Showing 1 - 25 of 90 results
Optogenetic control of YAP reveals a dynamic communication code for stem cell fate and proliferation.
YAP is a transcriptional regulator that controls pluripotency, cell fate, and proliferation. How cells ensure the selective activation of YAP effector genes is unknown. This knowledge is essential to rationally control cellular decision-making. Here we leverage optogenetics, live-imaging of transcription, and cell fate analysis to understand and control gene activation and cell behavior. We reveal that cells decode the steady-state concentrations and timing of YAP activation to control proliferation, cell fate, and expression of the pluripotency regulators Oct4 and Nanog. While oscillatory YAP inputs induce Oct4 expression and proliferation optimally at frequencies that mimic native dynamics, cellular differentiation requires persistently low YAP levels. We identify the molecular logic of the Oct4 dynamic decoder, which acts through an adaptive change sensor. Our work reveals how YAP levels and dynamics enable multiplexing of information transmission for the regulation of developmental decision-making and establishes a platform for the rational control of these behaviors.
Reversible photoregulation of cell-cell adhesions with opto-E-cadherin.
E-cadherin-based cell-cell adhesions are dynamically and locally regulated in many essential processes, including embryogenesis, wound healing and tissue organization, with dysregulation manifesting as tumorigenesis and metastasis. However, the lack of tools that would provide control of the high spatiotemporal precision observed with E-cadherin adhesions hampers investigation of the underlying mechanisms. Here, we present an optogenetic tool, opto-E-cadherin, that allows reversible control of E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesions with blue light. With opto-E-cadherin, functionally essential calcium binding is photoregulated such that cells expressing opto-E-cadherin at their surface adhere to each other in the dark but not upon illumination. Consequently, opto-E-cadherin provides remote control over multicellular aggregation, E-cadherin-associated intracellular signalling and F-actin organization in 2D and 3D cell cultures. Opto-E-cadherin also allows switching of multicellular behaviour between single and collective cell migration, as well as of cell invasiveness in vitro and in vivo. Overall, opto-E-cadherin is a powerful optogenetic tool capable of controlling cell-cell adhesions at the molecular, cellular and behavioural level that opens up perspectives for the study of dynamics and spatiotemporal control of E-cadherin in biological processes.
Optogenetic engineering of STING signaling allows remote immunomodulation to enhance cancer immunotherapy.
The cGAS-STING signaling pathway has emerged as a promising target for immunotherapy development. Here, we introduce a light-sensitive optogenetic device for control of the cGAS/STING signaling to conditionally modulate innate immunity, called 'light-inducible SMOC-like repeats' (LiSmore). We demonstrate that photo-activated LiSmore boosts dendritic cell (DC) maturation and antigen presentation with high spatiotemporal precision. This non-invasive approach photo-sensitizes cytotoxic T lymphocytes to engage tumor antigens, leading to a sustained antitumor immune response. When combined with an immune checkpoint blocker (ICB), LiSmore improves antitumor efficacy in an immunosuppressive lung cancer model that is otherwise unresponsive to conventional ICB treatment. Additionally, LiSmore exhibits an abscopal effect by effectively suppressing tumor growth in a distal site in a bilateral mouse model of melanoma. Collectively, our findings establish the potential of targeted optogenetic activation of the STING signaling pathway for remote immunomodulation in mice.
A biological camera that captures and stores images directly into DNA.
The increasing integration between biological and digital interfaces has led to heightened interest in utilizing biological materials to store digital data, with the most promising one involving the storage of data within defined sequences of DNA that are created by de novo DNA synthesis. However, there is a lack of methods that can obviate the need for de novo DNA synthesis, which tends to be costly and inefficient. Here, in this work, we detail a method of capturing 2-dimensional light patterns into DNA, by utilizing optogenetic circuits to record light exposure into DNA, encoding spatial locations with barcoding, and retrieving stored images via high-throughput next-generation sequencing. We demonstrate the encoding of multiple images into DNA, totaling 1152 bits, selective image retrieval, as well as robustness to drying, heat and UV. We also demonstrate successful multiplexing using multiple wavelengths of light, capturing 2 different images simultaneously using red and blue light. This work thus establishes a 'living digital camera', paving the way towards integrating biological systems with digital devices.
Multidimensional characterization of inducible promoters and a highly light-sensitive LOV-transcription factor.
The ability to independently control the expression of different genes is important for quantitative biology. Using budding yeast, we characterize GAL1pr, GALL, MET3pr, CUP1pr, PHO5pr, tetOpr, terminator-tetOpr, Z3EV, blue-light inducible optogenetic systems El222-LIP, El222-GLIP, and red-light inducible PhyB-PIF3. We report kinetic parameters, noise scaling, impact on growth, and the fundamental leakiness of each system using an intuitive unit, maxGAL1. We uncover disadvantages of widely used tools, e.g., nonmonotonic activity of MET3pr and GALL, slow off kinetics of the doxycycline- and estradiol-inducible systems tetOpr and Z3EV, and high variability of PHO5pr and red-light activated PhyB-PIF3 system. We introduce two previously uncharacterized systems: strongLOV, a more light-sensitive El222 mutant, and ARG3pr, which is induced in the absence of arginine or presence of methionine. To demonstrate fine control over gene circuits, we experimentally tune the time between cell cycle Start and mitosis, artificially simulating near-wild-type timing. All strains, constructs, code, and data ( https://promoter-benchmark.epfl.ch/ ) are made available.
An optogenetic-phosphoproteomic study reveals dynamic Akt1 signaling profiles in endothelial cells.
The serine/threonine kinase AKT is a central node in cell signaling. While aberrant AKT activation underlies the development of a variety of human diseases, how different patterns of AKT-dependent phosphorylation dictate downstream signaling and phenotypic outcomes remains largely enigmatic. Herein, we perform a systems-level analysis that integrates methodological advances in optogenetics, mass spectrometry-based phosphoproteomics, and bioinformatics to elucidate how different intensity, duration, and pattern of Akt1 stimulation lead to distinct temporal phosphorylation profiles in vascular endothelial cells. Through the analysis of ~35,000 phosphorylation sites across multiple conditions precisely controlled by light stimulation, we identify a series of signaling circuits activated downstream of Akt1 and interrogate how Akt1 signaling integrates with growth factor signaling in endothelial cells. Furthermore, our results categorize kinase substrates that are preferably activated by oscillating, transient, and sustained Akt1 signals. We validate a list of phosphorylation sites that covaried with Akt1 phosphorylation across experimental conditions as potential Akt1 substrates. Our resulting dataset provides a rich resource for future studies on AKT signaling and dynamics.
Light-switchable transcription factors obtained by direct screening in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic tools can provide fine spatial and temporal control over many biological processes. Yet the development of new light-switchable protein variants remains challenging, and the field still lacks general approaches to engineering or discovering protein variants with light-switchable biological functions. Here, we adapt strategies for protein domain insertion and mammalian-cell expression to generate and screen a library of candidate optogenetic tools directly in mammalian cells. The approach is based on insertion of the AsLOV2 photoswitchable domain at all possible positions in a candidate protein of interest, introduction of the library into mammalian cells, and light/dark selection for variants with photoswitchable activity. We demonstrate the approach's utility using the Gal4-VP64 transcription factor as a model system. Our resulting LightsOut transcription factor exhibits a > 150-fold change in transcriptional activity between dark and blue light conditions. We show that light-switchable function generalizes to analogous insertion sites in two additional Cys6Zn2 and C2H2 zinc finger domains, providing a starting point for optogenetic regulation of a broad class of transcription factors. Our approach can streamline the identification of single-protein optogenetic switches, particularly in cases where structural or biochemical knowledge is limited.
Controlling protein stability with SULI, a highly sensitive tag for stabilization upon light induction.
Optogenetics tools for precise temporal and spatial control of protein abundance are valuable in studying diverse complex biological processes. In the present study, we engineer a monomeric tag of stabilization upon light induction (SULI) for yeast and zebrafish based on a single light-oxygen-voltage domain from Neurospora crassa. Proteins of interest fused with SULI are stable upon light illumination but are readily degraded after transfer to dark conditions. SULI shows a high dynamic range and a high tolerance to fusion at different positions of the target protein. Further studies reveal that SULI-mediated degradation occurs through a lysine ubiquitination-independent proteasome pathway. We demonstrate the usefulness of SULI in controlling the cell cycle in yeast and regulating protein stability in zebrafish, respectively. Overall, our data indicate that SULI is a simple and robust tool to quantitatively and spatiotemporally modulate protein levels for biotechnological or biomedical applications.
An optogenetic toolkit for light-inducible antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are a key control mechanism for synthetic biology and microbiology. Resistance genes are used to select desired cells and regulate bacterial populations, however their use to-date has been largely static. Precise spatiotemporal control of antibiotic resistance could enable a wide variety of applications that require dynamic control of susceptibility and survival. Here, we use light-inducible Cre recombinase to activate expression of drug resistance genes in Escherichia coli. We demonstrate light-activated resistance to four antibiotics: carbenicillin, kanamycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline. Cells exposed to blue light survive in the presence of lethal antibiotic concentrations, while those kept in the dark do not. To optimize resistance induction, we vary promoter, ribosome binding site, and enzyme variant strength using chromosome and plasmid-based constructs. We then link inducible resistance to expression of a heterologous fatty acid enzyme to increase production of octanoic acid. These optogenetic resistance tools pave the way for spatiotemporal control of cell survival.
Rapid and reversible optogenetic silencing of synaptic transmission by clustering of synaptic vesicles.
Acutely silencing specific neurons informs about their functional roles in circuits and behavior. Existing optogenetic silencers include ion pumps, channels, metabotropic receptors, and tools that damage the neurotransmitter release machinery. While the former hyperpolarize the cell, alter ionic gradients or cellular biochemistry, the latter allow only slow recovery, requiring de novo synthesis. Thus, tools combining fast activation and reversibility are needed. Here, we use light-evoked homo-oligomerization of cryptochrome CRY2 to silence synaptic transmission, by clustering synaptic vesicles (SVs). We benchmark this tool, optoSynC, in Caenorhabditis elegans, zebrafish, and murine hippocampal neurons. optoSynC clusters SVs, observable by electron microscopy. Locomotion silencing occurs with tauon ~7.2 s and recovers with tauoff ~6.5 min after light-off. optoSynC can inhibit exocytosis for several hours, at very low light intensities, does not affect ion currents, biochemistry or synaptic proteins, and may further allow manipulating different SV pools and the transfer of SVs between them.
Patterned mechanical feedback establishes a global myosin gradient.
Morphogenesis, the coordinated execution of developmental programs that shape embryos, raises many fundamental questions at the interface between physics and biology. In particular, how the dynamics of active cytoskeletal processes are coordinated across the surface of entire embryos to generate global cell flows is poorly understood. Two distinct regulatory principles have been identified: genetic programs and dynamic response to mechanical stimuli. Despite progress, disentangling these two contributions remains challenging. Here, we combine in toto light sheet microscopy with genetic and optogenetic perturbations of tissue mechanics to examine theoretically predicted dynamic recruitment of non-muscle myosin II to cell junctions during Drosophila embryogenesis. We find dynamic recruitment has a long-range impact on global myosin configuration, and the rate of junction deformation sets the rate of myosin recruitment. Mathematical modeling and high frequency analysis reveal myosin fluctuations on junctions around a mean value set by mechanical feedback. Our model accounts for the early establishment of the global myosin pattern at 80% fidelity. Taken together our results indicate spatially modulated mechanical feedback as a key regulatory input in the establishment of long-range gradients of cytoskeletal configurations and global tissue flow patterns.
A doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase mouse model for optogenetic genome editing.
The experimental need to engineer the genome both in time and space, has led to the development of several photoactivatable Cre recombinase systems. However, the combination of inefficient and non-intentional background recombination has prevented thus far the wide application of these systems in biological and biomedical research. Here, we engineer an optimized photoactivatable Cre recombinase system that we refer to as doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase (DiLiCre). Following extensive characterization in cancer cell and organoid systems, we generate a DiLiCre mouse line, and illustrated the biological applicability of DiLiCre for light-induced mutagenesis in vivo and positional cell-tracing by intravital microscopy. These experiments illustrate how newly formed HrasV12 mutant cells follow an unnatural movement towards the interfollicular dermis. Together, we develop an efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase mouse model and illustrate how this model is a powerful genome-editing tool for biological and biomedical research.
Optogenetic-controlled immunotherapeutic designer cells for post-surgical cancer immunotherapy.
Surgical resection is the main treatment option for most solid tumors, yet cancer recurrence after surgical resection remains a significant challenge in cancer therapy. Recent advances in cancer immunotherapy are enabling radical cures for many tumor patients, but these technologies remain challenging to apply because of side effects related to uncontrollable immune system activation. Here, we develop far-red light-controlled immunomodulatory engineered cells (FLICs) that we load into a hydrogel scaffold, enabling the precise optogenetic control of cytokines release (IFN-β, TNF-α, and IL-12) upon illumination. Experiments with a B16F10 melanoma resection mouse model show that FLICs-loaded hydrogel implants placed at the surgical wound site achieve sustainable release of immunomodulatory cytokines, leading to prevention of tumor recurrence and increased animal survival. Moreover, the FLICs-loaded hydrogel implants elicit long-term immunological memory that prevents against tumor recurrence. Our findings illustrate that this optogenetic perioperative immunotherapy with FLICs-loaded hydrogel implants offers a safe treatment option for solid tumors based on activating host innate and adaptive immune systems to inhibit tumor recurrence after surgery. Beyond extending the optogenetics toolbox for immunotherapy, we envision that our optogenetic-controlled living cell factory platform could be deployed for other biomedical contexts requiring precision induction of bio-therapeutic dosage.
Optogenetic control of apical constriction induces synthetic morphogenesis in mammalian tissues.
The emerging field of synthetic developmental biology proposes bottom-up approaches to examine the contribution of each cellular process to complex morphogenesis. However, the shortage of tools to manipulate three-dimensional (3D) shapes of mammalian tissues hinders the progress of the field. Here we report the development of OptoShroom3, an optogenetic tool that achieves fast spatiotemporal control of apical constriction in mammalian epithelia. Activation of OptoShroom3 through illumination in an epithelial Madin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell sheet reduces the apical surface of the stimulated cells and causes displacements in the adjacent regions. Light-induced apical constriction provokes the folding of epithelial cell colonies on soft gels. Its application to murine and human neural organoids leads to thickening of neuroepithelia, apical lumen reduction in optic vesicles, and flattening in neuroectodermal tissues. These results show that spatiotemporal control of apical constriction can trigger several types of 3D deformation depending on the initial tissue context.
Dynamic cybergenetic control of bacterial co-culture composition via optogenetic feedback.
Communities of microbes play important roles in natural environments and hold great potential for deploying division-of-labor strategies in synthetic biology and bioproduction. However, the difficulty of controlling the composition of microbial consortia over time hinders their optimal use in many applications. Here, we present a fully automated, high-throughput platform that combines real-time measurements and computer-controlled optogenetic modulation of bacterial growth to implement precise and robust compositional control of a two-strain E. coli community. In addition, we develop a general framework for dynamic modeling of synthetic genetic circuits in the physiological context of E. coli and use a host-aware model to determine the optimal control parameters of our closed-loop compositional control system. Our platform succeeds in stabilizing the strain ratio of multiple parallel co-cultures at arbitrary levels and in changing these targets over time, opening the door for the implementation of dynamic compositional programs in synthetic bacterial communities.
Defunctionalizing intracellular organelles such as mitochondria and peroxisomes with engineered phospholipase A/acyltransferases.
Organelles vitally achieve multifaceted functions to maintain cellular homeostasis. Genetic and pharmacological approaches to manipulate individual organelles are powerful in probing their physiological roles. However, many of them are either slow in action, limited to certain organelles, or rely on toxic agents. Here, we design a generalizable molecular tool utilizing phospholipase A/acyltransferases (PLAATs) for rapid defunctionalization of organelles via remodeling of the membrane phospholipids. In particular, we identify catalytically active PLAAT truncates with minimal unfavorable characteristics. Chemically-induced translocation of the optimized PLAAT to the mitochondria surface results in their rapid deformation in a phospholipase activity dependent manner, followed by loss of luminal proteins as well as dissipated membrane potential, thus invalidating the functionality. To demonstrate wide applicability, we then adapt the molecular tool in peroxisomes, and observe leakage of matrix-resident functional proteins. The technique is compatible with optogenetic control, viral delivery and operation in primary neuronal cultures. Due to such versatility, the PLAAT strategy should prove useful in studying organelle biology of diverse contexts.
Light-activated mitochondrial fission through optogenetic control of mitochondria-lysosome contacts.
Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles whose fragmentation by fission is critical to their functional integrity and cellular homeostasis. Here, we develop a method via optogenetic control of mitochondria-lysosome contacts (MLCs) to induce mitochondrial fission with spatiotemporal accuracy. MLCs can be achieved by blue-light-induced association of mitochondria and lysosomes through various photoactivatable dimerizers. Real-time optogenetic induction of mitochondrial fission is tracked in living cells to measure the fission rate. The optogenetic method partially restores the mitochondrial functions of SLC25A46-/- cells, which display defects in mitochondrial fission and hyperfused mitochondria. The optogenetic MLCs system thus provides a platform for studying mitochondrial fission and treating mitochondrial diseases.
Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein forms nuclear condensates and regulates alternative splicing.
The diverse functions of WASP, the deficiency of which causes Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS), remain poorly defined. We generated three isogenic WAS models using patient induced pluripotent stem cells and genome editing. These models recapitulated WAS phenotypes and revealed that WASP deficiency causes an upregulation of numerous RNA splicing factors and widespread altered splicing. Loss of WASP binding to splicing factor gene promoters frequently leads to aberrant epigenetic activation. WASP interacts with dozens of nuclear speckle constituents and constrains SRSF2 mobility. Using an optogenetic system, we showed that WASP forms phase-separated condensates that encompasses SRSF2, nascent RNA and active Pol II. The role of WASP in gene body condensates is corroborated by ChIPseq and RIPseq. Together our data reveal that WASP is a nexus regulator of RNA splicing that controls the transcription of splicing factors epigenetically and the dynamics of the splicing machinery through liquid-liquid phase separation.
Signal transduction in light-oxygen-voltage receptors lacking the active-site glutamine.
In nature as in biotechnology, light-oxygen-voltage photoreceptors perceive blue light to elicit spatiotemporally defined cellular responses. Photon absorption drives thioadduct formation between a conserved cysteine and the flavin chromophore. An equally conserved, proximal glutamine processes the resultant flavin protonation into downstream hydrogen-bond rearrangements. Here, we report that this glutamine, long deemed essential, is generally dispensable. In its absence, several light-oxygen-voltage receptors invariably retained productive, if often attenuated, signaling responses. Structures of a light-oxygen-voltage paradigm at around 1 Å resolution revealed highly similar light-induced conformational changes, irrespective of whether the glutamine is present. Naturally occurring, glutamine-deficient light-oxygen-voltage receptors likely serve as bona fide photoreceptors, as we showcase for a diguanylate cyclase. We propose that without the glutamine, water molecules transiently approach the chromophore and thus propagate flavin protonation downstream. Signaling without glutamine appears intrinsic to light-oxygen-voltage receptors, which pertains to biotechnological applications and suggests evolutionary descendance from redox-active flavoproteins.
Synthetic cells with self-activating optogenetic proteins communicate with natural cells.
Development of regulated cellular processes and signaling methods in synthetic cells is essential for their integration with living materials. Light is an attractive tool to achieve this, but the limited penetration depth into tissue of visible light restricts its usability for in-vivo applications. Here, we describe the design and implementation of bioluminescent intercellular and intracellular signaling mechanisms in synthetic cells, dismissing the need for an external light source. First, we engineer light generating SCs with an optimized lipid membrane and internal composition, to maximize luciferase expression levels and enable high-intensity emission. Next, we show these cells' capacity to trigger bioprocesses in natural cells by initiating asexual sporulation of dark-grown mycelial cells of the fungus Trichoderma atroviride. Finally, we demonstrate regulated transcription and membrane recruitment in synthetic cells using bioluminescent intracellular signaling with self-activating fusion proteins. These functionalities pave the way for deploying synthetic cells as embeddable microscale light sources that are capable of controlling engineered processes inside tissues.
Gasdermin D pores are dynamically regulated by local phosphoinositide circuitry.
Gasdermin D forms large, ~21 nm diameter pores in the plasma membrane to drive the cell death program pyroptosis. These pores are thought to be permanently open, and the resultant osmotic imbalance is thought to be highly damaging. Yet some cells mitigate and survive pore formation, suggesting an undiscovered layer of regulation over the function of these pores. However, no methods exist to directly reveal these mechanistic details. Here, we combine optogenetic tools, live cell fluorescence biosensing, and electrophysiology to demonstrate that gasdermin pores display phosphoinositide-dependent dynamics. We quantify repeated and fast opening-closing of these pores on the tens of seconds timescale, visualize the dynamic pore geometry, and identify the signaling that controls dynamic pore activity. The identification of this circuit allows pharmacological tuning of pyroptosis and control of inflammatory cytokine release by living cells.
Two-input protein logic gate for computation in living cells.
Advances in protein design have brought us within reach of developing a nanoscale programming language, in which molecules serve as operands and their conformational states function as logic gates with precise input and output behaviors. Combining these nanoscale computing agents into larger molecules and molecular complexes will allow us to write and execute "code". Here, in an important step toward this goal, we report an engineered, single protein design that is allosterically regulated to function as a 'two-input logic OR gate'. Our system is based on chemo- and optogenetic regulation of focal adhesion kinase. In the engineered FAK, all of FAK domain architecture is retained and key intramolecular interactions between the kinase and the FERM domains are externally controlled through a rapamycin-inducible uniRapR module in the kinase domain and a light-inducible LOV2 module in the FERM domain. Orthogonal regulation of protein function was possible using the chemo- and optogenetic switches. We demonstrate that dynamic FAK activation profoundly increased cell multiaxial complexity in the fibrous extracellular matrix microenvironment and decreased cell motility. This work provides proof-of-principle for fine multimodal control of protein function and paves the way for construction of complex nanoscale computing agents.
A light tunable differentiation system for the creation and control of consortia in yeast.
Artificial microbial consortia seek to leverage division-of-labour to optimize function and possess immense potential for bioproduction. Co-culturing approaches, the preferred mode of generating a consortium, remain limited in their ability to give rise to stable consortia having finely tuned compositions. Here, we present an artificial differentiation system in budding yeast capable of generating stable microbial consortia with custom functionalities from a single strain at user-defined composition in space and in time based on optogenetically-driven genetic rewiring. Owing to fast, reproducible, and light-tunable dynamics, our system enables dynamic control of consortia composition in continuous cultures for extended periods. We further demonstrate that our system can be extended in a straightforward manner to give rise to consortia with multiple subpopulations. Our artificial differentiation strategy establishes a novel paradigm for the creation of complex microbial consortia that are simple to implement, precisely controllable, and versatile to use.
Rapid prototyping and design of cybergenetic single-cell controllers.
The design and implementation of synthetic circuits that operate robustly in the cellular context is fundamental for the advancement of synthetic biology. However, their practical implementation presents challenges due to low predictability of synthetic circuit design and time-intensive troubleshooting. Here, we present the Cyberloop, a testing framework to accelerate the design process and implementation of biomolecular controllers. Cellular fluorescence measurements are sent in real-time to a computer simulating candidate stochastic controllers, which in turn compute the control inputs and feed them back to the controlled cells via light stimulation. Applying this framework to yeast cells engineered with optogenetic tools, we examine and characterize different biomolecular controllers, test the impact of non-ideal circuit behaviors such as dilution on their operation, and qualitatively demonstrate improvements in controller function with certain network modifications. From this analysis, we derive conditions for desirable biomolecular controller performance, thereby avoiding pitfalls during its biological implementation.
An active tethering mechanism controls the fate of vesicles.
Vesicle tethers are thought to underpin the efficiency of intracellular fusion by bridging vesicles to their target membranes. However, the interplay between tethering and fusion has remained enigmatic. Here, through optogenetic control of either a natural tether-the exocyst complex-or an artificial tether, we report that tethering regulates the mode of fusion. We find that vesicles mainly undergo kiss-and-run instead of full fusion in the absence of functional exocyst. Full fusion is rescued by optogenetically restoring exocyst function, in a manner likely dependent on the stoichiometry of tether engagement with the plasma membrane. In contrast, a passive artificial tether produces mostly kissing events, suggesting that kiss-and-run is the default mode of vesicle fusion. Optogenetic control of tethering further shows that fusion mode has physiological relevance since only full fusion could trigger lamellipodial expansion. These findings demonstrate that active coupling between tethering and fusion is critical for robust membrane merger.