Showing 1 - 25 of 154 results
Engineering AraC to make it responsive to light instead of arabinose.
The L-arabinose-responsive AraC and its cognate PBAD promoter underlie one of the most often used chemically inducible prokaryotic gene expression systems in microbiology and synthetic biology. Here, we change the sensing capability of AraC from L-arabinose to blue light, making its dimerization and the resulting PBAD activation light-inducible. We engineer an entire family of blue light-inducible AraC dimers in Escherichia coli (BLADE) to control gene expression in space and time. We show that BLADE can be used with pre-existing L-arabinose-responsive plasmids and strains, enabling optogenetic experiments without the need to clone. Furthermore, we apply BLADE to control, with light, the catabolism of L-arabinose, thus externally steering bacterial growth with a simple transformation step. Our work establishes BLADE as a highly practical and effective optogenetic tool with plug-and-play functionality-features that we hope will accelerate the broader adoption of optogenetics and the realization of its vast potential in microbiology, synthetic biology and biotechnology.
Optogenetic manipulation of cellular communication using engineered myosin motors.
Cells achieve highly efficient and accurate communication through cellular projections such as neurites and filopodia, yet there is a lack of genetically encoded tools that can selectively manipulate their composition and dynamics. Here, we present a versatile optogenetic toolbox of artificial multi-headed myosin motors that can move bidirectionally within long cellular extensions and allow for the selective transport of GFP-tagged cargo with light. Utilizing these engineered motors, we could transport bulky transmembrane receptors and organelles as well as actin remodellers to control the dynamics of both filopodia and neurites. Using an optimized in vivo imaging scheme, we further demonstrate that, upon limb amputation in axolotls, a complex array of filopodial extensions is formed. We selectively modulated these filopodial extensions and showed that they re-establish a Sonic Hedgehog signalling gradient during regeneration. Considering the ubiquitous existence of actin-based extensions, this toolbox shows the potential to manipulate cellular communication with unprecedented accuracy.
A synthetic BRET-based optogenetic device for pulsatile transgene expression enabling glucose homeostasis in mice.
Pulsing cellular dynamics in genetic circuits have been shown to provide critical capabilities to cells in stress response, signaling and development. Despite the fascinating discoveries made in the past few years, the mechanisms and functional capabilities of most pulsing systems remain unclear, and one of the critical challenges is the lack of a technology that allows pulsatile regulation of transgene expression both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we describe the development of a synthetic BRET-based transgene expression (LuminON) system based on a luminescent transcription factor, termed luminGAVPO, by fusing NanoLuc luciferase to the light-switchable transcription factor GAVPO. luminGAVPO allows pulsatile and quantitative activation of transgene expression via both chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches in mammalian cells and mice. Both the pulse amplitude and duration of transgene expression are highly tunable via adjustment of the amount of furimazine. We further demonstrated LuminON-mediated blood-glucose homeostasis in type 1 diabetic mice. We believe that the BRET-based LuminON system with the pulsatile dynamics of transgene expression provides a highly sensitive tool for precise manipulation in biological systems that has strong potential for application in diverse basic biological studies and gene- and cell-based precision therapies in the future.
Structural insights into the photoactivation of Arabidopsis CRY2.
The blue-light receptor cryptochrome (CRY) in plants undergoes oligomerization to transduce blue-light signals after irradiation, but the corresponding molecular mechanism remains poorly understood. Here, we report the cryogenic electron microscopy structure of a blue-light-activated CRY2 tetramer at a resolution of 3.1 Å, which shows how the CRY2 tetramer assembles. Our study provides insights into blue-light-mediated activation of CRY2 and a theoretical basis for developing regulators of CRYs for optogenetic manipulation.
Resonance energy transfer sensitises and monitors in situ switching of LOV2-based optogenetic actuators.
Engineered light-dependent switches provide uniquely powerful opportunities to investigate and control cell regulatory mechanisms. Existing tools offer high spatiotemporal resolution, reversibility and repeatability. Cellular optogenetics applications remain limited with diffusible targets as the response of the actuator is difficult to independently validate. Blue light levels commonly needed for actuation can be cytotoxic, precluding long-term experiments. We describe a simple approach overcoming these obstacles. Resonance energy transfer can be used to constitutively or dynamically modulate actuation sensitivity. This simultaneously offers on-line monitoring of light-dependent switching and precise quantification of activation-relaxation properties in intact living cells. Applying this approach to different LOV2-based switches reveals that flanking sequences can lead to relaxation times up to 11-fold faster than anticipated. In situ-measured parameter values guide the design of target-inhibiting actuation trains with minimal blue-light exposure, and context-based optimisation can increase sensitivity and experimental throughput a further 10-fold without loss of temporal precision.
Optoribogenetic control of regulatory RNA molecules.
Short regulatory RNA molecules underpin gene expression and govern cellular state and physiology. To establish an alternative layer of control over these processes, we generated chimeric regulatory RNAs that interact reversibly and light-dependently with the light-oxygen-voltage photoreceptor PAL. By harnessing this interaction, the function of micro RNAs (miRs) and short hairpin (sh) RNAs in mammalian cells can be regulated in a spatiotemporally precise manner. The underlying strategy is generic and can be adapted to near-arbitrary target sequences. Owing to full genetic encodability, it establishes optoribogenetic control of cell state and physiology. The method stands to facilitate the non-invasive, reversible and spatiotemporally resolved study of regulatory RNAs and protein function in cellular and organismal environments.
Nucleated transcriptional condensates amplify gene expression.
Membraneless organelles or condensates form through liquid-liquid phase separation1-4, which is thought to underlie gene transcription through condensation of the large-scale nucleolus5-7 or in smaller assemblies known as transcriptional condensates8-11. Transcriptional condensates have been hypothesized to phase separate at particular genomic loci and locally promote the biomolecular interactions underlying gene expression. However, there have been few quantitative biophysical tests of this model in living cells, and phase separation has not yet been directly linked with dynamic transcriptional outputs12,13. Here, we apply an optogenetic approach to show that FET-family transcriptional regulators exhibit a strong tendency to phase separate within living cells, a process that can drive localized RNA transcription. We find that TAF15 has a unique charge distribution among the FET family members that enhances its interactions with the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Nascent C-terminal domain clusters at primed genomic loci lower the energetic barrier for nucleation of TAF15 condensates, which in turn further recruit RNA polymerase II to drive transcriptional output. These results suggest that positive feedback between interacting transcriptional components drives localized phase separation to amplify gene expression.
Optogenetic control of the lac operon for bacterial chemical and protein production.
Control of the lac operon with isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG) has been used to regulate gene expression in Escherichia coli for countless applications, including metabolic engineering and recombinant protein production. However, optogenetics offers unique capabilities, such as easy tunability, reversibility, dynamic induction strength and spatial control, that are difficult to obtain with chemical inducers. We have developed a series of circuits for optogenetic regulation of the lac operon, which we call OptoLAC, to control gene expression from various IPTG-inducible promoters using only blue light. Applying them to metabolic engineering improves mevalonate and isobutanol production by 24% and 27% respectively, compared to IPTG induction, in light-controlled fermentations scalable to at least two-litre bioreactors. Furthermore, OptoLAC circuits enable control of recombinant protein production, reaching yields comparable to IPTG induction but with easier tunability of expression. OptoLAC circuits are potentially useful to confer light control over other cell functions originally designed to be IPTG-inducible.
Development of light-responsive protein binding in the monobody non-immunoglobulin scaffold.
Monobodies are synthetic non-immunoglobulin customizable protein binders invaluable to basic and applied research, and of considerable potential as future therapeutics and diagnostic tools. The ability to reversibly control their binding activity to their targets on demand would significantly expand their applications in biotechnology, medicine, and research. Here we present, as proof-of-principle, the development of a light-controlled monobody (OptoMB) that works in vitro and in cells and whose affinity for its SH2-domain target exhibits a 330-fold shift in binding affinity upon illumination. We demonstrate that our αSH2-OptoMB can be used to purify SH2-tagged proteins directly from crude E. coli extract, achieving 99.8% purity and over 40% yield in a single purification step. By virtue of their ability to be designed to bind any protein of interest, OptoMBs have the potential to find new powerful applications as light-switchable binders of untagged proteins with the temporal and spatial precision afforded by light.
Optogenetic control of protein binding using light-switchable nanobodies.
A growing number of optogenetic tools have been developed to reversibly control binding between two engineered protein domains. In contrast, relatively few tools confer light-switchable binding to a generic target protein of interest. Such a capability would offer substantial advantages, enabling photoswitchable binding to endogenous target proteins in cells or light-based protein purification in vitro. Here, we report the development of opto-nanobodies (OptoNBs), a versatile class of chimeric photoswitchable proteins whose binding to proteins of interest can be enhanced or inhibited upon blue light illumination. We find that OptoNBs are suitable for a range of applications including reversibly binding to endogenous intracellular targets, modulating signaling pathway activity, and controlling binding to purified protein targets in vitro. This work represents a step towards programmable photoswitchable regulation of a wide variety of target proteins.
Exploiting natural chemical photosensitivity of anhydrotetracycline and tetracycline for dynamic and setpoint chemo-optogenetic control.
The transcriptional inducer anhydrotetracycline (aTc) and the bacteriostatic antibiotic tetracycline (Tc) are commonly used in all fields of biology for control of transcription or translation. A drawback of these and other small molecule inducers is the difficulty of their removal from cell cultures, limiting their application for dynamic control. Here, we describe a simple method to overcome this limitation, and show that the natural photosensitivity of aTc/Tc can be exploited to turn them into highly predictable optogenetic transcriptional- and growth-regulators. This new optogenetic class uniquely features both dynamic and setpoint control which act via population-memory adjustable through opto-chemical modulation. We demonstrate this method by applying it for dynamic gene expression control and for enhancing the performance of an existing optogenetic system. We then expand the utility of the aTc system by constructing a new chemical bandpass filter that increases its aTc response range. The simplicity of our method enables scientists and biotechnologists to use their existing systems employing aTc/Tc for dynamic optogenetic experiments without genetic modification.
A non-invasive far-red light-induced split-Cre recombinase system for controllable genome engineering in mice.
The Cre-loxP recombination system is a powerful tool for genetic manipulation. However, there are widely recognized limitations with chemically inducible Cre-loxP systems, and the UV and blue-light induced systems have phototoxicity and minimal capacity for deep tissue penetration. Here, we develop a far-red light-induced split Cre-loxP system (FISC system) based on a bacteriophytochrome optogenetic system and split-Cre recombinase, enabling optogenetical regulation of genome engineering in vivo solely by utilizing a far-red light (FRL). The FISC system exhibits low background and no detectable photocytotoxicity, while offering efficient FRL-induced DNA recombination. Our in vivo studies showcase the strong organ-penetration capacity of FISC system, markedly outperforming two blue-light-based Cre systems for recombination induction in the liver. Demonstrating its strong clinical relevance, we successfully deploy a FISC system using adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery. Thus, the FISC system expands the optogenetic toolbox for DNA recombination to achieve spatiotemporally controlled, non-invasive genome engineering in living systems.
Optogenetic control of gene expression in plants in the presence of ambient white light.
Optogenetics is the genetic approach for controlling cellular processes with light. It provides spatiotemporal, quantitative and reversible control over biological signaling and metabolic processes, overcoming limitations of chemically inducible systems. However, optogenetics lags in plant research because ambient light required for growth leads to undesired system activation. We solved this issue by developing plant usable light-switch elements (PULSE), an optogenetic tool for reversibly controlling gene expression in plants under ambient light. PULSE combines a blue-light-regulated repressor with a red-light-inducible switch. Gene expression is only activated under red light and remains inactive under white light or in darkness. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we characterized PULSE in protoplasts and achieved high induction rates, and we combined it with CRISPR-Cas9-based technologies to target synthetic signaling and developmental pathways. We applied PULSE to control immune responses in plant leaves and generated Arabidopsis transgenic plants. PULSE opens broad experimental avenues in plant research and biotechnology.
LITESEC-T3SS - Light-controlled protein delivery into eukaryotic cells with high spatial and temporal resolution.
Many bacteria employ a type III secretion system (T3SS) injectisome to translocate proteins into eukaryotic host cells. Although the T3SS can efficiently export heterologous cargo proteins, a lack of target cell specificity currently limits its application in biotechnology and healthcare. In this study, we exploit the dynamic nature of the T3SS to govern its activity. Using optogenetic interaction switches to control the availability of the dynamic cytosolic T3SS component SctQ, T3SS-dependent effector secretion can be regulated by light. The resulting system, LITESEC-T3SS (Light-induced translocation of effectors through sequestration of endogenous components of the T3SS), allows rapid, specific, and reversible activation or deactivation of the T3SS upon illumination. We demonstrate the light-regulated translocation of heterologous reporter proteins, and induction of apoptosis in cultured eukaryotic cells. LITESEC-T3SS constitutes a new method to control protein secretion and translocation into eukaryotic host cells with unparalleled spatial and temporal resolution.
The oligomeric structures of plant cryptochromes.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are a group of evolutionarily conserved flavoproteins found in many organisms. In plants, the well-studied CRY photoreceptor, activated by blue light, plays essential roles in plant growth and development. However, the mechanism of activation remains largely unknown. Here, we determined the oligomeric structures of the blue-light-perceiving PHR domain of Zea mays CRY1 and an Arabidopsis CRY2 constitutively active mutant. The structures form dimers and tetramers whose functional importance is examined in vitro and in vivo with Arabidopsis CRY2. Structure-based analysis suggests that blue light may be perceived by CRY to cause conformational changes, whose precise nature remains to be determined, leading to oligomerization that is essential for downstream signaling. This photoactivation mechanism may be widely used by plant CRYs. Our study reveals a molecular mechanism of plant CRY activation and also paves the way for design of CRY as a more efficient optical switch.
Structural insights into BIC-mediated inactivation of Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2.
Cryptochromes (CRYs) are blue-light receptors in plants that harbor FAD as a cofactor and regulate various physiological responses. Photoactivated CRYs undergo oligomerization, which increases the binding affinity to downstream signaling partners. Despite decades of research on the activation of CRYs, little is known about how they are inactivated. Binding of blue-light inhibitors of cryptochromes (BICs) to CRY2 suppresses its photoactivation, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Here, we report crystal structures of CRY2N (CRY2 PHR domain) and the BIC2-CRY2N complex with resolutions of 2.7 and 2.5 Å, respectively. In the BIC2-CRY2N complex, BIC2 exhibits an extremely extended structure that sinuously winds around CRY2N. In this way, BIC2 not only restrains the transfer of electrons and protons from CRY2 to FAD during photoreduction but also interacts with the CRY2 oligomer to return it to the monomer form. Uncovering the mechanism of CRY2 inactivation lays a solid foundation for the investigation of cryptochrome protein function.
Light-powered Escherichia coli cell division for chemical production.
Cell division can perturb the metabolic performance of industrial microbes. The C period of cell division starts from the initiation to the termination of DNA replication, whereas the D period is the bacterial division process. Here, we first shorten the C and D periods of E. coli by controlling the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdAB and division proteins FtsZA through blue light and near-infrared light activation, respectively. It increases the specific surface area to 3.7 μm-1 and acetoin titer to 67.2 g·L-1. Next, we prolong the C and D periods of E. coli by regulating the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdA and division protein inhibitor SulA through blue light activation-repression and near-infrared (NIR) light activation, respectively. It improves the cell volume to 52.6 μm3 and poly(lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) titer to 14.31 g·L-1. Thus, the optogenetic-based cell division regulation strategy can improve the efficiency of microbial cell factories.
Photoactivatable Cre recombinase 3.0 for in vivo mouse applications.
Optogenetic genome engineering tools enable spatiotemporal control of gene expression and provide new insight into biological function. Here, we report the new version of genetically encoded photoactivatable (PA) Cre recombinase, PA-Cre 3.0. To improve PA-Cre technology, we compare light-dimerization tools and optimize for mammalian expression using a CAG promoter, Magnets, and 2A self-cleaving peptide. To prevent background recombination caused by the high sequence similarity in the dimerization domains, we modify the codons for mouse gene targeting and viral production. Overall, these modifications significantly reduce dark leak activity and improve blue-light induction developing our new version, PA-Cre 3.0. As a resource, we have generated and validated AAV-PA-Cre 3.0 as well as two mouse lines that can conditionally express PA-Cre 3.0. Together these new tools will facilitate further biological and biomedical research.
Controlling mRNA localization with light.
Abstract not available.
RecV recombinase system for in vivo targeted optogenomic modifications of single cells or cell populations.
Brain circuits comprise vast numbers of interconnected neurons with diverse molecular, anatomical and physiological properties. To allow targeting of individual neurons for structural and functional studies, we created light-inducible site-specific DNA recombinases based on Cre, Dre and Flp (RecVs). RecVs can induce genomic modifications by one-photon or two-photon light induction in vivo. They can produce targeted, sparse and strong labeling of individual neurons by modifying multiple loci within mouse and zebrafish genomes. In combination with other genetic strategies, they allow intersectional targeting of different neuronal classes. In the mouse cortex they enable sparse labeling and whole-brain morphological reconstructions of individual neurons. Furthermore, these enzymes allow single-cell two-photon targeted genetic modifications and can be used in combination with functional optical indicators with minimal interference. In summary, RecVs enable spatiotemporally precise optogenomic modifications that can facilitate detailed single-cell analysis of neural circuits by linking genetic identity, morphology, connectivity and function.
Cell-in-the-loop pattern formation with optogenetically emulated cell-to-cell signaling.
Designing and implementing synthetic biological pattern formation remains challenging due to underlying theoretical complexity as well as the difficulty of engineering multicellular networks biochemically. Here, we introduce a cell-in-the-loop approach where living cells interact through in silico signaling, establishing a new testbed to interrogate theoretical principles when internal cell dynamics are incorporated rather than modeled. We present an easy-to-use theoretical test to predict the emergence of contrasting patterns in gene expression among laterally inhibiting cells. Guided by the theory, we experimentally demonstrate spontaneous checkerboard patterning in an optogenetic setup, where cell-to-cell signaling is emulated with light inputs calculated in silico from real-time gene expression measurements. The scheme successfully produces spontaneous, persistent checkerboard patterns for systems of sixteen patches, in quantitative agreement with theoretical predictions. Our research highlights how tools from dynamical systems theory may inform our understanding of patterning, and illustrates the potential of cell-in-the-loop for engineering synthetic multicellular systems.
Cytokinetic bridge triggers de novo lumen formation in vivo.
Multicellular rosettes are transient epithelial structures that serve as intermediates during diverse organ formation. We have identified a unique contributor to rosette formation in zebrafish Kupffer's vesicle (KV) that requires cell division, specifically the final stage of mitosis termed abscission. KV utilizes a rosette as a prerequisite before forming a lumen surrounded by ciliated epithelial cells. Our studies identify that KV-destined cells remain interconnected by cytokinetic bridges that position at the rosette's center. These bridges act as a landmark for directed Rab11 vesicle motility to deliver an essential cargo for lumen formation, CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator). Here we report that premature bridge cleavage through laser ablation or inhibiting abscission using optogenetic clustering of Rab11 result in disrupted lumen formation. We present a model in which KV mitotic cells strategically place their cytokinetic bridges at the rosette center, where Rab11-associated vesicles transport CFTR to aid in lumen establishment.
Optogenetic manipulation of calcium signals in single T cells in vivo.
By offering the possibility to manipulate cellular functions with spatiotemporal control, optogenetics represents an attractive tool for dissecting immune responses. However, applying these approaches to single cells in vivo remains particularly challenging for immune cells that are typically located in scattering tissues. Here, we introduce an improved calcium actuator with sensitivity allowing for two-photon photoactivation. Furthermore, we identify an actuator/reporter combination that permits the simultaneous manipulation and visualization of calcium signals in individual T cells in vivo. With this strategy, we document the consequences of defined patterns of calcium signals on T cell migration, adhesion, and chemokine release. Manipulation of individual immune cells in vivo should open new avenues for establishing the functional contribution of single immune cells engaged in complex reactions.
Optogenetic engineering to probe the molecular choreography of STIM1-mediated cell signaling.
Genetically encoded photoswitches have enabled spatial and temporal control of cellular events to achieve tailored functions in living cells, but their applications to probe the structure-function relations of signaling proteins are still underexplored. We illustrate herein the incorporation of various blue light-responsive photoreceptors into modular domains of the stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1) to manipulate protein activity and faithfully recapitulate STIM1-mediated signaling events. Capitalizing on these optogenetic tools, we identify the molecular determinants required to mediate protein oligomerization, intramolecular conformational switch, and protein-target interactions. In parallel, we have applied these synthetic devices to enable light-inducible gating of calcium channels, conformational switch, dynamic protein-microtubule interactions and assembly of membrane contact sites in a reversible manner. Our optogenetic engineering approach can be broadly applied to aid the mechanistic dissection of cell signaling, as well as non-invasive interrogation of physiological processes with high precision.
Optogenetic modulation of TDP-43 oligomerization accelerates ALS-related pathologies in the spinal motor neurons.
Cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 characterizes degenerating neurons in most cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here, we develop an optogenetic TDP-43 variant (opTDP-43), whose multimerization status can be modulated in vivo through external light illumination. Using the translucent zebrafish neuromuscular system, we demonstrate that short-term light stimulation reversibly induces cytoplasmic opTDP-43 mislocalization, but not aggregation, in the spinal motor neuron, leading to an axon outgrowth defect associated with myofiber denervation. In contrast, opTDP-43 forms pathological aggregates in the cytoplasm after longer-term illumination and seeds non-optogenetic TDP-43 aggregation. Furthermore, we find that an ALS-linked mutation in the intrinsically disordered region (IDR) exacerbates the light-dependent opTDP-43 toxicity on locomotor behavior. Together, our results propose that IDR-mediated TDP-43 oligomerization triggers both acute and long-term pathologies of motor neurons, which may be relevant to the pathogenesis and progression of ALS.