Showing 1 - 24 of 24 results
Spatiotemporal sensitivity of mesoderm specification to FGFR signalling in the Drosophila embryo.
Development of the Drosophila embryonic mesoderm is controlled through both internal and external inputs to the mesoderm. One such factor is Heartless (Htl), a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR) expressed in the mesoderm. Although Htl has been extensively studied, the dynamics of its action are poorly understood after the initial phases of mesoderm formation and spreading. To begin to address this challenge, we have developed an optogenetic version of the FGFR Heartless in Drosophila (Opto-htl). Opto-htl enables us to activate the FGFR pathway in selective spatial (~ 35 μm section from one of the lateral sides of the embryo) and temporal domains (ranging from 40 min to 14 h) during embryogenesis. Importantly, the effects can be tuned by the intensity of light-activation, making this approach significantly more flexible than other genetic approaches. We performed controlled perturbations to the FGFR pathway to define the contribution of Htl signalling to the formation of the developing embryonic heart and somatic muscles. We find a direct correlation between Htl signalling dosage and number of Tinman-positive heart cells specified. Opto-htl activation favours the specification of Tinman positive cardioblasts and eliminates Eve-positive DA1 muscles. This effect is seen to increase progressively with increasing light intensity. Therefore, fine tuning of phenotypic responses to varied Htl signalling dosage can be achieved more conveniently than with other genetic approaches. Overall, Opto-htl is a powerful new tool for dissecting the role of FGFR signalling during development.
An optogenetic system to control membrane phospholipid asymmetry through flippase activation in budding yeast.
Lipid asymmetry in biological membranes is essential for various cell functions, such as cell polarity, cytokinesis, and apoptosis. P4-ATPases (flippases) are involved in the generation of such asymmetry. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the protein kinases Fpk1p/Fpk2p activate the P4-ATPases Dnf1p/Dnf2p by phosphorylation. Previously, we have shown that a blue-light-dependent protein kinase, phototropin from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (CrPHOT), complements defects in an fpk1Δ fpk2Δ mutant. Herein, we investigated whether CrPHOT optically regulates P4-ATPase activity. First, we demonstrated that the translocation of NBD-labelled phospholipids to the cytoplasmic leaflet via P4-ATPases was promoted by blue-light irradiation in fpk1Δ fpk2Δ cells with CrPHOT. In addition, blue light completely suppressed the defects in membrane functions (such as endocytic recycling, actin depolarization, and apical-isotropic growth switching) caused by fpk1Δ fpk2Δ mutations. All responses required the kinase activity of CrPHOT. Hence, these results indicate the utility of CrPHOT as a powerful and first tool for optogenetic manipulation of P4-ATPase activity.
Combining optogenetics with sensitive FRET imaging to monitor local microtubule manipulations.
Optogenetic methods for switching molecular states in cells are increasingly prominent tools in life sciences. Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)-based sensors can provide quantitative and sensitive readouts of altered cellular biochemistry, e.g. from optogenetics. However, most of the light-inducible domains respond to the same wavelength as is required for excitation of popular CFP/YFP-based FRET pairs, rendering the techniques incompatible with each other. In order to overcome this limitation, we red-shifted an existing CFP/YFP-based OP18 FRET sensor (COPY) by employing an sYFP2 donor and mScarlet-I acceptor. Their favorable quantum yield and brightness result in a red-shifted FRET pair with an optimized dynamic range, which could be further enhanced by an R125I point mutation that stimulates intramolecular interactions. The new sensor was named ROPY and it visualizes the interaction between the microtubule regulator stathmin/OP18 and free tubulin heterodimers. We show that through phosphorylation of the ROPY sensor, its tubulin sequestering ability can be locally regulated by photo-activatable Rac1 (PARac1), independent of the FRET readout. Together, ROPY and PARac1 provide spatiotemporal control over free tubulin levels. ROPY/PARac1-based optogenetic regulation of free tubulin levels allowed us to demonstrate that depletion of free tubulin prevents the formation of pioneer microtubules, while local upregulation of tubulin concentration allows localized microtubule extensions to support the lamellipodia.
Cell and tissue manipulation with ultrashort infrared laser pulses in light-sheet microscopy.
Three-dimensional live imaging has become an indispensable technique in the fields of cell, developmental and neural biology. Precise spatio-temporal manipulation of biological entities is often required for a deeper functional understanding of the underlying biological process. Here we present a home-built integrated framework and optical design that combines three-dimensional light-sheet imaging over time with precise spatio-temporal optical manipulations induced by short infrared laser pulses. We demonstrate their potential for sub-cellular ablation of neurons and nuclei, tissue cauterization and optogenetics by using the Drosophila melanogaster and zebrafish model systems.
The C-terminal region affects the activity of photoactivated adenylyl cyclase from Oscillatoria acuminata.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) is a unique protein that, upon blue light exposure, catalyzes cAMP production. The crystal structures of two PACs, from Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) and Beggiatoa sp. (bPAC), have been solved, and they show a high degree of similarity. However, the photoactivity of OaPAC is much lower than that of bPAC, and the regulatory mechanism of PAC photoactivity, which induces the difference in activity between OaPAC and bPAC, has not yet been clarified. Here, we investigated the role of the C-terminal region in OaPAC, the length of which is the only notable difference from bPAC. We found that the photoactivity of OaPAC was inversely proportional to the C-terminal length. However, the deletion of more than nine amino acids did not further increase the activity, indicating that the nine amino acids at the C-terminal critically affect the photoactivity. Besides, absorption spectral features of light-sensing domains (BLUF domains) of the C-terminal deletion mutants showed similar light-dependent spectral shifts as in WT, indicating that the C-terminal region influences the activity without interacting with the BLUF domain. The study characterizes new PAC mutants with modified photoactivities, which could be useful as optogenetics tools.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
Optogenetic control of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer cells.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is one of the most important mechanisms in the initiation and promotion of cancer cell metastasis. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway has been demonstrated to be involved in TGF-β induced EMT, but the complicated TGF-β signaling network makes it challenging to dissect the important role of PI3K on regulation of EMT process. Here, we applied optogenetic controlled PI3K module (named 'Opto-PI3K'), which based on CRY2 and the N-terminal of CIB1 (CIBN), to rapidly and reversibly control the endogenous PI3K activity in cancer cells with light. By precisely modulating the kinetics of PI3K activation, we found that E-cadherin is an important downstream target of PI3K signaling. Compared with TGF-β treatment, Opto-PI3K had more potent effect in down-regulation of E-cadherin expression, which was demonstrated to be regulated in a light dose-dependent manner. Surprisingly, sustained PI3K activation induced partial EMT state in A549 cells that is highly reversible. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Opto-PI3K only partially mimicked TGF-β effects on promotion of cell migration in vitro. These results reveal the importance of PI3K signaling in TGF-β induced EMT, suggesting other TGF-β regulated signaling pathways are necessary for the full and irreversible promotion of EMT in cancer cells. In addition, our study implicates the great promise of optogenetics in cancer research for mapping input-output relationships in oncogenic pathways.
A platform of BRET-FRET hybrid biosensors for optogenetics, chemical screening, and in vivo imaging.
Genetically encoded biosensors based on the principle of Förster resonance energy transfer comprise two major classes: biosensors based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and those based on bioluminescence energy transfer (BRET). The FRET biosensors visualize signaling-molecule activity in cells or tissues with high resolution. Meanwhile, due to the low background signal, the BRET biosensors are primarily used in drug screening. Here, we report a protocol to transform intramolecular FRET biosensors to BRET-FRET hybrid biosensors called hyBRET biosensors. The hyBRET biosensors retain all properties of the prototype FRET biosensors and also work as BRET biosensors with dynamic ranges comparable to the prototype FRET biosensors. The hyBRET biosensors are compatible with optogenetics, luminescence microplate reader assays, and non-invasive whole-body imaging of xenograft and transgenic mice. This simple protocol will expand the use of FRET biosensors and enable visualization of the multiscale dynamics of cell signaling in live animals.
Analysis of the CaMKIIα and β splice-variant distribution among brain regions reveals isoform-specific differences in holoenzyme formation.
Four CaMKII isoforms are encoded by distinct genes, and alternative splicing within the variable linker-region generates additional diversity. The α and β isoforms are largely brain-specific, where they mediate synaptic functions underlying learning, memory and cognition. Here, we determined the α and β splice-variant distribution among different mouse brain regions. Surprisingly, the nuclear variant αB was detected in all regions, and even dominated in hypothalamus and brain stem. For CaMKIIβ, the full-length variant dominated in most regions (with higher amounts of minor variants again seen in hypothalamus and brain stem). The mammalian but not fish CaMKIIβ gene lacks exon v3Nthat encodes the nuclear localization signal in αB, but contains three exons not found in the CaMKIIα gene (exons v1, v4, v5). While skipping of exons v1 and/or v5 generated the minor splice-variants β', βe and βe', essentially all transcripts contained exon v4. However, we instead detected another minor splice-variant (now termed βH), which lacks part of the hub domain that mediates formation of CaMKII holoenzymes. Surprisingly, in an optogenetic cellular assay of protein interactions, CaMKIIβH was impaired for binding to the β hub domain, but still bound CaMKIIα. This provides the first indication for isoform-specific differences in holoenzyme formation.
Unique Roles of β-Arrestin in GPCR Trafficking Revealed by Photoinducible Dimerizers.
Intracellular trafficking of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) controls their localization and degradation, which affects a cell's ability to adapt to extracellular stimuli. Although the perturbation of trafficking induces important diseases, these trafficking mechanisms are poorly understood. Herein, we demonstrate an optogenetic method using an optical dimerizer, cryptochrome (CRY) and its partner protein (CIB), to analyze the trafficking mechanisms of GPCRs and their regulatory proteins. Temporally controlling the interaction between β-arrestin and β2-adrenergic receptor (ADRB2) reveals that the duration of the β-arrestin-ADRB2 interaction determines the trafficking pathway of ADRB2. Remarkably, the phosphorylation of ADRB2 by G protein-coupled receptor kinases is unnecessary to trigger clathrin-mediated endocytosis, and β-arrestin interacting with unphosphorylated ADRB2 fails to activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, in contrast to the ADRB2 agonist isoproterenol. Temporal control of β-arrestin-GPCR interactions will enable the investigation of the unique roles of β-arrestin and the mechanism by which it regulates β-arrestin-specific trafficking pathways of different GPCRs.
Coupling optogenetics and light-sheet microscopy, a method to study Wnt signaling during embryogenesis.
Optogenetics allows precise, fast and reversible intervention in biological processes. Light-sheet microscopy allows observation of the full course of Drosophila embryonic development from egg to larva. Bringing the two approaches together allows unparalleled precision into the temporal regulation of signaling pathways and cellular processes in vivo. To develop this method, we investigated the regulation of canonical Wnt signaling during anterior-posterior patterning of the Drosophila embryonic epidermis. Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from Arabidopsis Thaliana was fused to mCherry fluorescent protein and Drosophila β-catenin to form an easy to visualize optogenetic switch. Blue light illumination caused oligomerization of the fusion protein and inhibited downstream Wnt signaling in vitro and in vivo. Temporal inactivation of β-catenin confirmed that Wnt signaling is required not only for Drosophila pattern formation, but also for maintenance later in development. We anticipate that this method will be easily extendable to other developmental signaling pathways and many other experimental systems.
Modulation of cyclic nucleotide-mediated cellular signaling and gene expression using photoactivated adenylyl cyclase as an optogenetic tool.
Cyclic nucleotide signaling pathway plays a significant role in various biological processes such as cell growth, transcription, inflammation, in microbial pathogenesis, etc. Modulation of cyclic nucleotide levels by optogenetic tools has overcome certain limitations of studying transduction cascade by pharmacological agents and has allowed several ways to modulate biological processes in a spatiotemporal manner. Here, we have shown the optogenetic modulation of the cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox-2) gene expression and their downstream effector molecule (PGE2) in HEK-293T cells and the development process of Dictyostelium discoideum via modulating the cyclic nucleotide (cAMP) signaling pathway utilizing photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) as an optogenetic tool. Light-induced activation of PACs in HEK-293T cells increases the cAMP level that leads to activation of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) transcription factor and further upregulates downstream Cox-2 gene expression and their downstream effector molecule prostaglandin E2. In D. discoideum, the light-regulated increase in cAMP level affects the starvation-induced developmental process. These PACs could modulate the cAMP levels in a light-dependent manner and have a potential to control gene expression and their downstream effector molecules with varying magnitude. It would enable one to utilize PAC as a tool to decipher cyclic nucleotide mediated signaling pathway regulations and their mechanism.
Optogenetic regulation of insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells.
Pancreatic β-cell insulin production is orchestrated by a complex circuitry involving intracellular elements including cyclic AMP (cAMP). Tackling aberrations in glucose-stimulated insulin release such as in diabetes with pharmacological agents, which boost the secretory capacity of β-cells, is linked to adverse side effects. We hypothesized that a photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase (PAC) can be employed to modulate cAMP in β-cells with light thereby enhancing insulin secretion. To that end, the PAC gene from Beggiatoa (bPAC) was delivered to β-cells. A cAMP increase was noted within 5 minutes of photostimulation and a significant drop at 12 minutes post-illumination. The concomitant augmented insulin secretion was comparable to that from β-cells treated with secretagogues. Greater insulin release was also observed over repeated cycles of photoinduction without adverse effects on viability and proliferation. Furthermore, the expression and activation of bPAC increased cAMP and insulin secretion in murine islets and in β-cell pseudoislets, which displayed a more pronounced light-triggered hormone secretion compared to that of β-cell monolayers. Calcium channel blocking curtailed the enhanced insulin response due to bPAC activity. This optogenetic system with modulation of cAMP and insulin release can be employed for the study of β-cell function and for enabling new therapeutic modalities for diabetes.
Red fluorescent protein-based cAMP indicator applicable to optogenetics and in vivo imaging.
cAMP is a common second messenger that is involved in various physiological processes. To expand the colour palette of available cAMP indicators, we developed a red cAMP indicator named "Pink Flamindo" (Pink Fluorescent cAMP indicator). The fluorescence intensity of Pink Flamindo increases 4.2-fold in the presence of a saturating dose of cAMP, with excitation and emission peaks at 567 nm and 590 nm, respectively. Live-cell imaging revealed that Pink Flamindo is effective for monitoring the spatio-temporal dynamics of intracellular cAMP generated by photoactivated adenylyl cyclase in response to blue light, and in dual-colour imaging studies using a green Ca2+ indicator (G-GECO). Furthermore, we successfully monitored the elevation of cAMP levels in vivo in cerebral cortical astrocytes by two-photon imaging. We propose that Pink Flamindo will facilitate future in vivo, optogenetic studies of cell signalling and cAMP dynamics.
Optogenetic control of the Dab1 signaling pathway.
The Reelin-Dab1 signaling pathway regulates development of the mammalian brain, including neuron migrations in various brain regions, as well as learning and memory in adults. Extracellular Reelin binds to cell surface receptors and activates phosphorylation of the intracellular Dab1 protein. Dab1 is required for most effects of Reelin, but Dab1-independent pathways may contribute. Here we developed a single-component, photoactivatable Dab1 (opto-Dab1) by using the blue light-sensitive dimerization/oligomerization property of A. thaliana Cryptochrome 2 (Cry2). Opto-Dab1 can activate downstream signals rapidly, locally, and reversibly upon blue light illumination. The high spatiotemporal resolution of the opto-Dab1 probe also allows us to control membrane protrusion, retraction and ruffling by local illumination in both COS7 cells and in primary neurons. This shows that Dab1 activation is sufficient to orient cell movement in the absence of other signals. Opto-Dab1 may be useful to study the biological functions of the Reelin-Dab1 signaling pathway both in vitro and in vivo.
Epigenetic Editing of Ascl1 Gene in Neural Stem Cells by Optogenetics.
Enzymes involved in epigenetic processes such as methyltransferases or demethylases are becoming highly utilized for their persistent DNA or histone modifying efficacy. Herein, we have developed an optogenetic toolbox fused to the catalytic domain (CD) of DNA-methyltransferase3A (DNMT3A-CD) or Ten-Eleven Dioxygenase-1 (TET1-CD) for loci-specific alteration of the methylation state at the promoter of Ascl1 (Mash1), a candidate proneuron gene. Optogenetical protein pairs, CRY2 linked to DNMT3A-CD or TET1-CD and CIB1 fused to a Transcription Activator-Like Element (TALE) locating an Ascl1 promoter region, were designed for site specific epigenetic editing. A differentially methylated region at the Ascl1 promoter, isolated from murine dorsal root ganglion (hypermethylated) and striated cells (hypomethylated), was targeted with these optogenetic-epigenetic constructs. Optimized blue-light illumination triggered the co-localization of TALE constructs with DNMT3A-CD or TET1-CD fusion proteins at the targeted site of the Ascl1 promoter. We found that this spatiotemporal association of the fusion proteins selectively alters the methylation state and also regulates gene activity. This proof of concept developed herein holds immense promise for the ability to regulate gene activity via epigenetic modulation with spatiotemporal precision.
Optogenetic clustering of CNK1 reveals mechanistic insights in RAF and AKT signalling controlling cell fate decisions.
Scaffold proteins such as the multidomain protein CNK1 orchestrate the signalling network by integrating and controlling the underlying pathways. Using an optogenetic approach to stimulate CNK1 uncoupled from upstream effectors, we identified selective clusters of CNK1 that either stimulate RAF-MEK-ERK or AKT signalling depending on the light intensity applied. OptoCNK1 implemented in MCF7 cells induces differentiation at low light intensity stimulating ERK activity whereas stimulation of AKT signalling by higher light intensity promotes cell proliferation. CNK1 clustering in response to increasing EGF concentrations revealed that CNK1 binds to RAF correlating with ERK activation at low EGF dose. At higher EGF dose active AKT binds to CNK1 and phosphorylates and inhibits RAF. Knockdown of CNK1 protects CNK1 from this AKT/RAF crosstalk. In C2 skeletal muscle cells CNK1 expression is induced with the onset of differentiation. Hence, AKT-bound CNK1 counteracts ERK stimulation in differentiated but not in proliferating cells. Ectopically expressed CNK1 facilitates C2 cell differentiation and knockdown of CNK1 impaired the transcriptional network underlying C2 cell differentiation. Thus, CNK1 expression, CNK1 clustering and the thereto related differential signalling processes decide on proliferation and differentiation in a cell type- and cell stage-dependent manner by orchestrating AKT and RAF signalling.
An open-hardware platform for optogenetics and photobiology.
In optogenetics, researchers use light and genetically encoded photoreceptors to control biological processes with unmatched precision. However, outside of neuroscience, the impact of optogenetics has been limited by a lack of user-friendly, flexible, accessible hardware. Here, we engineer the Light Plate Apparatus (LPA), a device that can deliver two independent 310 to 1550 nm light signals to each well of a 24-well plate with intensity control over three orders of magnitude and millisecond resolution. Signals are programmed using an intuitive web tool named Iris. All components can be purchased for under $400 and the device can be assembled and calibrated by a non-expert in one day. We use the LPA to precisely control gene expression from blue, green, and red light responsive optogenetic tools in bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells and simplify the entrainment of cyanobacterial circadian rhythm. The LPA dramatically reduces the entry barrier to optogenetics and photobiology experiments.
Optical manipulation of the alpha subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins using photoswitchable dimerization systems.
Alpha subunits of heterotrimeric G proteins (Gα) are involved in a variety of cellular functions. Here we report an optogenetic strategy to spatially and temporally manipulate Gα in living cells. More specifically, we applied the blue light-induced dimerization system, known as the Magnet system, and an alternative red light-induced dimerization system consisting of Arabidopsis thaliana phytochrome B (PhyB) and phytochrome-interacting factor 6 (PIF6) to optically control the activation of two different classes of Gα (Gαq and Gαs). By utilizing this strategy, we demonstrate successful regulation of Ca(2+) and cAMP using light in mammalian cells. The present strategy is generally applicable to different kinds of Gα and could contribute to expanding possibilities of spatiotemporal regulation of Gα in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic activation of axon guidance receptors controls direction of neurite outgrowth.
Growth cones of extending axons navigate to correct targets by sensing a guidance cue gradient via membrane protein receptors. Although most signaling mechanisms have been clarified using an in vitro approach, it is still difficult to investigate the growth cone behavior in complicated extracellular environment of living animals due to the lack of tools. We develop a system for the light-dependent activation of a guidance receptor, Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), using Arabidopsis thaliana Cryptochrome 2, which oligomerizes upon blue-light absorption. Blue-light illumination transiently activates DCC via its oligomerization, which initiates downstream signaling in the illuminated subcellular region. The extending axons are attracted by illumination in cultured chick dorsal root ganglion neurons. Moreover, light-mediated navigation of the growth cones is achieved in living Caenorhabditis elegans. The photo-manipulation system is applicable to investigate the relationship between the growth cone behavior and its surrounding environment in living tissue.
Optogenetically controlled RAF to characterize BRAF and CRAF protein kinase inhibitors.
Here, we applied optoRAF, an optogenetic tool for light-controlled clustering and activation of RAF proteins that mimics the natural occurring RAS-mediated dimerization. This versatile tool allows studying the effect on BRAF and CRAF homodimer- as well as heterodimer-induced RAF signaling. Vemurafenib and dabrafenib are two clinically approved inhibitors for BRAF that efficiently suppress the kinase activity of oncogenic BRAF (V600E). However in wild-type BRAF expressing cells, BRAF inhibitors can exert paradoxical activation of wild-type CRAF. Using optoRAF, vemurafenib was identified as paradoxical activator of BRAF and CRAF homo- and heterodimers. Dabrafenib enhanced activity of light-stimulated CRAF at low dose and inhibited CRAF signaling at high dose. Moreover, dabrafenib increased the protein level of CRAF proteins but not of BRAF proteins. Increased CRAF levels correlate with elevated RAF signaling in a dabrafenib-dependent manner, independent of light activation.
Highly efficient optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans using membrane-targeted miniSOG.
The genetically encoded photosensitizer miniSOG (mini Singlet Oxygen Generator) can be used to kill cells in C. elegans. miniSOG generates the reactive oxygen species (ROS) singlet oxygen after illumination with blue light. Illumination of neurons expressing miniSOG targeted to the outer mitochondrial membrane (mito-miniSOG) causes neuronal death. To enhance miniSOG's efficiency as an ablation tool in multiple cell types we tested alternative targeting signals. We find that membrane targeted miniSOG allows highly efficient cell killing. When combined with a point mutation that increases miniSOG's ROS generation, membrane targeted miniSOG can ablate neurons in less than one tenth the time of mito-miniSOG. We extend the miniSOG ablation technique to non-neuronal tissues, revealing an essential role for the epidermis in locomotion. These improvements expand the utility and throughput of optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans.
An optogenetic system for interrogating the temporal dynamics of Akt.
The dynamic activity of the serine/threonine kinase Akt is crucial for the regulation of diverse cellular functions, but the precise spatiotemporal control of its activity remains a critical issue. Herein, we present a photo-activatable Akt (PA-Akt) system based on a light-inducible protein interaction module of Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome2 (CRY2) and CIB1. Akt fused to CRY2phr, which is a minimal light sensitive domain of CRY2 (CRY2-Akt), is reversibly activated by light illumination in several minutes within a physiological dynamic range and specifically regulates downstream molecules and inducible biological functions. We have generated a computational model of CRY2-Akt activation that allows us to use PA-Akt to control the activity quantitatively. The system provides evidence that the temporal patterns of Akt activity are crucial for generating one of the downstream functions of the Akt-FoxO pathway; the expression of a key gene involved in muscle atrophy (Atrogin-1). The use of an optical module with computational modeling represents a general framework for interrogating the temporal dynamics of biomolecules by predictive manipulation of optogenetic modules.
Photo-activatable Cre recombinase regulates gene expression in vivo.
Techniques allowing precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression in the brain are needed. Herein we describe optogenetic approaches using a photo-activatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) to stably modify gene expression in the mouse brain. Blue light illumination for 12 hours via optical fibers activated PA-Cre in the hippocampus, a deep brain structure. Two-photon illumination through a thinned skull window for 100 minutes activated PA-Cre within a sub-millimeter region of cortex. Light activation of PA-Cre may allow permanent gene modification with improved spatiotemporal precision compared to standard methods.