Showing 1 - 25 of 34 results
Rapid Optogenetic Clustering in the Cytoplasm with BcLOVclust.
Protein clustering is a powerful form of optogenetic control, yet remarkably few proteins are known to oligomerize with light. Recently, the photoreceptor BcLOV4 was found to form protein clusters in mammalian cells in response to blue light, although clustering coincided with its translocation to the plasma membrane, potentially constraining its application as an optogenetic clustering module. Herein we identify key amino acids that couple BcLOV4 clustering to membrane binding, allowing us to engineer a variant that clusters in the cytoplasm and does not associate with the membrane in response to blue light. This variant-called BcLOVclust-clustered over many cycles with substantially faster clustering and de-clustering kinetics compared to the widely used optogenetic clustering protein Cry2. The magnitude of clustering could be strengthened by appending an intrinsically disordered region from the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein, or by selecting the appropriate fluorescent protein to which it was fused. Like wt BcLOV4, BcLOVclust activity was sensitive to temperature: light-induced clusters spontaneously dissolved at a rate that increased with temperature despite constant illumination. At low temperatures, BcLOVclust and Cry2 could be multiplexed in the same cells, allowing light control of independent protein condensates. BcLOVclust could also be applied to control signaling proteins and stress granules in mammalian cells. While its usage is currently best suited in cells and organisms that can be cultured below ∼30 °C, a deeper understanding of BcLOVclust thermal response will further enable its use at physiological mammalian temperatures.
Crucial Residue for Tuning Thermal Relaxation Kinetics in the Biliverdin-binding Cyanobacteriochrome Photoreceptor Revealed by Site-saturation Mutagenesis.
Cyanobacteriochromes (CBCRs) are cyanobacterial photoreceptors distantly related to the phytochromes sensing red and far-red light reversibly. Only the cGMP phosphodiesterase/Adenylate cyclase/FhlA (GAF) domain is needed for chromophore incorporation and proper photoconversion. The CBCR GAF domains covalently ligate linear tetrapyrrole chromophores and show reversible photoconversion between two light-absorbing states. In most cases, the two light-absorbing states are stable under dark conditions, but in some cases, the photoproduct state undergoes thermal relaxation back to the dark-adapted state during thermal relaxation. In this study, we examined the engineered CBCR GAF domain, AnPixJg2_BV4. AnPixJg2_BV4 covalently binds biliverdin IX-alpha (BV) and shows reversible photoconversion between a far-red-absorbing Pfr dark-adapted state and an orange-absorbing Po photoproduct state. Because the BV is an intrinsic chromophore of mammalian cells and absorbs far-red light penetrating into deep tissues, BV-binding CBCR molecules are useful for the development of optogenetic and bioimaging tools used in mammals. To obtain a better developmental platform molecule, we performed site-saturation random mutagenesis on the Phe319 position. We succeeded in obtaining variant molecules with higher chromophore-binding efficiency and higher molar extinction coefficient. Furthermore, we observed a wide variation in thermal relaxation kinetics, with an 81-fold difference between the slowest and fastest rates. Both molecules with relatively slow and fast thermal relaxation would be advantageous for optogenetic control.
Near-Infrared Optogenetic Module for Conditional Protein Splicing.
Optogenetics has emerged as a powerful tool for spatiotemporal control of biological processes. Near-infrared (NIR) light, with its low phototoxicity and deep tissue penetration, holds particular promise. However, the optogenetic control of polypeptide bond formation has not yet been developed. In this study, we introduce a NIR optogenetic module for conditional protein splicing (CPS) based on the gp41-1 intein. We optimized the module to minimize background signals in the darkness and to maximize the contrast between light and dark conditions. Next, we engineered a NIR CPS gene expression system based on the protein ligation of a transcription factor. We applied the NIR CPS for light-triggered protein cleavage to activate gasdermin D, a pore-forming protein that induces pyroptotic cell death. Our NIR CPS optogenetic module represents a promising tool for controlling molecular processes through covalent protein linkage and cleavage.
Light-Oxygen-Voltage (LOV)-sensing Domains: Activation Mechanism and Optogenetic Stimulation.
The light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domains of phototropins emerged as essential constituents of light-sensitive proteins, helping initiate blue light-triggered responses. Moreover, these domains have been identified across all kingdoms of life. LOV domains utilize flavin nucleotides as co-factors and undergo structural rearrangements upon exposure to blue light, which activates an effector domain that executes the final output of the photoreaction. LOV domains are versatile photoreceptors that play critical roles in cellular signaling and environmental adaptation; additionally, they can noninvasively sense and control intracellular processes with high spatiotemporal precision, making them ideal candidates for use in optogenetics, where a light signal is linked to a cellular process through a photoreceptor. The ongoing development of LOV-based optogenetic tools, driven by advances in structural biology, spectroscopy, computational methods, and synthetic biology, has the potential to revolutionize the study of biological systems and enable the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
Single Amino Acid Mutation Decouples Photochemistry of the BLUF Domain from the Enzymatic Function of OaPAC and Drives the Enzyme to a Switched-on State.
Photoactivated adenylate cyclases (PACs) are light-activated enzymes that combine a BLUF (blue-light using flavin) domain and an adenylate cyclase domain that are able to increase the levels of the important second messenger cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) upon blue-light excitation. The light-induced changes in the BLUF domain are transduced to the adenylate cyclase domain via a mechanism that has not yet been established. One critical residue in the photoactivation mechanism of BLUF domains, present in the vicinity of the flavin is the glutamine amino acid close to the N5 of the flavin. The role of this residue has been investigated extensively both experimentally and theoretically. However, its role in the activity of the photoactivated adenylate cyclase, OaPAC has never been addressed. In this work, we applied ultrafast transient visible and infrared spectroscopies to study the photochemistry of the Q48E OaPAC mutant. This mutation altered the primary electron transfer process and switched the enzyme into a permanent 'on' state, able to increase the cAMP levels under dark conditions compared to the cAMP levels of the dark-adapted state of the wild-type OaPAC. Differential scanning calorimetry measurements point to a less compact structure for the Q48E OaPAC mutant. The ensemble of these findings provide insight into the important elements in PACs and how their fine tuning may help in the design of optogenetic devices.
Engineered Allosteric Regulation of Protein Function.
Allosteric regulation of proteins has been utilized to study various aspects of cell signaling, from unicellular events to organism-wide phenotypes. However, traditional methods of allosteric regulation, such as constitutively active mutants and inhibitors, lack tight spatiotemporal control. This often leads to unintended signaling consequences that interfere with data interpretation. To overcome these obstacles, researchers employed protein engineering approaches that enable tight control of protein function through allosteric mechanisms. These methods provide high specificity as well as spatial and temporal precision in regulation of protein activity in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we focus on the recent advancements in engineered allosteric regulation and discuss the various bioengineered allosteric techniques available now, from chimeric GPCRs to chemogenetic and optogenetic switches. We highlight the benefits and pitfalls of each of these techniques as well as areas in which future improvements can be made. Additionally, we provide a brief discussion on implementation of engineered allosteric regulation approaches, demonstrating that these tools can shed light on elusive biological events and have the potential to be utilized in precision medicine.
A Light-Oxygen-Voltage Receptor Integrates Light and Temperature.
Sensory photoreceptors enable organisms to adjust their physiology, behavior, and development in response to light, generally with spatiotemporal acuity and reversibility. These traits underlie the use of photoreceptors as genetically encoded actuators to alter by light the state and properties of heterologous organisms. Subsumed as optogenetics, pertinent approaches enable regulating diverse cellular processes, not least gene expression. Here, we controlled the widely used Tet repressor by coupling to light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) modules that either homodimerize or dissociate under blue light. Repression could thus be elevated or relieved, and consequently protein expression was modulated by light. Strikingly, the homodimeric RsLOV module from Rhodobacter sphaeroides not only dissociated under light but intrinsically reacted to temperature. The limited light responses of wild-type RsLOV at 37 °C were enhanced in two variants that exhibited closely similar photochemistry and structure. One variant improved the weak homodimerization affinity of 40 µM by two-fold and thus also bestowed light sensitivity on a receptor tyrosine kinase. Certain photoreceptors, exemplified by RsLOV, can evidently moonlight as temperature sensors which immediately bears on their application in optogenetics and biotechnology. Properly accounted for, the temperature sensitivity can be leveraged for the construction of signal-responsive cellular circuits.
Optogenetic Control of the Canonical Wnt Signaling Pathway During Xenopus laevis Embryonic Development.
Optogenetics uses light-inducible protein-protein interactions to precisely control the timing, localization, and intensity of signaling activity. The precise spatial and temporal resolution of this emerging technology has proven extremely attractive to the study of embryonic development, a program faithfully replicated to form the same organism from a single cell. We have previously performed a comparative study for optogenetic activation of receptor tyrosine kinases, where we found that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation-based optogenetic systems outperform the membrane-anchored dimerization systems in activating the receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in live Xenopus embryos. Here, we determine if this engineering strategy can be generalized to other signaling pathways involving membrane-bound receptors. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation of the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-6 (LRP6), a membrane-bound coreceptor for the canonical Wnt pathway, triggers Wnt activity. Optogenetic activation of LRP6 leads to axis duplication in developing Xenopus embryos, indicating that the cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation of the membrane-bound receptor could be a generalizable strategy for the construction of optogenetic systems.
Designer Condensates: A Toolkit for the Biomolecular Architect.
Protein phase separation has emerged as a novel paradigm to explain the biogenesis of membraneless organelles and other so-called biomolecular condensates. While the implication of this physical phenomenon within cell biology is providing us with novel ways for understanding how cells compartmentalize biochemical reactions and encode function in such liquid-like assemblies, the newfound appreciation of this process also provides immense opportunities for designing and sculpting biological matter. Here, we propose that understanding the cell's instruction manual of phase separation will enable bioengineers to begin creating novel functionalized biological materials and unprecedented tools for synthetic biology. We present FASE as the synthesis of the existing sticker-spacer framework, which explains the physical driving forces underlying phase separation, with quintessential principles of Scandinavian design. FASE serves both as a designer condensates catalogue and construction manual for the aspiring (membraneless) biomolecular architect. Our approach aims to inspire a new generation of bioengineers to rethink phase separation as an opportunity for creating reactive biomaterials with unconventional properties and to encode novel biological function in living systems. Although still in its infancy, several studies highlight how designer condensates have immediate and widespread potential applications in industry and medicine.
Syntaxin Clustering and Optogenetic Control for Synaptic Membrane Fusion.
Membrane fusion during synaptic transmission mediates the trafficking of chemical signals and neuronal communication. The fast kinetics of membrane fusion on the order of millisecond is precisely regulated by the assembly of SNAREs and accessory proteins. It is believed that the formation of the SNARE complex is a key step during membrane fusion. Little is known, however, about the molecular machinery that mediates the formation of a large pre-fusion complex, including multiple SNAREs and accessory proteins. Syntaxin, a transmembrane protein on the plasma membrane, has been observed to undergo oligomerization to form clusters. Whether this clustering plays a critical role in membrane fusion is poorly understood in live cells. Optogenetics is an emerging biotechnology armed with the capacity to precisely modulate protein-protein interaction in time and space. Here, we propose an experimental scheme that combines optogenetics with single-vesicle membrane fusion, aiming to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which the syntaxin cluster regulates membrane fusion. We envision that newly developed optogenetic tools could facilitate the mechanistic understanding of synaptic transmission in live cells and animals.
Early But Not Delayed Optogenetic RAF Activation Promotes Astrocytogenesis in Mouse Neural Progenitors.
The RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway promotes gliogenesis but the kinetic role of RAF1, a key RAF kinase, in the induction of astrocytogenesis remains to be elucidated. To address this challenge, we determine the temporal functional outcome of RAF1 during mouse neural progenitor cell differentiation using an optogenetic RAF1 system (OptoRAF1). OptoRAF1 allows for reversible activation of the RAF/MEK/ERK pathway via plasma membrane recruitment of RAF1 based on blue light-sensitive protein dimerizer CRY2/CIB1. We found that early light-induced OptoRAF1 activation in neural progenitor cells promotes cell proliferation and increased expression of glial markers and glia-enriched genes. However, delayed OptoRAF1 activation in differentiated neural progenitor had little effect on glia marker expression, suggesting that RAF1 is required to promote astrocytogenesis only within a short time window. In addition, activation of OptoRAF1 did not have a significant effect on neurogenesis, but was able to promote neuronal neurite growth.
Dual Function of PI(4,5)P2 in Insulin-Regulated Exocytic Trafficking of GLUT4 in Adipocytes.
Phosphoinositides are important signaling molecules involved in the regulation of vesicular trafficking. It has been implicated that phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate [PI(4,5)P2] is involved in insulin-regulated GLUT4 translocation in adipocytes. However, it remains unclear where and how PI(4,5)P2 regulates discrete steps of GLUT4 vesicle translocation in adipocytes, especially on the exocytic arm of regulation. Here, we employed optogenetic tools to acutely control the PI(4,5)P2 metabolism in living cells. By combination of TIRFM imaging, we were able to monitor the temporal-spatial-dependent PI(4,5)P2 regulation on discrete steps of GLUT4 translocation in adipocytes. We found that the plasma membrane localized PI(4,5)P2 is crucial for proper insulin signaling propagation and for insulin-stimulated GLUT4 vesicle translocation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Global depletion of PI(4,5)P2 on the cell surface blunted insulin-stimulated Akt phosphorylation and abolished insulin effects in promotion of the docking and fusion of GLUT4 vesicle with the plasma membrane. Furthermore, by development of a novel optogenetic module to selectively modulate PI(4,5)P2 levels on the GLUT4 vesicle docking site, we identified an important regulatory role of PI(4,5)P2 in controlling of vesicle docking process. Local depletion of PI(4,5)P2 at the vesicle docking site promoted GLUT4 vesicle undocking, diminished insulin-stimulated GLUT4 vesicle docking and fusion, but without perturbation of insulin signaling propagation in adipocytes. Our results provide strong evidence that cell surface PI(4,5)P2 plays two distinct functions on regulation of the exocytic trafficking of GLUT4 in adipocytes. PI(4,5)P2 not only regulates the proper activation of insulin signaling in general but also controls GLUT4 vesicle docking process at the vesicle-membrane contact sites.
The Association Kinetics Encode the Light Dependence of Arabidopsis Phytochrome B Interactions.
Plant phytochromes enable vital adaptations to red and far-red light. At the molecular level, these responses are mediated by light-regulated interactions between phytochromes and partner proteins, foremost the phytochrome-interacting factors (PIF). Although known for decades, quantitative analyses of these interactions have long been sparse. To address this deficit, we here studied by an integrated fluorescence-spectroscopic approach the equilibrium and kinetics of Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome B (AtPhyB) binding to a tetramerized PIF6 variant. Several readouts consistently showed the stringently light-regulated interaction to be little affected by PIF tetramerization. Analysis of the binding kinetics allowed the determination of bimolecular association and unimolecular dissociation rate constants as a function of light. Unexpectedly, the stronger affinity of AtPhyB under red light relative to far-red light is entirely due to accelerated association rather than decelerated dissociation. The association reaction under red light is highly efficient and only threefold slower than the diffusion limit. The present findings pertain equally to the analysis of signal transduction in plants and to the biotechnological application of phytochromes.
Optical Activation of TrkB Signaling.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), via activation of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), plays a critical role in neuronal proliferation, differentiation, survival, and death. Dysregulation of TrkB signaling is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Precise activation of TrkB signaling with spatial and temporal resolution is greatly desired to study the dynamic nature of TrkB signaling and its role in related diseases. Here we develop different optogenetic approaches that use light to activate TrkB signaling. Utilizing the photosensitive protein Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), the light-inducible homo-interaction of the intracellular domain of TrkB (iTrkB) in the cytosol or on the plasma membrane is able to induce the activation of downstream MAPK/ERK and PI3K/Akt signaling as well as the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells. Moreover, we prove that such strategies are generalizable to other optical homo-dimerizers by demonstrating the optical TrkB activation based on the light-oxygen-voltage domain of aureochrome 1 from Vaucheria frigida. The results open up new possibilities of many other optical platforms to activate TrkB signaling to fulfill customized needs. By comparing all the different strategies, we find that the CRY2-integrated approach to achieve light-induced cell membrane recruitment and homo-interaction of iTrkB is most efficient in activating TrkB signaling. The optogenetic strategies presented are promising tools to investigate BDNF/TrkB signaling with tight spatial and temporal control.
Construction of Light-Activated Neurotrophin Receptors Using the Improved Light-Induced Dimerizer (iLID).
Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) play crucial roles in human health, and their misregulation is implicated in disorders ranging from neurodegenerative diseases to cancers. The highly conserved mechanism of activation of RTKs makes them especially appealing candidates for control via optogenetic dimerization methods. This work offers a strategy for using the improved Light-Induced Dimer (iLID) system with a constructed tandem-dimer of its binding partner nano (tdnano) to build light-activatable versions of RTKs. In the absence of light, the iLID-RTK is cytosolic, monomeric and inactive. Under blue light, the iLID + tdnano system recruits two copies of iLID-RTK to tdnano, dimerizing and activating the RTK. We demonstrate that iLID opto-iTrkA and opto-iTrkB are capable of reproducing downstream ERK and Akt signaling only in the presence of tdnano. We further show with our opto-iTrkA that the system is compatible with multi-day and population-level activation of TrkA in PC12 cells. By leveraging genetic targeting of tdnano, we achieve RTK activation at a specific subcellular location even with whole-cell illumination, allowing us to confidently probe the impact of context on signaling outcome.
Bacterial Phytochrome as a Scaffold for Engineering of Receptor Tyrosine Kinases Controlled with Near-Infrared Light.
Optically controlled receptor tyrosine kinases (opto-RTKs) allow regulation of RTK signaling using light. Until recently, the majority of opto-RTKs were activated with blue-green light. Fusing a photosensory core module of Deinococcus radiodurans bacterial phytochrome (DrBphP-PCM) to the kinase domains of neurotrophin receptors resulted in opto-RTKs controlled with light above 650 nm. To expand this engineering approach to RTKs of other families, here we combined the DrBpP-PCM with the cytoplasmic domains of EGFR and FGFR1. The resultant Dr-EGFR and Dr-FGFR1 opto-RTKs are rapidly activated with near-infrared and inactivated with far-red light. The opto-RTKs efficiently trigger ERK1/2, PI3K/Akt, and PLCγ signaling. Absence of spectral crosstalk between the opto-RTKs and green fluorescent protein-based biosensors enables simultaneous Dr-FGFR1 activation and detection of calcium transients. Action mechanism of the DrBphP-PCM-based opto-RTKs is considered using the available RTK structures. DrBphP-PCM represents a versatile scaffold for engineering of opto-RTKs that are reversibly regulated with far-red and near-infrared light.
A Generalizable Optogenetic Strategy to Regulate Receptor Tyrosine Kinases during Vertebrate Embryonic Development.
Ligand-independent activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) allows for dissecting out the receptor-specific signaling outcomes from the pleiotropic effects of the ligands. In this regard, RTK intracellular domains (ICD) are of interest due to their ability to recapitulate signaling activity in a ligand-independent manner when fused to chemical and optical dimerizing domains. A common strategy for synthetic activation of RTKs involves membrane tethering of dimerizer-RTK ICD fusions. Depending on the intrinsic signaling capacity, however, this approach could entail undesirable baseline signaling activity in the absence of stimulus, thereby diminishing the system's sensitivity. Here, we observed toxicity in early Xenopus laevis embryos when using such a conventional optogenetic design for the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR). To surpass this challenge, we developed a cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation approach, where FGFR ICD is recruited from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane by light, followed by its subsequent activation via homo-association. This strategy results in the optical activation of FGFR with low background activity and high sensitivity, which allows for the light-mediated formation of ectopic tail-like structure in developing Xenopus laevis embryos. We further generalized this strategy by developing optogenetic platforms to control three neurotrophic tropomyosin receptor kinases, TrkA, TrkB, and TrkC. We envision that these ligand-independent optogenetic RTKs will provide useful toolsets for the delineation of signaling sub-circuits in developing vertebrate embryos.
Blue Light-Directed Cell Migration, Aggregation, and Patterning.
Bacterial motility is related to many cellular activities, such as cell migration, aggregation, and biofilm formations. The ability to control motility and direct the bacteria to certain location could be used to guide the bacteria in applications such as seeking for and killing pathogen, forming various population-level patterns, and delivering of drugs and vaccines. Currently, bacteria motility is mainly controlled by chemotaxis (prescribed chemical stimuli), which needs physical contact with the chemical inducer. This lacks the flexibility for pattern formation as it has limited spatial control. To overcome the limitations, we developed blue light-regulated synthetic genetic circuit to control bacterial directional motility, by taking the advantage that light stimulus can be delivered to cells in different patterns with precise spatial control. The circuit developed enables programmed Escherichia coli cells to increase directional motility and move away from the blue light, i.e., that negative phototaxis is utilized. This further allows the control of the cells to form aggregation with different patterns. Further, we showed that the circuit can be used to separate two different strains. The demonstrated ability of blue light-controllable gene circuits to regulate a CheZ expression could give researchers more means to control bacterial motility and pattern formation.
An Optogenetic Method to Study Signal Transduction in Intestinal StemCell Homeostasis.
Homeostasis in adult organs involves replacement of cells from a stem cell pool maintained in specialized niches regulated by extracellular signals. This cell-to-cell communication employs signal transduction pathways allowing cells to respond with a variety of behaviors. To study these cellular behaviors, signaling must be perturbed within tissues in precise patterns, a technique recently made possible by the development of optogenetic tools. We developed tools to study signal transduction in vivo in an adult fly midgut stem cell model where signaling was regulated by the application of light. Activation was achieved by clustering of membrane receptors EGFR and Toll, while inactivation was achieved by clustering the downstream activators ERK/Rolled and NFκB/Dorsal in the cytoplasm, preventing nuclear translocation and transcriptional activation. We show that both pathways contribute to stem and transit amplifying cell numbers and affect the lifespan of adult flies. We further present new approaches to overcome overexpression phenotypes and novel methods for the integration of optogenetics into the already-established genetic toolkit of Drosophila.
Yeast Two Hybrid Screening of Photo-Switchable Protein-Protein Interaction Libraries.
Although widely used in the detection and characterization of protein-protein interactions, Y2H screening has been under-used for the engineering of new optogenetic tools or the improvement of existing tools. Here we explore the feasibility of using Y2H selection and screening to evaluate libraries of photoswitchable protein-protein interactions. We targeted the interaction between circularly permuted photoactive yellow protein (cPYP) and its binding partner BoPD (binder of PYP dark state) by mutating a set of four surface residues of cPYP that contribute to the binding interface. A library of ~10,000 variants was expressed in yeast together with BoPD in a Y2H format. An initial selection for the cPYP/BoPD interaction was performed using a range of concentrations of the cPYP chromophore. As expected, the majority (>90% of cPYP variants no longer bound to BoPD). Replica plating was the used to evaluate the photoswitchability of the surviving clones. Photoswitchable cPYP variants with BoPD affinities equal to, or higher than, native cPYP were recovered in addition to variants with altered photocycles and binders that interacted with BoPD as apo-proteins. Y2H results reflected protein-protein interaction affinity, expression, photoswitchability and chromophore uptake, and correlated well with results obtained both in vitro and in mammalian cells. Thus, by systematic variation of selection parameters, Y2H screens can be effectively used to generate new optogenetic tools for controlling protein-protein interactions for use in diverse settings.
Optogenetic Control for Investigating Subcellular Localization of Fyn Kinase Activity in Single Live Cells.
Previous studies with various Src family kinase biosensors showed that the nuclear kinase activities are much suppressed compared to those in the cytosol, suggesting that these kinases are regulated differently in the nucleus and in the cytosol. In this study, using Fyn as an example, we first engineered a Fyn biosensor with a light-inducible nuclear localization signal (LINuS) to demonstrate that the Fyn kinase activity is significantly lower in the nucleus than in the cytosol. To understand how different equilibrium states between Fyn and the corresponding phosphatases are maintained in the cytosol and nucleus, we further engineered a Fyn kinase domain with LINuS. The results revealed that the Fyn kinase can be actively transported into the nucleus upon light activation and upregulate the biosensor signals in the nucleus. Our results suggest that there is limited transport or diffusion of Fyn kinase between the cytosol and nucleus in the cells, which is important for the maintenance of different equilibrium states of Fyn in situ.
An optogenetic tool for induced protein stabilization based on the Phaeodactylum tricornutum aureochrome 1a LOV domain.
Control of cellular events by optogenetic tools is a powerful approach to manipulate cellular functions in a minimally invasive manner. A common problem posed by the application of optogenetic tools is to tune the activity range to be physiologically relevant. Here, we characterized a photoreceptor of the light-oxygen-voltage domain family of Phaeodactylum tricornutum aureochrome 1a (AuLOV) as a tool for increasing protein stability under blue light conditions in budding yeast. Structural studies of AuLOVwt, the variants AuLOVM254 and AuLOVW349 revealed alternative dimer association modes for the dark state, which differ from previously reported AuLOV dark state structures. Rational design of AuLOV-dimer interface mutations resulted in an optimized optogenetic tool that we fused to the photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase from Beggiatoa sp.. This synergistic light-regulation approach using two photoreceptors resulted in an optimized, photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase with a cyclic AMP production activity that matches the physiological range of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Overall, we enlarged the optogenetic toolbox for yeast and demonstrated the importance of fine-tuning the optogenetic tool activity for successful application in cells.
Optogenetic modulation of TrkB signaling in the mouse brain.
Optogenetic activation of receptors has advantages compared with chemical or ligand treatment because of its high spatial and temporal precision. Especially in the brain, the use of a genetically encoded light-tunable receptor is superior to direct infusion or systemic drug treatment. We applied light activatable TrkB receptor in mouse brain with reduced basal activity by incorporating Cry2PHR mutant, Opto-cytTrkB(E281A). Upon AAV mediated gene delivery, this form was expressed at sufficient levels in the mouse hippocampus (HPC) and medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) retaining normal canonical signal transduction by blue light stimulus, even by delivery of non-invasive LED light on the mouse head. Within target cells, where its expression was driven by a cell type-specific promoter, Opto-cytTrkB(E281A)-mediated TrkB signaling could be controlled by adjusting light-stimulation conditions. We further demonstrated that Opto-cytTrkB(E281A) could locally induce TrkB signaling in axon terminals in the MEC-HPC. In summary, Opto-cytTrkB(E281A) will be useful for elucidating time- and region-specific roles of TrkB signaling ranging from cellular function to neural circuit mechanisms.
A Computational Protocol for Regulating Protein Binding Reactions with a Light-Sensitive Protein Dimer.
Light-sensitive proteins can be used to perturb signaling networks in living cells and animals with high spatiotemporal resolution. We recently engineered a protein heterodimer that dissociates when irradiated with blue light and demonstrated that by fusing each half of the dimer to termini of a protein that it is possible to selectively block binding surfaces on the protein when in the dark. On activation with light, the dimer dissociates and exposes the binding surface, allowing the protein to bind its partner. Critical to the success of this system, called Z-lock, is that the linkers connecting the dimer components to the termini are engineered so that the dimer forms over the appropriate binding surface. Here, we develop and test a protocol in the Rosetta molecular modeling program for designing linkers for Z-lock. We show that the protocol can predict the most effective linker sets for three different light-sensitive switches, including a newly designed switch that binds the Rho-family GTPase Cdc42 on stimulation with blue light. This protocol represents a generalized computational approach to placing a wide variety of proteins under optogenetic control with Z-lock.
Revisiting and Redesigning Light-Activated Cyclic-Mononucleotide Phosphodiesterases.
As diffusible second messengers, cyclic nucleoside monophosphates (cNMPs) relay and amplify molecular signals in myriad cellular pathways. The triggering of downstream physiological responses often requires defined cNMP gradients in time and space, generated through the concerted action of nucleotidyl cyclases and phosphodiesterases (PDEs). In an approach denoted optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors serve as genetically encoded, light-responsive actuators to enable the noninvasive, reversible, and spatiotemporally precise control of manifold cellular processes, including cNMP metabolism. Although nature provides efficient photoactivated nucleotidyl cyclases, light-responsive PDEs are scarce. Through modular recombination of a bacteriophytochrome photosensor and the effector of human PDE2A, we previously generated the light-activated, cNMP-specific PDE LAPD. By pursuing parallel design strategies, we here report a suite of derivative PDEs with enhanced amplitude and reversibility of photoactivation. Opposite to LAPD, far-red light completely reverts prior activation by red light in several PDEs. These improved PDEs thus complement photoactivated nucleotidyl cyclases and extend the sensitivity of optogenetics to red and far-red light. More generally, our study informs future efforts directed at designing bacteriophytochrome photoreceptors.