Showing 1 - 25 of 30 results
Persistent cell migration emerges from a coupling between protrusion dynamics and polarized trafficking.
Migrating cells present a variety of paths, from random to highly directional ones. While random movement can be explained by basal intrinsic activity, persistent movement requires stable polarization. Here, we quantitatively address emergence of persistent migration in (hTERT)-immortalizedRPE1 (retinal pigment epithelial) cells over long timescales. By live cell imaging and dynamic micropatterning, we demonstrate that the Nucleus-Golgi axis aligns with direction of migration leading to efficient cell movement. We show that polarized trafficking is directed toward protrusions with a 20-min delay, and that migration becomes random after disrupting internal cell organization. Eventually, we prove that localized optogenetic Cdc42 activation orients the Nucleus-Golgi axis. Our work suggests that polarized trafficking stabilizes the protrusive activity of the cell, while protrusive activity orients this polarity axis, leading to persistent cell migration. Using a minimal physical model, we show that this feedback is sufficient to recapitulate the quantitative properties of cell migration in the timescale of hours.
A single-chain and fast-responding light-inducible Cre recombinase as a novel optogenetic switch.
Optogenetics enables genome manipulations with high spatiotemporal resolution, opening exciting possibilities for fundamental and applied biological research. Here, we report the development of LiCre, a novel light-inducible Cre recombinase. LiCre is made of a single flavin-containing protein comprising the AsLOV2 photoreceptor domain of Avena sativa fused to a Cre variant carrying destabilizing mutations in its N-terminal and C-terminal domains. LiCre can be activated within minutes of illumination with blue light, without the need of additional chemicals. When compared to existing photoactivatable Cre recombinases based on two split units, LiCre displayed faster and stronger activation by light as well as a lower residual activity in the dark. LiCre was efficient both in yeast, where it allowed us to control the production of β-carotene with light, and in human cells. Given its simplicity and performances, LiCre is particularly suited for fundamental and biomedical research, as well as for controlling industrial bioprocesses.
Physically asymmetric division of the C. elegans zygote ensures invariably successful embryogenesis.
Asymmetric divisions that yield daughter cells of different sizes are frequent during early embryogenesis, but the importance of such a physical difference for successful development remains poorly understood. Here, we investigated this question using the first division of Caenorhabditis elegans embryos, which yields a large AB cell and a small P1 cell. We equalized AB and P1 sizes using acute genetic inactivation or optogenetic manipulation of the spindle positioning protein LIN-5. We uncovered that only some embryos tolerated equalization, and that there was a size asymmetry threshold for viability. Cell lineage analysis of equalized embryos revealed an array of defects, including faster cell cycle progression in P1 descendants, as well as defects in cell positioning, division orientation, and cell fate. Moreover, equalized embryos were more susceptible to external compression. Overall, we conclude that unequal first cleavage is essential for invariably successful embryonic development of C. elegans.
Optogenetic control of PRC1 reveals its role in chromosome alignment on the spindle by overlap length-dependent forces.
During metaphase, chromosome position at the spindle equator is regulated by the forces exerted by kinetochore microtubules and polar ejection forces. However, the role of forces arising from mechanical coupling of sister kinetochore fibers with bridging fibers in chromosome alignment is unknown. Here we develop an optogenetic approach for acute removal of PRC1 to partially disassemble bridging fibers and show that they promote chromosome alignment. Tracking of the plus-end protein EB3 revealed longer antiparallel overlaps of bridging microtubules upon PRC1 removal, which was accompanied by misaligned and lagging kinetochores. Kif4A/kinesin-4 and Kif18A/kinesin-8 were found within the bridging fiber and largely lost upon PRC1 removal, suggesting that these proteins regulate the overlap length of bridging microtubules. We propose that PRC1-mediated crosslinking of bridging microtubules and recruitment of kinesins to the bridging fiber promotes chromosome alignment by overlap length-dependent forces transmitted to the associated kinetochore fibers.
Optogenetic control of gut bacterial metabolism to promote longevity.
Gut microbial metabolism is associated with host longevity. However, because it requires direct manipulation of microbial metabolism in situ, establishing a causal link between these two processes remains challenging. We demonstrate an optogenetic method to control gene expression and metabolite production from bacteria residing in the host gut. We genetically engineer an Escherichia coli strain that secretes colanic acid (CA) under the quantitative control of light. Using this optogenetically-controlled strain to induce CA production directly in the Caenorhabditis elegans gut, we reveal the local effect of CA in protecting intestinal mitochondria from stress-induced hyper-fragmentation. We also demonstrate that the lifespan-extending effect of this strain is positively correlated with the intensity of green light, indicating a dose-dependent CA benefit on the host. Thus, optogenetics can be used to achieve quantitative and temporal control of gut bacterial metabolism in order to reveal its local and systemic effects on host health and aging.
Rho1 activation recapitulates early gastrulation events in the ventral, but not dorsal, epithelium of Drosophila embryos.
Ventral furrow formation, the first step in Drosophila gastrulation, is a well-studied example of tissue morphogenesis. Rho1 is highly active in a subset of ventral cells and is required for this morphogenetic event. However, it is unclear whether spatially patterned Rho1 activity alone is sufficient to recapitulate all aspects of this morphogenetic event, including anisotropic apical constriction and coordinated cell movements. Here, using an optogenetic probe that rapidly and robustly activates Rho1 in Drosophila tissues, we show that Rho1 activity induces ectopic deformations in the dorsal and ventral epithelia of Drosophila embryos. These perturbations reveal substantial differences in how ventral and dorsal cells, both within and outside the zone of Rho1 activation, respond to spatially and temporally identical patterns of Rho1 activation. Our results demonstrate that an asymmetric zone of Rho1 activity is not sufficient to recapitulate ventral furrow formation and reveal that additional, ventral-specific factors contribute to the cell- and tissue-level behaviors that emerge during ventral furrow formation.
A versatile oblique plane microscope for large-scale and high-resolution imaging of subcellular dynamics.
We present an oblique plane microscope (OPM) that uses a bespoke glass-tipped tertiary objective to improve the resolution, field of view, and usability over previous variants. Owing to its high numerical aperture optics, this microscope achieves lateral and axial resolutions that are comparable to the square illumination mode of lattice light-sheet microscopy, but in a user friendly and versatile format. Given this performance, we demonstrate high-resolution imaging of clathrin-mediated endocytosis, vimentin, the endoplasmic reticulum, membrane dynamics, and Natural Killer-mediated cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we image biological phenomena that would be otherwise challenging or impossible to perform in a traditional light-sheet microscope geometry, including cell migration through confined spaces within a microfluidic device, subcellular photoactivation of Rac1, diffusion of cytoplasmic rheological tracers at a volumetric rate of 14 Hz, and large field of view imaging of neurons, developing embryos, and centimeter-scale tissue sections.
Optogenetic investigation of BMP target gene expression diversity.
Signaling molecules activate distinct patterns of gene expression to coordinate embryogenesis, but how spatiotemporal expression diversity is generated is an open question. In zebrafish, a BMP signaling gradient patterns the dorsal-ventral axis. We systematically identified target genes responding to BMP and found that they have diverse spatiotemporal expression patterns. Transcriptional responses to optogenetically delivered high- and low-amplitude BMP signaling pulses indicate that spatiotemporal expression is not fully defined by different BMP signaling activation thresholds. Additionally, we observed negligible correlations between spatiotemporal expression and transcription kinetics for the majority of analyzed genes in response to BMP signaling pulses. In contrast, spatial differences between BMP target genes largely collapsed when FGF and Nodal signaling were inhibited. Our results suggest that, similar to other patterning systems, combinatorial signaling is likely to be a major driver of spatial diversity in BMP-dependent gene expression in zebrafish.
Optimized Vivid-derived Magnets photodimerizers for subcellular optogenetics in mammalian cells.
Light-inducible dimerization protein modules enable precise temporal and spatial control of biological processes in non-invasive fashion. Among them, Magnets are small modules engineered from the Neurospora crassa photoreceptor Vivid by orthogonalizing the homodimerization interface into complementary heterodimers. Both Magnets components, which are well-tolerated as protein fusion partners, are photoreceptors requiring simultaneous photoactivation to interact, enabling high spatiotemporal confinement of dimerization with a single-excitation wavelength. However, Magnets require concatemerization for efficient responses and cell preincubation at 28oC to be functional. Here we overcome these limitations by engineering an optimized Magnets pair requiring neither concatemerization nor low temperature preincubation. We validated these 'enhanced' Magnets (eMags) by using them to rapidly and reversibly recruit proteins to subcellular organelles, to induce organelle contacts, and to reconstitute OSBP-VAP ER-Golgi tethering implicated in phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate transport and metabolism. eMags represent a very effective tool to optogenetically manipulate physiological processes over whole cells or in small subcellular volumes.
Optical control of ERK and AKT signaling promotes axon regeneration and functional recovery of PNS and CNS in Drosophila.
Neuroregeneration is a dynamic process synergizing the functional outcomes of multiple signaling circuits. Channelrhodopsin-based optogenetics shows the feasibility of stimulating neural repair but does not pin down specific signaling cascades. Here, we utilized optogenetic systems, optoRaf and optoAKT, to delineate the contribution of the ERK and AKT signaling pathways to neuroregeneration in live Drosophila larvae. We showed that optoRaf or optoAKT activation not only enhanced axon regeneration in both regeneration-competent and -incompetent sensory neurons in the peripheral nervous system but also allowed temporal tuning and proper guidance of axon regrowth. Furthermore, optoRaf and optoAKT differ in their signaling kinetics during regeneration, showing a gated versus graded response, respectively. Importantly in the central nervous system, their activation promotes axon regrowth and functional recovery of the thermonociceptive behavior. We conclude that non-neuronal optogenetics target damaged neurons and signaling subcircuits, providing a novel strategy in the intervention of neural damage with improved precision.
Light-Regulated allosteric switch enables temporal and subcellular control of enzyme activity.
Engineered allosteric regulation of protein activity provides significant advantages for the development of robust and broadly applicable tools. However, the application of allosteric switches in optogenetics has been scarce and suffers from critical limitations. Here, we report an optogenetic approach that utilizes an engineered Light-Regulated (LightR) allosteric switch module to achieve tight spatiotemporal control of enzymatic activity. Using the tyrosine kinase Src as a model, we demonstrate efficient regulation of the kinase and identify temporally distinct signaling responses ranging from seconds to minutes. LightR-Src off-kinetics can be tuned by modulating the LightR photoconversion cycle. A fast cycling variant enables the stimulation of transient pulses and local regulation of activity in a selected region of a cell. The design of the LightR module ensures broad applicability of the tool, as we demonstrate by achieving light-mediated regulation of Abl and bRaf kinases as well as Cre recombinase.
Optogenetic activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins by LOV2GIVe, a rationally engineered modular protein.
Heterotrimeric G-proteins are signal transducers involved in mediating the action of many natural extracellular stimuli as well as of many therapeutic agents. Non-invasive approaches to manipulate the activity of G-proteins with high precision are crucial to understand their regulation in space and time. Here, we developed LOV2GIVe, an engineered modular protein that allows the activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins with blue light. This optogenetic construct relies on a versatile design that differs from tools previously developed for similar purposes, i.e. metazoan opsins, which are light-activated GPCRs. Instead, LOV2GIVe consists of the fusion of a G-protein activating peptide derived from a non-GPCR regulator of G-proteins to a small plant protein domain, such that light uncages the G-protein activating module. Targeting LOV2GIVe to cell membranes allowed for light-dependent activation of Gi proteins in different experimental systems. In summary, LOV2GIVe expands the armamentarium and versatility of tools available to manipulate heterotrimeric G-protein activity.
Heterogeneous somatostatin-expressing neuron population in mouse ventral tegmental area.
The cellular architecture of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the main hub of the brain reward system, remains only partially characterized. To extend the characterization to inhibitory neurons, we have identified three distinct subtypes of somatostatin (Sst)-expressing neurons in the mouse VTA. These neurons differ in their electrophysiological and morphological properties, anatomical localization, as well as mRNA expression profiles. Importantly, similar to cortical Sst-containing interneurons, most VTA Sst neurons express GABAergic inhibitory markers, but some of them also express glutamatergic excitatory markers and a subpopulation even express dopaminergic markers. Furthermore, only some of the proposed marker genes for cortical Sst neurons were expressed in the VTA Sst neurons. Physiologically, one of the VTA Sst neuron subtypes locally inhibited neighboring dopamine neurons. Overall, our results demonstrate the remarkable complexity and heterogeneity of VTA Sst neurons and suggest that these cells are multifunctional players in the midbrain reward circuitry.
Nanobody-directed targeting of optogenetic tools to study signaling in the primary cilium.
Compartmentalization of cellular signaling forms the molecular basis of cellular behavior. The primary cilium constitutes a subcellular compartment that orchestrates signal transduction independent from the cell body. Ciliary dysfunction causes severe diseases, termed ciliopathies. Analyzing ciliary signaling has been challenging due to the lack of tools investigate ciliary signaling. Here, we describe a nanobody-based targeting approach for optogenetic tools in mammalian cells and in vivo in zebrafish to specifically analyze ciliary signaling and function. Thereby, we overcome the loss of protein function observed after fusion to ciliary targeting sequences. We functionally localized modifiers of cAMP signaling, the photo-activated adenylate cyclase bPAC and the light-activated phosphodiesterase LAPD, and the cAMP biosensor mlCNBD-FRET to the cilium. Using this approach, we studied the contribution of spatial cAMP signaling in controlling cilia length. Combining optogenetics with nanobody-based targeting will pave the way to the molecular understanding of ciliary function in health and disease.
Optogenetic control of excitatory post-synaptic differentiation through neuroligin-1 tyrosine phosphorylation.
Neuroligins (Nlgns) are adhesion proteins mediating trans-synaptic contacts in neurons. However, conflicting results around their role in synaptic differentiation arise from the various techniques used to manipulate Nlgn expression level. Orthogonally to these approaches, we triggered here the phosphorylation of endogenous Nlgn1 in CA1 mouse hippocampal neurons using a photoactivatable tyrosine kinase receptor (optoFGFR1). Light stimulation for 24 hr selectively increased dendritic spine density and AMPA-receptor-mediated EPSCs in wild-type neurons, but not in Nlgn1 knock-out neurons or when endogenous Nlgn1 was replaced by a non-phosphorylatable mutant (Y782F). Moreover, light stimulation of optoFGFR1 partially occluded LTP in a Nlgn1-dependent manner. Combined with computer simulations, our data support a model by which Nlgn1 tyrosine phosphorylation promotes the assembly of an excitatory post-synaptic scaffold that captures surface AMPA receptors. This optogenetic strategy highlights the impact of Nlgn1 intracellular signaling in synaptic differentiation and potentiation, while enabling an acute control of these mechanisms.
Application of optogenetic Amyloid-β distinguishes between metabolic and physical damage in neurodegeneration.
The brains of Alzheimer's Disease patients show a decrease in brain mass and a preponderance of extracellular Amyloid-β plaques. These plaques are formed by aggregation of polypeptides that are derived from the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP). Amyloid-β plaques are thought to play either a direct or an indirect role in disease progression, however the exact role of aggregation and plaque formation in the aetiology of Alzheimer's Disease is subject to debate as the biological effects of soluble and aggregated Amyloid-β peptides are difficult to separate in vivo. To investigate the consequences of formation of Amyloid-β oligomers in living tissues, we developed a fluorescently tagged, optogenetic Amyloid-β peptide that oligomerizes rapidly in the presence of blue light. We applied this system to the crucial question of how intracellular Amyloid-β oligomers underlie the pathologies of Alzheimer's Disease. We use Drosophila, C. elegans and D. rerio to show that, although both expression and induced oligomerization of Amyloid-β were detrimental to lifespan and healthspan, we were able to separate the metabolic and physical damage caused by light-induced Amyloid-β oligomerization from Amyloid-β expression alone. The physical damage caused by Amyloid-β oligomers also recapitulated the catastrophic tissue loss that is a hallmark of late AD. We show that the lifespan deficit induced by Amyloid-β oligomers was reduced with Li+ treatment. Our results present the first model to separate different aspects of disease progression.
Optogenetic control shows that kinetic proofreading regulates the activity of the T cell receptor.
The immune system distinguishes between self and foreign antigens. The kinetic proofreading (KPR) model proposes that T cells discriminate self from foreign ligands by the different ligand binding half-lives to the T cell receptor (TCR). It is challenging to test KPR as the available experimental systems fall short of only altering the binding half-lives and keeping other parameters of the interaction unchanged. We engineered an optogenetic system using the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B (PhyB) as a ligand to selectively control the dynamics of ligand binding to the TCR by light. This opto-ligand-TCR system was combined with the unique property of PhyB to continuously cycle between the binding and non-binding states under red light, with the light intensity determining the cycling rate and thus the binding duration. Mathematical modeling of our experimental datasets showed that indeed the ligand-TCR interaction half-life is the decisive factor for activating downstream TCR signaling, substantiating KPR.
Light-based tuning of ligand half-life supports kinetic proofreading model of T cell signaling.
T cells are thought to discriminate self from foreign peptides by converting small differences in ligand binding half-life into large changes in cell signaling. Such a kinetic proofreading model has been difficult to test directly, as existing methods of altering ligand binding half-life also change other potentially important biophysical parameters, most notably the mechanical stability of the receptor-ligand interaction. Here we develop an optogenetic approach to specifically tune the binding half-life of a chimeric antigen receptor without changing other binding parameters and provide direct evidence of kinetic proofreading in T cell signaling. This half-life discrimination is executed in the proximal signaling pathway, downstream of ZAP70 recruitment and upstream of diacylglycerol accumulation. Our methods represent a general tool for temporal and spatial control of T cell signaling and extend the reach of optogenetics to probe pathways where the individual molecular kinetics, rather than the ensemble average, gates downstream signaling.
Luciferase-LOV BRET enables versatile and specific transcriptional readout of cellular protein-protein interactions.
Technologies that convert transient protein-protein interactions (PPIs) into stable expression of a reporter gene are useful for genetic selections, high-throughput screening, and multiplexing with omics technologies. We previously reported SPARK (Kim et al., 2017), a transcription factor that is activated by the coincidence of blue light and a PPI. Here, we report an improved, second-generation SPARK2 that incorporates a luciferase moiety to control the light-sensitive LOV domain. SPARK2 can be temporally gated by either external light or addition of a small-molecule luciferin, which causes luciferase to open LOV via proximity-dependent BRET. Furthermore, the nested 'AND' gate design of SPARK2-in which both protease recruitment to the membrane-anchored transcription factor and LOV domain opening are regulated by the PPI of interest-yields a lower-background system and improved PPI specificity. We apply SPARK2 to high-throughput screening for GPCR agonists and for the detection of trans-cellular contacts, all with versatile transcriptional readout.
Chronic optogenetic induction of stress granules is cytotoxic and reveals the evolution of ALS-FTD pathology.
Stress granules (SGs) are non-membrane-bound RNA-protein granules that assemble through phase separation in response to cellular stress. Disturbances in SG dynamics have been implicated as a primary driver of neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), suggesting the hypothesis that these diseases reflect an underlying disturbance in the dynamics and material properties of SGs. However, this concept has remained largely untestable in available models of SG assembly, which require the confounding variable of exogenous stressors. Here we introduce a light-inducible SG system, termed OptoGranules, based on optogenetic multimerization of G3BP1, which is an essential scaffold protein for SG assembly. In this system, which permits experimental control of SGs in living cells in the absence of exogenous stressors, we demonstrate that persistent or repetitive assembly of SGs is cytotoxic and is accompanied by the evolution of SGs to cytoplasmic inclusions that recapitulate the pathology of ALS-FTD.
RalB directly triggers invasion downstream Ras by mobilizing the Wave complex.
The two Ral GTPases, RalA and RalB, have crucial roles downstream Ras oncoproteins in human cancers; in particular, RalB is involved in invasion and metastasis. However, therapies targeting Ral signalling are not available yet. By a novel optogenetic approach, we found that light-controlled activation of Ral at plasma-membrane promotes the recruitment of the Wave Regulatory Complex (WRC) via its effector exocyst, with consequent induction of protrusions and invasion. We show that active Ras signals to RalB via two RalGEFs (Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors), RGL1 and RGL2, to foster invasiveness; RalB contribution appears to be more important than that of MAPK and PI3K pathways. Moreover, on the clinical side, we uncovered a potential role of RalB in human breast cancers by determining that RalB expression at protein level increases in a manner consistent with progression toward metastasis. This work highlights the Ras-RGL1/2-RalB-exocyst-WRC axis as appealing target for novel anti-cancer strategies.
Functionally asymmetric motor neurons contribute to coordinating locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Locomotion circuits developed in simple animals, and circuit motifs further evolved in higher animals. To understand locomotion circuit motifs, they must be characterized in many models. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses one of the best-studied circuits for undulatory movement. Yet, for 1/6th of the cholinergic motor neurons (MNs), the AS MNs, functional information is unavailable. Ventral nerve cord (VNC) MNs coordinate undulations, in small circuits of complementary neurons innervating opposing muscles. AS MNs differ, as they innervate muscles and other MNs asymmetrically, without complementary partners. We characterized AS MNs by optogenetic, behavioral and imaging analyses. They generate asymmetric muscle activation, enabling navigation, and contribute to coordination of dorso-ventral undulation as well as anterio-posterior bending wave propagation. AS MN activity correlated with forward and backward locomotion, and they functionally connect to premotor interneurons (PINs) for both locomotion regimes. Electrical feedback from AS MNs via gap junctions may affect only backward PINs.
Optogenetic dissection of mitotic spindle positioning in vivo.
The position of the mitotic spindle determines the plane of cell cleavage, and thereby daughter cell location, size, and content. Spindle positioning is driven by dynein-mediated pulling forces exerted on astral microtubules, which requires an evolutionarily conserved complex of Gα-GDP, GPR-1/2Pins/LGN, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA proteins. To examine individual functions of the complex components, we developed a genetic strategy for light-controlled localization of endogenous proteins in C. elegans embryos. By replacing Gα and GPR-1/2 with a light-inducible membrane anchor, we demonstrate that Gα-GDP, Gα-GTP, and GPR-1/2 are not required for pulling-force generation. In the absence of Gα and GPR-1/2, cortical recruitment of LIN-5, but not dynein itself, induced high pulling forces. The light-controlled localization of LIN-5 overruled normal cell-cycle and polarity regulation and provided experimental control over the spindle and cell-cleavage plane. Our results define Gα∙GDP-GPR-1/2 Pins/LGN as a regulatable membrane anchor, and LIN-5Mud/NuMA as a potent activator of dynein-dependent spindle-positioning forces.
Shining light on spindle positioning.
Optogenetic approaches are leading to a better understanding of the forces that determine the plane of cell division.
Dynein-Dynactin-NuMA clusters generate cortical spindle-pulling forces as a multi-arm ensemble.
To position the mitotic spindle within the cell, dynamic plus ends of astral microtubules are pulled by membrane-associated cortical force-generating machinery. However, in contrast to the chromosome-bound kinetochore structure, how the diffusion-prone cortical machinery is organized to generate large spindle-pulling forces remains poorly understood. Here, we develop a light-induced reconstitution system in human cells. We find that induced cortical targeting of NuMA, but not dynein, is sufficient for spindle pulling. This spindle-pulling activity requires dynein-dynactin recruitment by NuMA's N-terminal long arm, dynein-based astral microtubule gliding, and NuMA's direct microtubule-binding activities. Importantly, we demonstrate that cortical NuMA assembles specialized focal structures that cluster multiple force-generating modules to generate cooperative spindle-pulling forces. This clustering activity of NuMA is required for spindle positioning, but not for spindle-pole focusing. We propose that cortical Dynein-Dynactin-NuMA (DDN) clusters act as the core force-generating machinery that organizes a multi-arm ensemble reminiscent of the kinetochore.