Showing 1 - 15 of 15 results
Rapid characterization of anti-CRISPR proteins and optogenetically engineered variants using a versatile plasmid interference system.
Anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins are encoded by mobile genetic elements to overcome the CRISPR immunity of prokaryotes, displaying promises as controllable tools for modulating CRISPR-based applications. However, characterizing novel anti-CRISPR proteins and exploiting Acr-related technologies is a rather long and tedious process. Here, we established a versatile plasmid interference with CRISPR interference (PICI) system in Escherichia coli for rapidly characterizing Acrs and developing Acr-based technologies. Utilizing the PICI system, we discovered two novel type II-A Acrs (AcrIIA33 and AcrIIA34), which can inhibit the activity of SpyCas9 by affecting DNA recognition of Cas9. We further constructed a circularly permuted AcrIIA4 (cpA4) protein and developed optogenetically engineered, robust AcrIIA4 (OPERA4) variants by combining cpA4 with the light-oxygen-voltage 2 (LOV2) blue light sensory domain. OPERA4 variants are robust light-dependent tools for controlling the activity of SpyCas9 by approximately 1000-fold change under switching dark-light conditions in prokaryotes. OPERA4 variants can achieve potent light-controllable genome editing in human cells as well. Together, our work provides a versatile screening system for characterizing Acrs and developing the Acr-based controllable tools.
Requirements for mammalian promoters to decode transcription factor dynamics.
In response to different stimuli many transcription factors (TFs) display different activation dynamics that trigger the expression of specific sets of target genes, suggesting that promoters have a way to decode dynamics. Here, we use optogenetics to directly manipulate the nuclear localization of a synthetic TF in mammalian cells without affecting other processes. We generate pulsatile or sustained TF dynamics and employ live cell microscopy and mathematical modelling to analyse the behaviour of a library of reporter constructs. We find decoding of TF dynamics occurs only when the coupling between TF binding and transcription pre-initiation complex formation is inefficient and that the ability of a promoter to decode TF dynamics gets amplified by inefficient translation initiation. Using the knowledge acquired, we build a synthetic circuit that allows obtaining two gene expression programs depending solely on TF dynamics. Finally, we show that some of the promoter features identified in our study can be used to distinguish natural promoters that have previously been experimentally characterized as responsive to either sustained or pulsatile p53 and NF-κB signals. These results help elucidate how gene expression is regulated in mammalian cells and open up the possibility to build complex synthetic circuits steered by TF dynamics.
Optical control of protein delivery and partitioning in the nucleolus.
The nucleolus is a subnuclear membraneless compartment intimately involved in ribosomal RNA synthesis, ribosome biogenesis and stress response. Multiple optogenetic devices have been developed to manipulate nuclear protein import and export, but molecular tools tailored for remote control over selective targeting or partitioning of cargo proteins into subnuclear compartments capable of phase separation are still limited. Here, we report a set of single-component photoinducible nucleolus-targeting tools, designated pNUTs, to enable rapid and reversible nucleoplasm-to-nucleolus shuttling, with the half-lives ranging from milliseconds to minutes. pNUTs allow both global protein infiltration into nucleoli and local delivery of cargoes into the outermost layer of the nucleolus, the granular component. When coupled with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-associated C9ORF72 proline/arginine-rich dipeptide repeats, pNUTs allow us to photomanipulate poly-proline-arginine nucleolar localization, perturb nucleolar protein nucleophosmin 1 and suppress nascent protein synthesis. pNUTs thus expand the optogenetic toolbox by permitting light-controllable interrogation of nucleolar functions and precise induction of ALS-associated toxicity in cellular models.
Optogenetic control of Neisseria meningitidis Cas9 genome editing using an engineered, light-switchable anti-CRISPR protein.
Optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9 systems has significantly improved our ability to perform genome perturbations in living cells with high precision in time and space. As new Cas orthologues with advantageous properties are rapidly being discovered and engineered, the need for straightforward strategies to control their activity via exogenous stimuli persists. The Cas9 from Neisseria meningitidis (Nme) is a particularly small and target-specific Cas9 orthologue, and thus of high interest for in vivo genome editing applications. Here, we report the first optogenetic tool to control NmeCas9 activity in mammalian cells via an engineered, light-dependent anti-CRISPR (Acr) protein. Building on our previous Acr engineering work, we created hybrids between the NmeCas9 inhibitor AcrIIC3 and the LOV2 blue light sensory domain from Avena sativa. Two AcrIIC3-LOV2 hybrids from our collection potently blocked NmeCas9 activity in the dark, while permitting robust genome editing at various endogenous loci upon blue light irradiation. Structural analysis revealed that, within these hybrids, the LOV2 domain is located in striking proximity to the Cas9 binding surface. Together, our work demonstrates optogenetic regulation of a type II-C CRISPR effector and might suggest a new route for the design of optogenetic Acrs.
A single-component light sensor system allows highly tunable and direct activation of gene expression in bacterial cells.
Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behaviour with precise spatial and temporal resolution. Among a variety of bacterial light-switchable gene expression systems, single-component systems consisting of single transcription factors would be more useful due to the advantages of speed, simplicity, and versatility. In the present study, we developed a single-component light-activated bacterial gene expression system (eLightOn) based on a novel LOV domain from Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RsLOV). The eLightOn system showed significant improvements over the existing single-component bacterial light-activated expression systems, with benefits including a high ON/OFF ratio of >500-fold, a high activation level, fast activation kinetics, and/or good adaptability. Additionally, the induction characteristics, including regulatory windows, activation kinetics and light sensitivities, were highly tunable by altering the expression level of LexRO. We demonstrated the usefulness of the eLightOn system in regulating cell division and swimming by controlling the expression of the FtsZ and CheZ genes, respectively, as well as constructing synthetic Boolean logic gates using light and arabinose as the two inputs. Taken together, our data indicate that the eLightOn system is a robust and highly tunable tool for quantitative and spatiotemporal control of bacterial gene expression.
Achieving tight control of a photoactivatable Cre recombinase gene switch: new design strategies and functional characterization in mammalian cells and rodent.
A common mechanism for inducibly controlling protein function relies on reconstitution of split protein fragments using chemical or light-induced dimerization domains. A protein is split into fragments that are inactive on their own, but can be reconstituted after dimerization. As many split proteins retain affinity for their complementary half, maintaining low activity in the absence of an inducer remains a challenge. Here, we systematically explore methods to achieve tight regulation of inducible proteins that are effective despite variation in protein expression level. We characterize a previously developed split Cre recombinase (PA-Cre2.0) that is reconstituted upon light-induced CRY2-CIB1 dimerization, in cultured cells and in vivo in rodent brain. In culture, PA-Cre2.0 shows low background and high induced activity over a wide range of expression levels, while in vivo the system also shows low background and sensitive response to brief light inputs. The consistent activity stems from fragment compartmentalization that shifts localization toward the cytosol. Extending this work, we exploit nuclear compartmentalization to generate light-and-chemical regulated versions of Cre recombinase. This work demonstrates in vivo functionality of PA-Cre2.0, describes new approaches to achieve tight inducible control of Cre DNA recombinase, and provides general guidelines for further engineering and application of split protein fragments.
Noise-reducing optogenetic negative-feedback gene circuits in human cells.
Gene autorepression is widely present in nature and is also employed in synthetic biology, partly to reduce gene expression noise in cells. Optogenetic systems have recently been developed for controlling gene expression levels in mammalian cells, but most have utilized activator-based proteins, neglecting negative feedback except for in silico control. Here, we engineer optogenetic gene circuits into mammalian cells to achieve noise-reduction for precise gene expression control by genetic, in vitro negative feedback. We build a toolset of these noise-reducing Light-Inducible Tuner (LITer) gene circuits using the TetR repressor fused with a Tet-inhibiting peptide (TIP) or a degradation tag through the light-sensitive LOV2 protein domain. These LITers provide a range of nearly 4-fold gene expression control and up to 5-fold noise reduction from existing optogenetic systems. Moreover, we use the LITer gene circuit architecture to control gene expression of the cancer oncogene KRAS(G12V) and study its downstream effects through phospho-ERK levels and cellular proliferation. Overall, these novel LITer optogenetic platforms should enable precise spatiotemporal perturbations for studying multicellular phenotypes in developmental biology, oncology and other biomedical fields of research.
Optimized light-inducible transcription in mammalian cells using Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box1/GIGANTEA and CRY2/CIB1.
Light-inducible systems allow spatiotemporal control of a variety of biological activities. Here, we report newly optimized optogenetic tools to induce transcription with light in mammalian cells, using the Arabidopsis photoreceptor Flavin Kelch-repeat F-box 1 (FKF1) and its binding partner GIGANTEA (GI) as well as CRY2/CIB1. By combining the mutagenesis of FKF1 with the optimization of a split FKF1/GI dimerized Gal4-VP16 transcriptional system, we identified constructs enabling significantly improved light-triggered transcriptional induction. In addition, we have improved the CRY2/CIB1-based light-inducible transcription with split construct optimization. The improvements regarding the FKF1/GI- and CRY2/CIB1-based systems will be widely applicable for the light-dependent control of transcription in mammalian cells.
PhiReX: a programmable and red light-regulated protein expression switch for yeast.
Highly regulated induction systems enabling dose-dependent and reversible fine-tuning of protein expression output are beneficial for engineering complex biosynthetic pathways. To address this, we developed PhiReX, a novel red/far-red light-regulated protein expression system for use in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PhiReX is based on the combination of a customizable synTALE DNA-binding domain, the VP64 activation domain and the light-sensitive dimerization of the photoreceptor PhyB and its interacting partner PIF3 from Arabidopsis thaliana. Robust gene expression and high protein levels are achieved by combining genome integrated red light-sensing components with an episomal high-copy reporter construct. The gene of interest as well as the synTALE DNA-binding domain can be easily exchanged, allowing the flexible regulation of any desired gene by targeting endogenous or heterologous promoter regions. To allow low-cost induction of gene expression for industrial fermentation processes, we engineered yeast to endogenously produce the chromophore required for the effective dimerization of PhyB and PIF3. Time course experiments demonstrate high-level induction over a period of at least 48 h.
Bidirectional approaches for optogenetic regulation of gene expression in mammalian cells using Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2.
Optogenetic tools allow regulation of cellular processes with light, which can be delivered with spatiotemporal resolution. In previous work, we used cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and CIB1, Arabidopsis proteins that interact upon light illumination, to regulate transcription with light in yeast. While adopting this approach to regulate transcription in mammalian cells, we observed light-dependent redistribution and clearing of CRY2-tethered proteins within the nucleus. The nuclear clearing phenotype was dependent on the presence of a dimerization domain contained within the CRY2-fused transcriptional activators. We used this knowledge to develop two different approaches to regulate cellular protein levels with light: a system using CRY2 and CIB1 to induce protein expression with light through stimulation of transcription, and a system using CRY2 and a LOV-fused degron to simultaneously block transcription and deplete protein levels with light. These tools will allow precise, bi-directional control of gene expression in a variety of cells and model systems.
Engineering of temperature- and light-switchable Cas9 variants.
Sensory photoreceptors have enabled non-invasive and spatiotemporal control of numerous biological processes. Photoreceptor engineering has expanded the repertoire beyond natural receptors, but to date no generally applicable strategy exists towards constructing light-regulated protein actuators of arbitrary function. We hence explored whether the homodimeric Rhodobacter sphaeroides light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain (RsLOV) that dissociates upon blue-light exposure can confer light sensitivity onto effector proteins, via a mechanism of light-induced functional site release. We chose the RNA-guided programmable DNA endonuclease Cas9 as proof-of-principle effector, and constructed a comprehensive library of RsLOV inserted throughout the Cas9 protein. Screening with a high-throughput assay based on transcriptional repression in Escherichia coli yielded paRC9, a moderately light-activatable variant. As domain insertion can lead to protein destabilization, we also screened the library for temperature-sensitive variants and isolated tsRC9, a variant with robust activity at 29°C but negligible activity at 37°C. Biochemical assays confirmed temperature-dependent DNA cleavage and binding for tsRC9, but indicated that the light sensitivity of paRC9 is specific to the cellular setting. Using tsRC9, the first temperature-sensitive Cas9 variant, we demonstrate temperature-dependent transcriptional control over ectopic and endogenous genetic loci. Taken together, RsLOV can confer light sensitivity onto an unrelated effector; unexpectedly, the same LOV domain can also impart strong temperature sensitivity.
Blue light-mediated transcriptional activation and repression of gene expression in bacteria.
Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behavior in precise spatial and temporal resolution. The availability of such tools may dramatically accelerate the progression of synthetic biology applications. Nonetheless, current optogenetic toolbox of prokaryotes has potential issues such as lack of rapid and switchable control, less portable, low dynamic expression and limited parts. To address these shortcomings, we have engineered a novel bidirectional promoter system for Escherichia coli that can be induced or repressed rapidly and reversibly using the blue light dependent DNA-binding protein EL222. We demonstrated that by modulating the dosage of light pulses or intensity we could control the level of gene expression precisely. We show that both light-inducible and repressible system can function in parallel with high spatial precision in a single cell and can be switched stably between ON- and OFF-states by repetitive pulses of blue light. In addition, the light-inducible and repressible expression kinetics were quantitatively analysed using a mathematical model. We further apply the system, for the first time, to optogenetically synchronize two receiver cells performing different logic behaviors over time using blue light as a molecular clock signal. Overall, our modular approach layers a transformative platform for next-generation light-controllable synthetic biology systems in prokaryotes.
Synthetic dual-input mammalian genetic circuits enable tunable and stringent transcription control by chemical and light.
Programmable transcription factors can enable precise control of gene expression triggered by a chemical inducer or light. To obtain versatile transgene system with combined benefits of a chemical inducer and light inducer, we created various chimeric promoters through the assembly of different copies of the tet operator and Gal4 operator module, which simultaneously responded to a tetracycline-responsive transcription factor and a light-switchable transactivator. The activities of these chimeric promoters can be regulated by tetracycline and blue light synergistically or antagonistically. Further studies of the antagonistic genetic circuit exhibited high spatiotemporal resolution and extremely low leaky expression, which therefore could be used to spatially and stringently control the expression of highly toxic protein Diphtheria toxin A for light regulated gene therapy. When transferring plasmids engineered for the gene switch-driven expression of a firefly luciferase (Fluc) into mice, the Fluc expression levels of the treated animals directly correlated with the tetracycline and light input program. We suggest that dual-input genetic circuits using TET and light that serve as triggers to achieve expression profiles may enable the design of robust therapeutic gene circuits for gene- and cell-based therapies.
Multi-chromatic control of mammalian gene expression and signaling.
The emergence and future of mammalian synthetic biology depends on technologies for orchestrating and custom tailoring complementary gene expression and signaling processes in a predictable manner. Here, we demonstrate for the first time multi-chromatic expression control in mammalian cells by differentially inducing up to three genes in a single cell culture in response to light of different wavelengths. To this end, we developed an ultraviolet B (UVB)-inducible expression system by designing a UVB-responsive split transcription factor based on the Arabidopsis thaliana UVB receptor UVR8 and the WD40 domain of COP1. The system allowed high (up to 800-fold) UVB-induced gene expression in human, monkey, hamster and mouse cells. Based on a quantitative model, we determined critical system parameters. By combining this UVB-responsive system with blue and red light-inducible gene control technology, we demonstrate multi-chromatic multi-gene control by differentially expressing three genes in a single cell culture in mammalian cells, and we apply this system for the multi-chromatic control of angiogenic signaling processes. This portfolio of optogenetic tools enables the design and implementation of synthetic biological networks showing unmatched spatiotemporal precision for future research and biomedical applications.
A red/far-red light-responsive bi-stable toggle switch to control gene expression in mammalian cells.
Growth and differentiation of multicellular systems is orchestrated by spatially restricted gene expression programs in specialized subpopulations. The targeted manipulation of such processes by synthetic tools with high-spatiotemporal resolution could, therefore, enable a deepened understanding of developmental processes and open new opportunities in tissue engineering. Here, we describe the first red/far-red light-triggered gene switch for mammalian cells for achieving gene expression control in time and space. We show that the system can reversibly be toggled between stable on- and off-states using short light pulses at 660 or 740 nm. Red light-induced gene expression was shown to correlate with the applied photon number and was compatible with different mammalian cell lines, including human primary cells. The light-induced expression kinetics were quantitatively analyzed by a mathematical model. We apply the system for the spatially controlled engineering of angiogenesis in chicken embryos. The system's performance combined with cell- and tissue-compatible regulating red light will enable unprecedented spatiotemporally controlled molecular interventions in mammalian cells, tissues and organisms.