperm, describing the molecular players involved in these pathways and the sperm functions that are controlled by cAMP. Furthermore, we will highlight recent advances in analyzing and manipulating sperm signaling with spatio-temporal precision using light.
Real-time observation of light-controlled transcription in living cells.
Gene expression is tightly regulated in space and time. To dissect this process with high temporal resolution, we introduce an optogenetic tool termed blue light-induced chromatin recruitment (BLInCR) that combines rapid and reversible light-dependent recruitment of effector proteins with a real-time readout for transcription. We used BLInCR to control the activity of a cluster of reporter genes in the human osteosarcoma cell line U2OS by reversibly recruiting the viral transactivator VP16. RNA production was detectable ∼2 min after VP16 recruitment and readily decreased when VP16 dissociated from the cluster in the absence of light. Quantitative assessment of the activation process revealed biphasic activation kinetics with a pronounced early phase in cells treated with the histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA. Comparison with kinetic models of transcription activation suggests that the gene cluster undergoes a maturation process when activated. We anticipate that BLInCR will facilitate the study of transcription dynamics in living cells.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Propagating Wave of ERK Activation Orients Collective Cell Migration.
The biophysical framework of collective cell migration has been extensively investigated in recent years; however, it remains elusive how chemical inputs from neighboring cells are integrated to coordinate the collective movement. Here, we provide evidence that propagation waves of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinase activation determine the direction of the collective cell migration. A wound-healing assay of Mardin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells revealed two distinct types of ERK activation wave, a "tidal wave" from the wound, and a self-organized "spontaneous wave" in regions distant from the wound. In both cases, MDCK cells collectively migrated against the direction of the ERK activation wave. The inhibition of ERK activation propagation suppressed collective cell migration. An ERK activation wave spatiotemporally controlled actomyosin contraction and cell density. Furthermore, an optogenetic ERK activation wave reproduced the collective cell migration. These data provide new mechanistic insight into how cells sense the direction of collective cell migration.
Design and Profiling of a Subcellular Targeted Optogenetic cAMP-Dependent Protein Kinase.
Although the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) is ubiquitously expressed, it is sequestered at specific subcellular locations throughout the cell, thereby resulting in compartmentalized cellular signaling that triggers site-specific behavioral phenotypes. We developed a three-step engineering strategy to construct an optogenetic PKA (optoPKA) and demonstrated that, upon illumination, optoPKA migrates to specified intracellular sites. Furthermore, we designed intracellular spatially segregated reporters of PKA activity and confirmed that optoPKA phosphorylates these reporters in a light-dependent fashion. Finally, proteomics experiments reveal that light activation of optoPKA results in the phosphorylation of known endogenous PKA substrates as well as potential novel substrates.