Showing 1 - 25 of 35 results
Reversible induction of mitophagy by an optogenetic bimodular system.
Autophagy-mediated degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy) is a key process in cellular quality control. Although mitophagy impairment is involved in several patho-physiological conditions, valuable methods to induce mitophagy with low toxicity in vivo are still lacking. Herein, we describe a new optogenetic tool to stimulate mitophagy, based on light-dependent recruitment of pro-autophagy protein AMBRA1 to mitochondrial surface. Upon illumination, AMBRA1-RFP-sspB is efficiently relocated from the cytosol to mitochondria, where it reversibly mediates mito-aggresome formation and reduction of mitochondrial mass. Finally, as a proof of concept of the biomedical relevance of this method, we induced mitophagy in an in vitro model of neurotoxicity, fully preventing cell death, as well as in human T lymphocytes and in zebrafish in vivo. Given the unique features of this tool, we think it may turn out to be very useful for a wide range of both therapeutic and research applications.
Neurotrophin receptor tyrosine kinases regulated with near-infrared light.
Optical control over the activity of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) provides an efficient way to reversibly and non-invasively map their functions. We combined catalytic domains of Trk (tropomyosin receptor kinase) family of RTKs, naturally activated by neurotrophins, with photosensory core module of DrBphP bacterial phytochrome to develop opto-kinases, termed Dr-TrkA and Dr-TrkB, reversibly switchable on and off with near-infrared and far-red light. We validated Dr-Trk ability to reversibly light-control several RTK pathways, calcium level, and demonstrated that their activation triggers canonical Trk signaling. Dr-TrkA induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma and glioblastoma, but not in other cell types. Absence of spectral crosstalk between Dr-Trks and blue-light-activatable LOV-domain-based translocation system enabled intracellular targeting of Dr-TrkA independently of its activation, additionally modulating Trk signaling. Dr-Trks have several superior characteristics that make them the opto-kinases of choice for regulation of RTK signaling: high activation range, fast and reversible photoswitching, and multiplexing with visible-light-controllable optogenetic tools.
Noninvasive optical activation of Flp recombinase for genetic manipulation in deep mouse brain regions.
Spatiotemporal control of gene expression or labeling is a valuable strategy for identifying functions of genes within complex neural circuits. Here, we develop a highly light-sensitive and efficient photoactivatable Flp recombinase (PA-Flp) that is suitable for genetic manipulation in vivo. The highly light-sensitive property of PA-Flp is ideal for activation in deep mouse brain regions by illumination with a noninvasive light-emitting diode. In addition, PA-Flp can be extended to the Cre-lox system through a viral vector as Flp-dependent Cre expression platform, thereby activating both Flp and Cre. Finally, we demonstrate that PA-Flp-dependent, Cre-mediated Cav3.1 silencing in the medial septum increases object-exploration behavior in mice. Thus, PA-Flp is a noninvasive, highly efficient, and easy-to-use optogenetic module that offers a side-effect-free and expandable genetic manipulation tool for neuroscience research.
Smallest near-infrared fluorescent protein evolved from cyanobacteriochrome as versatile tag for spectral multiplexing.
From a single domain of cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) we developed a near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent protein (FP), termed miRFP670nano, with excitation at 645 nm and emission at 670 nm. This is the first CBCR-derived NIR FP evolved to efficiently bind endogenous biliverdin chromophore and brightly fluoresce in mammalian cells. miRFP670nano is a monomer with molecular weight of 17 kDa that is 2-fold smaller than bacterial phytochrome (BphP)-based NIR FPs and 1.6-fold smaller than GFP-like FPs. Crystal structure of the CBCR-based NIR FP with biliverdin reveals a molecular basis of its spectral and biochemical properties. Unlike BphP-derived NIR FPs, miRFP670nano is highly stable to denaturation and degradation and can be used as an internal protein tag. miRFP670nano is an effective FRET donor for red-shifted NIR FPs, enabling engineering NIR FRET biosensors spectrally compatible with GFP-like FPs and blue-green optogenetic tools. miRFP670nano unlocks a new source of diverse CBCR templates for NIR FPs.
Intensiometric biosensors visualize the activity of multiple small GTPases in vivo.
Ras and Rho small GTPases are critical for numerous cellular processes including cell division, migration, and intercellular communication. Despite extensive efforts to visualize the spatiotemporal activity of these proteins, achieving the sensitivity and dynamic range necessary for in vivo application has been challenging. Here, we present highly sensitive intensiometric small GTPase biosensors visualizing the activity of multiple small GTPases in single cells in vivo. Red-shifted sensors combined with blue light-controllable optogenetic modules achieved simultaneous monitoring and manipulation of protein activities in a highly spatiotemporal manner. Our biosensors revealed spatial dynamics of Cdc42 and Ras activities upon structural plasticity of single dendritic spines, as well as a broad range of subcellular Ras activities in the brains of freely behaving mice. Thus, these intensiometric small GTPase sensors enable the spatiotemporal dissection of complex protein signaling networks in live animals.
Optogenetic dissection of Rac1 and Cdc42 gradient shaping.
During cell migration, Rho GTPases spontaneously form spatial gradients that define the front and back of cells. At the front, active Cdc42 forms a steep gradient whereas active Rac1 forms a more extended pattern peaking a few microns away. What are the mechanisms shaping these gradients, and what is the functional role of the shape of these gradients? Here we report, using a combination of optogenetics and micropatterning, that Cdc42 and Rac1 gradients are set by spatial patterns of activators and deactivators and not directly by transport mechanisms. Cdc42 simply follows the distribution of Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors, whereas Rac1 shaping requires the activity of a GTPase-Activating Protein, β2-chimaerin, which is sharply localized at the tip of the cell through feedbacks from Cdc42 and Rac1. Functionally, the spatial extent of Rho GTPases gradients governs cell migration, a sharp Cdc42 gradient maximizes directionality while an extended Rac1 gradient controls the speed.
Integrating chemical and mechanical signals through dynamic coupling between cellular protrusions and pulsed ERK activation.
The Ras-ERK signaling pathway regulates diverse cellular processes in response to environmental stimuli and contains important therapeutic targets for cancer. Recent single cell studies revealed stochastic pulses of ERK activation, the frequency of which determines functional outcomes such as cell proliferation. Here we show that ERK pulses are initiated by localized protrusive activities. Chemically and optogenetically induced protrusions trigger ERK activation through various entry points into the feedback loop involving Ras, PI3K, the cytoskeleton, and cellular adhesion. The excitability of the protrusive signaling network drives stochastic ERK activation in unstimulated cells and oscillations upon growth factor stimulation. Importantly, protrusions allow cells to sense combined signals from substrate stiffness and the growth factor. Thus, by uncovering the basis of ERK pulse generation we demonstrate how signals involved in cell growth and differentiation are regulated by dynamic protrusions that integrate chemical and mechanical inputs from the environment.
Potassium channel-based optogenetic silencing.
Optogenetics enables manipulation of biological processes with light at high spatio-temporal resolution to control the behavior of cells, networks, or even whole animals. In contrast to the performance of excitatory rhodopsins, the effectiveness of inhibitory optogenetic tools is still insufficient. Here we report a two-component optical silencer system comprising photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and the small cyclic nucleotide-gated potassium channel SthK. Activation of this 'PAC-K' silencer by brief pulses of low-intensity blue light causes robust and reversible silencing of cardiomyocyte excitation and neuronal firing. In vivo expression of PAC-K in mouse and zebrafish neurons is well tolerated, where blue light inhibits neuronal activity and blocks motor responses. In combination with red-light absorbing channelrhodopsins, the distinct action spectra of PACs allow independent bimodal control of neuronal activity. PAC-K represents a reliable optogenetic silencer with intrinsic amplification for sustained potassium-mediated hyperpolarization, conferring high operational light sensitivity to the cells of interest.
Pulsatile inputs achieve tunable attenuation of gene expression variability and graded multi-gene regulation.
Many natural transcription factors are regulated in a pulsatile fashion, but it remains unknown whether synthetic gene expression systems can benefit from such dynamic regulation. Here we find, using a fast-acting, optogenetic transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that dynamic pulsatile signals reduce cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. We then show that by encoding such signals into a single input, expression mean and variability can be independently tuned. Further, we construct a light-responsive promoter library and demonstrate how pulsatile signaling also enables graded multi-gene regulation at fixed expression ratios, despite differences in promoter dose-response characteristics. Pulsatile regulation can thus lead to beneficial functional behaviors in synthetic biological systems, which previously required laborious optimization of genetic parts or the construction of synthetic gene networks.
Guided morphogenesis through optogenetic activation of Rho signalling during early Drosophila embryogenesis.
During organismal development, cells undergo complex changes in shape whose causal relationship to individual morphogenetic processes remains unclear. The modular nature of such processes suggests that it should be possible to isolate individual modules, determine the minimum set of requirements sufficient to drive tissue remodeling, and re-construct morphogenesis. Here we use optogenetics to reconstitute epithelial folding in embryonic Drosophila tissues that otherwise would not undergo invagination. We show that precise spatial and temporal activation of Rho signaling is sufficient to trigger apical constriction and tissue folding. Induced furrows can occur at any position along the dorsal-ventral or anterior-posterior embryo axis in response to the spatial pattern and level of optogenetic activation. Thus, epithelial folding is a direct function of the spatio-temporal organization and strength of Rho signaling that on its own is sufficient to drive tissue internalization independently of any pre-determined condition or differentiation program associated with endogenous invagination processes.
L-SCRaMbLE as a tool for light-controlled Cre-mediated recombination in yeast.
The synthetic yeast genome constructed by the International Synthetic Yeast Sc2.0 consortium adds thousands of loxPsym recombination sites to all 16 redesigned chromosomes, allowing the shuffling of Sc2.0 chromosome parts by the Cre-loxP recombination system thereby enabling genome evolution experiments. Here, we present L-SCRaMbLE, a light-controlled Cre recombinase for use in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. L-SCRaMbLE allows tight regulation of recombinase activity with up to 179-fold induction upon exposure to red light. The extent of recombination depends on induction time and concentration of the chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which can be easily adjusted. The tool presented here provides improved recombination control over the previously reported estradiol-dependent SCRaMbLE induction system, mediating a larger variety of possible recombination events in SCRaMbLE-ing a reporter plasmid. Thereby, L-SCRaMbLE boosts the potential for further customization and provides a facile application for use in the S. cerevisiae genome re-engineering project Sc2.0 or in other recombination-based systems.
A biochemical network controlling basal myosin oscillation.
The actomyosin cytoskeleton, a key stress-producing unit in epithelial cells, oscillates spontaneously in a wide variety of systems. Although much of the signal cascade regulating myosin activity has been characterized, the origin of such oscillatory behavior is still unclear. Here, we show that basal myosin II oscillation in Drosophila ovarian epithelium is not controlled by actomyosin cortical tension, but instead relies on a biochemical oscillator involving ROCK and myosin phosphatase. Key to this oscillation is a diffusive ROCK flow, linking junctional Rho1 to medial actomyosin cortex, and dynamically maintained by a self-activation loop reliant on ROCK kinase activity. In response to the resulting myosin II recruitment, myosin phosphatase is locally enriched and shuts off ROCK and myosin II signals. Coupling Drosophila genetics, live imaging, modeling, and optogenetics, we uncover an intrinsic biochemical oscillator at the core of myosin II regulatory network, shedding light on the spatio-temporal dynamics of force generation.
Shaping bacterial population behavior through computer-interfaced control of individual cells.
Bacteria in groups vary individually, and interact with other bacteria and the environment to produce population-level patterns of gene expression. Investigating such behavior in detail requires measuring and controlling populations at the single-cell level alongside precisely specified interactions and environmental characteristics. Here we present an automated, programmable platform that combines image-based gene expression and growth measurements with on-line optogenetic expression control for hundreds of individual Escherichia coli cells over days, in a dynamically adjustable environment. This integrated platform broadly enables experiments that bridge individual and population behaviors. We demonstrate: (i) population structuring by independent closed-loop control of gene expression in many individual cells, (ii) cell-cell variation control during antibiotic perturbation, (iii) hybrid bio-digital circuits in single cells, and freely specifiable digital communication between individual bacteria. These examples showcase the potential for real-time integration of theoretical models with measurement and control of many individual cells to investigate and engineer microbial population behavior.
Understanding CRY2 interactions for optical control of intracellular signaling.
Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can simultaneously undergo light-dependent CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomerization and CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimerization, both of which have been widely used to optically control intracellular processes. Applications using CRY2-CIB1 interaction desire minimal CRY2 homo-oligomerization to avoid unintended complications, while those utilizing CRY2-CRY2 interaction prefer robust homo-oligomerization. However, selecting the type of CRY2 interaction has not been possible as the molecular mechanisms underlying CRY2 interactions are unknown. Here we report CRY2-CIB1 and CRY2-CRY2 interactions are governed by well-separated protein interfaces at the two termini of CRY2. N-terminal charges are critical for CRY2-CIB1 interaction. Moreover, two C-terminal charges impact CRY2 homo-oligomerization, with positive charges facilitating oligomerization and negative charges inhibiting it. By engineering C-terminal charges, we develop CRY2high and CRY2low with elevated or suppressed oligomerization respectively, which we use to tune the levels of Raf/MEK/ERK signaling. These results contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying light-induced CRY2 interactions and enhance the controllability of CRY2-based optogenetic systems.Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can form light-regulated CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomers or CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimers, but modulating these interactions is difficult owing to the lack of interaction mechanism. Here the authors identify the interactions facilitating homo-oligomers and introduce mutations to create low and high oligomerization versions.
Optogenetic protein clustering through fluorescent protein tagging and extension of CRY2.
Protein homo-oligomerization is an important molecular mechanism in many biological processes. Therefore, the ability to control protein homo-oligomerization allows the manipulation and interrogation of numerous cellular events. To achieve this, cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from Arabidopsis thaliana has been recently utilized for blue light-dependent spatiotemporal control of protein homo-oligomerization. However, limited knowledge on molecular characteristics of CRY2 obscures its widespread applications. Here, we identify important determinants for efficient cryptochrome 2 clustering and introduce a new CRY2 module, named ''CRY2clust'', to induce rapid and efficient homo-oligomerization of target proteins by employing diverse fluorescent proteins and an extremely short peptide. Furthermore, we demonstrate advancement and versatility of CRY2clust by comparing against previously reported optogenetic tools. Our work not only expands the optogenetic clustering toolbox but also provides a guideline for designing CRY2-based new optogenetic modules.Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from A. thaliana can be used to control light-dependent protein homo-oligomerization, but the molecular mechanism of CRY2 clustering is not known, limiting its application. Here the authors identify determinants of CRY2 clustering and engineer fusion partners to modulate clustering efficiency.
Optogenetic activation of Plexin-B1 reveals contact repulsion between osteoclasts and osteoblasts.
During bone remodelling, osteoclasts induce chemotaxis of osteoblasts and yet maintain spatial segregation. We show that osteoclasts express the repulsive guidance factor Semaphorin 4D and induce contact inhibition of locomotion (CIL) in osteoblasts through its receptor Plexin-B1. To examine causality and elucidate how localized Plexin-B1 stimulation may spatiotemporally coordinate its downstream targets in guiding cell migration, we develop an optogenetic tool for Plexin-B1 designated optoPlexin. Precise optoPlexin activation at the leading edge of migrating osteoblasts readily induces local retraction and, unexpectedly, distal protrusions to steer cells away. These morphological changes are accompanied by reorganization of Myosin II, PIP3, adhesion and active Cdc42. We attribute the resultant repolarization to RhoA/ROCK-mediated redistribution of β-Pix, which activates Cdc42 and promotes protrusion. Thus, our data demonstrate a causal role of Plexin-B1 for CIL in osteoblasts and reveals a previously unknown effect of Semaphorin signalling on spatial distribution of an activator of cell migration.
Optogenetic control of RhoA reveals zyxin-mediated elasticity of stress fibres.
Cytoskeletal mechanics regulates cell morphodynamics and many physiological processes. While contractility is known to be largely RhoA-dependent, the process by which localized biochemical signals are translated into cell-level responses is poorly understood. Here we combine optogenetic control of RhoA, live-cell imaging and traction force microscopy to investigate the dynamics of actomyosin-based force generation. Local activation of RhoA not only stimulates local recruitment of actin and myosin but also increased traction forces that rapidly propagate across the cell via stress fibres and drive increased actin flow. Surprisingly, this flow reverses direction when local RhoA activation stops. We identify zyxin as a regulator of stress fibre mechanics, as stress fibres are fluid-like without flow reversal in its absence. Using a physical model, we demonstrate that stress fibres behave elastic-like, even at timescales exceeding turnover of constituent proteins. Such molecular control of actin mechanics likely plays critical roles in regulating morphodynamic events.
A simple optogenetic MAPK inhibitor design reveals resonance between transcription-regulating circuitry and temporally-encoded inputs.
Engineering light-sensitive protein regulators has been a tremendous multidisciplinary challenge. Optogenetic regulators of MAPKs, central nodes of cellular regulation, have not previously been described. Here we present OptoJNKi, a light-regulated JNK inhibitor based on the AsLOV2 light-sensor domain using the ubiquitous FMN chromophore. OptoJNKi gene-transfer allows optogenetic applications, whereas protein delivery allows optopharmacology. Development of OptoJNKi suggests a design principle for other optically regulated inhibitors. From this, we generate Optop38i, which inhibits p38MAPK in intact illuminated cells. Neurons are known for interpreting temporally-encoded inputs via interplay between ion channels, membrane potential and intracellular calcium. However, the consequences of temporal variation of JNK-regulating trophic inputs, potentially resulting from synaptic activity and reversible cellular protrusions, on downstream targets are unknown. Using OptoJNKi, we reveal maximal regulation of c-Jun transactivation can occur at unexpectedly slow periodicities of inhibition depending on the inhibitor's subcellular location. This provides evidence for resonance in metazoan JNK-signalling circuits.
Cell-matrix adhesion and cell-cell adhesion differentially control basal myosin oscillation and Drosophila egg chamber elongation.
Pulsatile actomyosin contractility, important in tissue morphogenesis, has been studied mainly in apical but less in basal domains. Basal myosin oscillation underlying egg chamber elongation is regulated by both cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesions. However, the mechanism by which these two adhesions govern basal myosin oscillation and tissue elongation is unknown. Here we demonstrate that cell-matrix adhesion positively regulates basal junctional Rho1 activity and medio-basal ROCK and myosin activities, thus strongly controlling tissue elongation. Differently, cell-cell adhesion governs basal myosin oscillation through controlling medio-basal distributions of both ROCK and myosin signals, which are related to the spatial limitations of cell-matrix adhesion and stress fibres. Contrary to cell-matrix adhesion, cell-cell adhesion weakly affects tissue elongation. In vivo optogenetic protein inhibition spatiotemporally confirms the different effects of these two adhesions on basal myosin oscillation. This study highlights the activity and distribution controls of basal myosin contractility mediated by cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesions, respectively, during tissue morphogenesis.
Optogenetic control of cellular forces and mechanotransduction.
Contractile forces are the end effectors of cell migration, division, morphogenesis, wound healing and cancer invasion. Here we report optogenetic tools to upregulate and downregulate such forces with high spatiotemporal accuracy. The technology relies on controlling the subcellular activation of RhoA using the CRY2/CIBN light-gated dimerizer system. We fused the catalytic domain (DHPH domain) of the RhoA activator ARHGEF11 to CRY2-mCherry (optoGEF-RhoA) and engineered its binding partner CIBN to bind either to the plasma membrane or to the mitochondrial membrane. Translocation of optoGEF-RhoA to the plasma membrane causes a rapid and local increase in cellular traction, intercellular tension and tissue compaction. By contrast, translocation of optoGEF-RhoA to mitochondria results in opposite changes in these physical properties. Cellular changes in contractility are paralleled by modifications in the nuclear localization of the transcriptional regulator YAP, thus showing the ability of our approach to control mechanotransductory signalling pathways in time and space.
Automated optogenetic feedback control for precise and robust regulation of gene expression and cell growth.
Dynamic control of gene expression can have far-reaching implications for biotechnological applications and biological discovery. Thanks to the advantages of light, optogenetics has emerged as an ideal technology for this task. Current state-of-the-art methods for optical expression control fail to combine precision with repeatability and cannot withstand changing operating culture conditions. Here, we present a novel fully automatic experimental platform for the robust and precise long-term optogenetic regulation of protein production in liquid Escherichia coli cultures. Using a computer-controlled light-responsive two-component system, we accurately track prescribed dynamic green fluorescent protein expression profiles through the application of feedback control, and show that the system adapts to global perturbations such as nutrient and temperature changes. We demonstrate the efficacy and potential utility of our approach by placing a key metabolic enzyme under optogenetic control, thus enabling dynamic regulation of the culture growth rate with potential applications in bacterial physiology studies and biotechnology.
Exosome engineering for efficient intracellular delivery of soluble proteins using optically reversible protein-protein interaction module.
Nanoparticle-mediated delivery of functional macromolecules is a promising method for treating a variety of human diseases. Among nanoparticles, cell-derived exosomes have recently been highlighted as a new therapeutic strategy for the in vivo delivery of nucleotides and chemical drugs. Here we describe a new tool for intracellular delivery of target proteins, named 'exosomes for protein loading via optically reversible protein-protein interactions' (EXPLORs). By integrating a reversible protein-protein interaction module controlled by blue light with the endogenous process of exosome biogenesis, we are able to successfully load cargo proteins into newly generated exosomes. Treatment with protein-loaded EXPLORs is shown to significantly increase intracellular levels of cargo proteins and their function in recipient cells in vitro and in vivo. These results clearly indicate the potential of EXPLORs as a mechanism for the efficient intracellular transfer of protein-based therapeutics into recipient cells and tissues.
Phytochrome and retrograde signalling pathways converge to antagonistically regulate a light-induced transcriptional network.
Plastid-to-nucleus retrograde signals emitted by dysfunctional chloroplasts impact photomorphogenic development, but the molecular link between retrograde- and photosensory-receptor signalling has remained unclear. Here, we show that the phytochrome and retrograde signalling (RS) pathways converge antagonistically to regulate the expression of the nuclear-encoded transcription factor GLK1, a key regulator of a light-induced transcriptional network central to photomorphogenesis. GLK1 gene transcription is directly repressed by PHYTOCHROME-INTERACTING FACTOR (PIF)-class bHLH transcription factors in darkness, but light-activated phytochrome reverses this activity, thereby inducing expression. Conversely, we show that retrograde signals repress this induction by a mechanism independent of PIF mediation. Collectively, our data indicate that light at moderate levels acts through the plant's nuclear-localized sensory-photoreceptor system to induce appropriate photomorphogenic development, but at excessive levels, sensed through the separate plastid-localized RS system, acts to suppress such development, thus providing a mechanism for protection against photo-oxidative damage by minimizing the tissue exposure to deleterious radiation.
Optogenetic control of nuclear protein export.
Active nucleocytoplasmic transport is a key mechanism underlying protein regulation in eukaryotes. While nuclear protein import can be controlled in space and time with a portfolio of optogenetic tools, protein export has not been tackled so far. Here we present a light-inducible nuclear export system (LEXY) based on a single, genetically encoded tag, which enables precise spatiotemporal control over the export of tagged proteins. A constitutively nuclear, chromatin-anchored LEXY variant expands the method towards light inhibition of endogenous protein export by sequestering cellular CRM1 receptors. We showcase the utility of LEXY for cell biology applications by regulating a synthetic repressor as well as human p53 transcriptional activity with light. LEXY is a powerful addition to the optogenetic toolbox, allowing various novel applications in synthetic and cell biology.
Signal transduction in light-oxygen-voltage receptors lacking the adduct-forming cysteine residue.
Light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) receptors sense blue light through the photochemical generation of a covalent adduct between a flavin-nucleotide chromophore and a strictly conserved cysteine residue. Here we show that, after cysteine removal, the circadian-clock LOV-protein Vivid still undergoes light-induced dimerization and signalling because of flavin photoreduction to the neutral semiquinone (NSQ). Similarly, photoreduction of the engineered LOV histidine kinase YF1 to the NSQ modulates activity and downstream effects on gene expression. Signal transduction in both proteins hence hinges on flavin protonation, which is common to both the cysteinyl adduct and the NSQ. This general mechanism is also conserved by natural cysteine-less, LOV-like regulators that respond to chemical or photoreduction of their flavin cofactors. As LOV proteins can react to light even when devoid of the adduct-forming cysteine, modern LOV photoreceptors may have arisen from ancestral redox-active flavoproteins. The ability to tune LOV reactivity through photoreduction may have important implications for LOV mechanism and optogenetic applications.