Showing 1 - 9 of 9 results
Morphogenesis: Guiding Embryonic Development with Light.
Embryonic development is controlled by dynamic signaling systems that are translated into patterns of gene expression. Optogenetics has now been used to rescue genetic loss of Drosophila terminal patterning, bringing us a step closer to reconstruct morphogenesis synthetically.
Optogenetic Rescue of a Patterning Mutant.
Animal embryos are patterned by a handful of highly conserved inductive signals. Yet, in most cases, it is unknown which pattern features (i.e., spatial gradients or temporal dynamics) are required to support normal development. An ideal experiment to address this question would be to "paint" arbitrary synthetic signaling patterns on "blank canvas" embryos to dissect their requirements. Here, we demonstrate exactly this capability by combining optogenetic control of Ras/extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) signaling with the genetic loss of the receptor tyrosine-kinase-driven terminal signaling patterning in early Drosophila embryos. Blue-light illumination at the embryonic termini for 90 min was sufficient to rescue normal development, generating viable larvae and fertile adults from an otherwise lethal terminal signaling mutant. Optogenetic rescue was possible even using a simple, all-or-none light input that reduced the gradient of Erk activity and eliminated spatiotemporal differences in terminal gap gene expression. Systematically varying illumination parameters further revealed that at least three distinct developmental programs are triggered at different signaling thresholds and that the morphogenetic movements of gastrulation are robust to a 3-fold variation in the posterior pattern width. These results open the door to controlling tissue organization with simple optical stimuli, providing new tools to probe natural developmental processes, create synthetic tissues with defined organization, or directly correct the patterning errors that underlie developmental defects.
Transient Activations of Rac1 at the Lamellipodium Tip Trigger Membrane Protrusion.
The spatiotemporal coordination of actin regulators in the lamellipodium determines the dynamics and architecture of branched F-actin networks during cell migration. The WAVE regulatory complex (WRC), an effector of Rac1 during cell protrusion, is concentrated at the lamellipodium tip. Thus, activated Rac1 should operate at this location to activate WRC and trigger membrane protrusion. Yet correlation of Rho GTPase activation with cycles of membrane protrusion previously revealed complex spatiotemporal patterns of Rac1 and RhoA activation in the lamellipodium. Combining single protein tracking (SPT) and super-resolution imaging with loss- or gain-of-function mutants of Rho GTPases, we show that Rac1 immobilizations at the lamellipodium tip correlate with its activation, in contrast to RhoA. Using Rac1 effector loop mutants and wild-type versus mutant variants of WRC, we show that selective immobilizations of activated Rac1 at the lamellipodium tip depend on effector binding, including WRC. In contrast, wild-type Rac1 only displays slower diffusion at the lamellipodium tip, suggesting transient activations. Local optogenetic activation of Rac1, triggered by membrane recruitment of Tiam1, shows that Rac1 activation must occur close to the lamellipodium tip and not behind the lamellipodium to trigger efficient membrane protrusion. However, coupling tracking with optogenetic activation of Rac1 demonstrates that diffusive properties of wild-type Rac1 are unchanged despite enhanced lamellipodium protrusion. Taken together, our results support a model whereby transient activations of Rac1 occurring close to the lamellipodium tip trigger WRC binding. This short-lived activation ensures a local and rapid control of Rac1 actions on its effectors to trigger actin-based protrusion.
Mitotic Spindle: Illuminating Spindle Positioning with a Biological Lightsaber.
In metazoans, positioning of the mitotic spindle is controlled by the microtubule-dependent motor protein dynein, which associates with the cell cortex. Using optogenetic tools, two new studies examine how the levels and activity of dynein are regulated at the cortex to ensure proper positioning of the mitotic spindle.
Fast cAMP Modulation of Neurotransmission via Neuropeptide Signals and Vesicle Loading.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling augments synaptic transmission, but because many targets of cAMP and protein kinase A (PKA) may be involved, mechanisms underlying this pathway remain unclear. To probe this mechanism, we used optogenetic stimulation of cAMP signaling by Beggiatoa-photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) in Caenorhabditis elegans motor neurons. Behavioral, electron microscopy (EM), and electrophysiology analyses revealed cAMP effects on both the rate and on quantal size of transmitter release and led to the identification of a neuropeptidergic pathway affecting quantal size. cAMP enhanced synaptic vesicle (SV) fusion by increasing mobilization and docking/priming. cAMP further evoked dense core vesicle (DCV) release of neuropeptides, in contrast to channelrhodopsin (ChR2) stimulation. cAMP-evoked DCV release required UNC-31/Ca(2+)-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS). Thus, DCVs accumulated in unc-31 mutant synapses. bPAC-induced neuropeptide signaling acts presynaptically to enhance vAChT-dependent SV loading with acetylcholine, thus causing increased miniature postsynaptic current amplitudes (mPSCs) and significantly enlarged SVs.
Light-controlled intracellular transport in Caenorhabditis elegans.
To establish and maintain their complex morphology and function, neurons and other polarized cells exploit cytoskeletal motor proteins to distribute cargoes to specific compartments. Recent studies in cultured cells have used inducible motor protein recruitment to explore how different motors contribute to polarized transport and to control the subcellular positioning of organelles. Such approaches also seem promising avenues for studying motor activity and organelle positioning within more complex cellular assemblies, but their applicability to multicellular in vivo systems has so far remained unexplored. Here, we report the development of an optogenetic organelle transport strategy in the in vivo model system Caenorhabditis elegans. We demonstrate that movement and pausing of various organelles can be achieved by recruiting the proper cytoskeletal motor protein with light. In neurons, we find that kinesin and dynein exclusively target the axon and dendrite, respectively, revealing the basic principles for polarized transport. In vivo control of motor attachment and organelle distributions will be widely useful in exploring the mechanisms that govern the dynamic morphogenesis of cells and tissues, within the context of a developing animal.
A photosensitive degron enables acute light-induced protein degradation in the nervous system.
Acutely inducing degradation enables studying the function of essential proteins. Available techniques target proteins post-translationally, via ubiquitin or by fusing destabilizing domains (degrons), and in some cases degradation is controllable by small molecules. Yet, they are comparably slow, possibly inducing compensatory changes, and do not allow localized protein depletion. The photosensitizer miniature singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG), fused to proteins of interest, provides fast light-induced protein destruction, e.g. affecting neurotransmission within minutes, but the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated also affect proteins nearby, causing multifaceted phenotypes. A photosensitive degron (psd), recently developed and characterized in yeast, only targets the protein it is fused to, acting quickly as it is ubiquitin-independent, and the B-LID light-inducible degron was similarly shown to affect protein abundance in zebrafish. We implemented the psd in Caenorhabditis elegans and compared it to miniSOG. The psd effectively caused protein degradation within one hour of low intensity blue light (30 μW/mm(2)). Targeting synaptotagmin (SNT-1::tagRFP::psd), required for efficient neurotransmission, reduced locomotion within 15 minutes of illumination and within one hour behavior and miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) were affected almost to the same degree seen in snt-1 mutants. Thus, psd effectively photo-degrades specific proteins, quickly inducing loss-of-function effects without affecting bystander proteins.
A rhodopsin-guanylyl cyclase gene fusion functions in visual perception in a fungus.
Sensing light is the fundamental property of visual systems, with vision in animals being based almost exclusively on opsin photopigments . Rhodopsin also acts as a photoreceptor linked to phototaxis in green algae [2, 3] and has been implicated by chemical means as a light sensor in the flagellated swimming zoospores of the fungus Allomyces reticulatus ; however, the signaling mechanism in these fungi remains unknown. Here we use a combination of genome sequencing and molecular inhibition experiments with light-sensing phenotype studies to examine the signaling pathway involved in visual perception in the closely related fungus Blastocladiella emersonii. Our data show that in these fungi, light perception is accomplished by the function of a novel gene fusion (BeGC1) of a type I (microbial) rhodopsin domain and guanylyl cyclase catalytic domain. Photobleaching of rhodopsin function prevents accumulation of cGMP levels and phototaxis of fungal zoospores exposed to green light, whereas inhibition of guanylyl cyclase activity negatively affects fungal phototaxis. Immunofluorescence microscopy localizes the BeGC1 protein to the external surface of the zoospore eyespot positioned close to the base of the swimming flagellum [4, 5], demonstrating this is a photoreceptive organelle composed of lipid droplets. Taken together, these data indicate that Blastocladiomycota fungi have a cGMP signaling pathway involved in phototaxis similar to the vertebrate vision-signaling cascade but composed of protein domain components arranged as a novel gene fusion architecture and of distant evolutionary ancestry to type II rhodopsins of animals.
Multiple phytochrome-interacting bHLH transcription factors repress premature seedling photomorphogenesis in darkness.
An important contributing factor to the success of terrestrial flowering plants in colonizing the land was the evolution of a developmental strategy, termed skotomorphogenesis, whereby postgerminative seedlings emerging from buried seed grow vigorously upward in the subterranean darkness toward the soil surface.