Showing 1 - 25 of 36 results
Shape-morphing living composites.
This work establishes a means to exploit genetic networks to create living synthetic composites that change shape in response to specific biochemical or physical stimuli. Baker's yeast embedded in a hydrogel forms a responsive material where cellular proliferation leads to a controllable increase in the composite volume of up to 400%. Genetic manipulation of the yeast enables composites where volume change on exposure to l-histidine is 14× higher than volume change when exposed to d-histidine or other amino acids. By encoding an optogenetic switch into the yeast, spatiotemporally controlled shape change is induced with pulses of dim blue light (2.7 mW/cm2). These living, shape-changing materials may enable sensors or medical devices that respond to highly specific cues found within a biological milieu.
Stick-slip dynamics of cell adhesion triggers spontaneous symmetry breaking and directional migration of mesenchymal cells on one-dimensional lines.
Directional cell motility relies on the ability of single cells to establish a front-rear polarity and can occur in the absence of external cues. The initiation of migration has often been attributed to the spontaneous polarization of cytoskeleton components, while the spatiotemporal evolution of cell-substrate interaction forces has yet to be resolved. Here, we establish a one-dimensional microfabricated migration assay that mimics the complex in vivo fibrillar environment while being compatible with high-resolution force measurements, quantitative microscopy, and optogenetics. Quantification of morphometric and mechanical parameters of NIH-3T3 fibroblasts and RPE1 epithelial cells reveals a generic stick-slip behavior initiated by contractility-dependent stochastic detachment of adhesive contacts at one side of the cell, which is sufficient to trigger cell motility in 1D in the absence of pre-established polarity. A theoretical model validates the crucial role of adhesion dynamics, proposing that front-rear polarity can emerge independently of a complex self-polarizing system.
Structural Basis of Design and Engineering for Advanced Plant Optogenetics.
In optogenetics, light-sensitive proteins are specifically expressed in target cells and light is used to precisely control the activity of these proteins at high spatiotemporal resolution. Optogenetics initially used naturally occurring photoreceptors to control neural circuits, but has expanded to include carefully designed and engineered photoreceptors. Several optogenetic constructs are based on plant photoreceptors, but their application to plant systems has been limited. Here, we present perspectives on the development of plant optogenetics, considering different levels of design complexity. We discuss how general principles of light-driven signal transduction can be coupled with approaches for engineering protein folding to develop novel optogenetic tools. Finally, we explore how the use of computation, networks, circular permutation, and directed evolution could enrich optogenetics.
NF-κB signaling dynamics is controlled by a dose-sensing autoregulatory loop.
Over the last decade, multiple studies have shown that signaling proteins activated in different temporal patterns, such as oscillatory, transient, and sustained, can result in distinct gene expression patterns or cell fates. However, the molecular events that ensure appropriate stimulus- and dose-dependent dynamics are not often understood and are difficult to investigate. Here, we used single-cell analysis to dissect the mechanisms underlying the stimulus- and dose-encoding patterns in the innate immune signaling network. We found that Toll-like receptor (TLR) and interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling dynamics relied on a dose-dependent, autoinhibitory loop that rendered cells refractory to further stimulation. Using inducible gene expression and optogenetics to perturb the network at different levels, we identified IL-1R-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1) as the dose-sensing node responsible for limiting signal flow during the innate immune response. Although the kinase activity of IRAK1 was not required for signal propagation, it played a critical role in inhibiting the nucleocytoplasmic oscillations of the transcription factor NF-κB. Thus, protein activities that may be "dispensable" from a topological perspective can nevertheless be essential in shaping the dynamic response to the external environment.
Optogenetic manipulation of stomatal kinetics improves carbon assimilation, water use, and growth.
Stomata serve dual and often conflicting roles, facilitating carbon dioxide influx into the plant leaf for photosynthesis and restricting water efflux via transpiration. Strategies for reducing transpiration without incurring a cost for photosynthesis must circumvent this inherent coupling of carbon dioxide and water vapor diffusion. We expressed the synthetic, light-gated K+ channel BLINK1 in guard cells surrounding stomatal pores in Arabidopsis to enhance the solute fluxes that drive stomatal aperture. BLINK1 introduced a K+ conductance and accelerated both stomatal opening under light exposure and closing after irradiation. Integrated over the growth period, BLINK1 drove a 2.2-fold increase in biomass in fluctuating light without cost in water use by the plant. Thus, we demonstrate the potential of enhancing stomatal kinetics to improve water use efficiency without penalty in carbon fixation.
Cortical mitochondria regulate insulin secretion by local Ca2+ buffering.
Mitochondria play an essential role in regulating insulin secretion from beta cells by providing ATP needed for the membrane depolarization that results in voltage-dependent Ca2+ influx and subsequent insulin granule exocytosis. Ca2+, in turn, is also rapidly taken up by the mitochondria and exerts important feedback regulation of metabolism. The aim of this study was to determine if the distribution of mitochondria within beta cells is important for the secretory capacity of these cells. We find that cortically localized mitochondria are abundant in beta cells, and that these mitochondria redistribute towards the cell interior following depolarization. The redistribution requires Ca2+-induced remodeling of the cortical F-actin network. Using light-regulated motor proteins, we increased the cortical density of mitochondria 2-fold and found that this blunted the voltage-dependent increase in cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and suppressed insulin secretion. The activity-dependent changes in mitochondria distribution are likely important for the generation of Ca2+ microdomains required for efficient insulin granule release.
Perspective Tools for Optogenetics and Photopharmacology: From Design to Implementation.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology are two perspective modern
methodologies for control and monitoring of biological processes from an isolated
cell to complex cell assemblies and organisms. Both methodologies use optically
active components that being introduced into the cells of interest allow for optical
control or monitoring of different cellular processes. In optogenetics, genetic
materials are introduced into the cells to express light-sensitive proteins or protein
constructs. In photopharmacology, photochromic compounds are delivered into a
cell directly but not produced inside the cell from a genetic material. The development
of both optogenetics and photopharmacology is inseparable from the design
of improved tools (protein constructs or organic molecules) optimized for specific
applications. Herein, we review the main tools that are used in modern optogenetics
and photopharmaclogy and describe the types of cellular processes that can be
controlled by these tools. Although a large number of different kinds of optogenetic
tools exist, their performance can be evaluated with a limited number of metrics that
have to be optimized for specific applications.We classify thesemetrics and describe
the ways of their improvement.
Engineering a light-responsive, quorum quenching biofilm to mitigate biofouling on water purification membranes.
Quorum quenching (QQ) has been reported to be a promising approach for membrane biofouling control. Entrapment of QQ bacteria in porous matrices is required to retain them in continuously operated membrane processes and to prevent uncontrollable biofilm formation by the QQ bacteria on membrane surfaces. It would be more desirable if the formation and dispersal of biofilms by QQ bacteria could be controlled so that the QQ bacterial cells are self-immobilized, but the QQ biofilm itself still does not compromise membrane performance. In this study, we engineered a QQ bacterial biofilm whose growth and dispersal can be modulated by light through a dichromatic, optogenetic c-di-GMP gene circuit in which the bacterial cells sense near-infrared (NIR) light and blue light to adjust its biofilm formation by regulating the c-di-GMP level. We also demonstrated the potential application of the engineered light-responsive QQ biofilm in mitigating biofouling of water purification forward osmosis membranes. The c-di-GMP-targeted optogenetic approach for controllable biofilm development we have demonstrated here should prove widely applicable for designing other controllable biofilm-enabled applications such as biofilm-based biocatalysis.
Light‐Controlled Mammalian Cells and Their Therapeutic Applications in Synthetic Biology.
The ability to remote control the expression of therapeutic genes in mammalian cells in order to treat disease is a central goal of synthetic biology‐inspired therapeutic strategies. Furthermore, optogenetics, a combination of light and genetic sciences, provides an unprecedented ability to use light for precise control of various cellular activities with high spatiotemporal resolution. Recent work to combine optogenetics and therapeutic synthetic biology has led to the engineering of light‐controllable designer cells, whose behavior can be regulated precisely and noninvasively. This Review focuses mainly on non‐neural optogenetic systems, which are often used in synthetic biology, and their applications in genetic programing of mammalian cells. Here, a brief overview of the optogenetic tool kit that is available to build light‐sensitive mammalian cells is provided. Then, recently developed strategies for the control of designer cells with specific biological functions are summarized. Recent translational applications of optogenetically engineered cells are also highlighted, ranging from in vitro basic research to in vivo light‐controlled gene therapy. Finally, current bottlenecks, possible solutions, and future prospects for optogenetics in synthetic biology are discussed.
Cancer mutations and targeted drugs can disrupt dynamic signal encoding by the Ras-Erk pathway.
The Ras-Erk (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) pathway encodes information in its dynamics; the duration and frequency of Erk activity can specify distinct cell fates. To enable dynamic encoding, temporal information must be accurately transmitted from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. We used optogenetic profiling to show that both oncogenic B-Raf mutations and B-Raf inhibitors can cause corruption of this transmission, so that short pulses of input Ras activity are distorted into abnormally long Erk outputs. These changes can reshape downstream transcription and cell fates, resulting in improper decisions to proliferate. These findings illustrate how altered dynamic signal transmission properties, and not just constitutively increased signaling, can contribute to cell proliferation and perhaps cancer, and how optogenetic profiling can dissect mechanisms of signaling dysfunction in disease.
Independent Control over Multiple Cell Types in Space and Time Using Orthogonal Blue and Red Light Switchable Cell Interactions.
Independent control over multiple cell–material interactions with high spatiotemporal resolution is a key for many biomedical applications and understanding cell biology, as different cell types can perform different tasks in a multicellular context. In this study, the binding of two different cell types to materials is orthogonally controlled with blue and red light providing independent regulation in space and time. Cells expressing the photoswitchable protein cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) on cell surface bind to N‐truncated CRY‐interacting basic helix–loop–helix protein 1 (CIBN)‐immobilized substrates under blue light and cells expressing the photoswitchable protein phytochrome B (PhyB ) on cell surface bind to phytochrome interaction factor 6 (PIF6)‐immobilized substrates under red light, respectively. These light‐switchable cell interactions provide orthogonal and noninvasive control using two wavelengths of visible light. Moreover, both cell–material interactions are dynamically switched on under light and reversible in the dark. The specificity of the CRY2/CIBN and PhyB/PIF6 interactions and their response to different wavelengths of light allow selectively activating the binding of one cell type with blue and the other cell type with red light in the presence of the other cell type.
Real-time observation of light-controlled transcription in living cells.
Gene expression is tightly regulated in space and time. To dissect this process with high temporal resolution, we introduce an optogenetic tool termed blue light-induced chromatin recruitment (BLInCR) that combines rapid and reversible light-dependent recruitment of effector proteins with a real-time readout for transcription. We used BLInCR to control the activity of a cluster of reporter genes in the human osteosarcoma cell line U2OS by reversibly recruiting the viral transactivator VP16. RNA production was detectable ∼2 min after VP16 recruitment and readily decreased when VP16 dissociated from the cluster in the absence of light. Quantitative assessment of the activation process revealed biphasic activation kinetics with a pronounced early phase in cells treated with the histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA. Comparison with kinetic models of transcription activation suggests that the gene cluster undergoes a maturation process when activated. We anticipate that BLInCR will facilitate the study of transcription dynamics in living cells.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Optogenetic interrogation of integrin αVβ3 function in endothelial cells.
αVβ3 is reported to promote angiogenesis in some model systems but not in others. Here we used optogenetics to study effects of αVβ3 interaction with the intracellular adapter, kindlin-2, on endothelial cell functions potentially relevant to angiogenesis. Since interaction of kindlin-2 with αVβ3 requires the C-terminal three residues of the β3 cytoplasmic tail (Arg-Gly-Thr; RGT), optogenetic probes LOVpep and ePDZ1 were fused to β3ΔRGT-GFP and mCherry-kindlin2, respectively, and expressed in β3-null microvascular endothelial cells. Exposure of the cells to 450 nm (blue) light caused rapid and specific interaction of kindlin-2 with αVβ3 as assessed by immunofluorescence and TIRF microscopy, and it led to increased endothelial cell migration, podosome formation and angiogenic sprouting. Analyses of kindlin-2 mutants indicated that interaction of kindlin-2 with other kindlin-2 binding partners, including c-Src, actin, integrin-linked kinase and phosphoinositides, were also likely necessary for these endothelial cell responses. Thus, kindlin-2 promotes αVβ3-dependent angiogenic functions of endothelial cells through its simultaneous interactions with β3 and several other binding partners. Optogenetic approaches should find further use in clarifying spatiotemporal aspects of vascular cell biology.
Cells lay their own tracks: optogenetic Cdc42 activation stimulates fibronectin deposition supporting directed migration.
Rho GTPase family members are known regulators of directed migration and therefore play key roles in processes including development, immune response and cancer metastasis. However, their individual contributions to these processes are complex. Here, we regulate the activity of two family members, Rac and Cdc42, by optogenetically recruiting specific GEF DH/PH domains to defined regions on the cell membrane. We find that the localized activation of both GTPases produce lamellipodia in cells plated on a fibronectin substrate. Using a novel optotaxis assay, we show that biased activation can drive directional migration. Interestingly, in the absence of exogenous fibronectin, Rac activation is insufficient to produce stable lamellipodia or directional migration while Cdc42 activation is sufficient. We find that a remarkably small amount of fibronectin (<10 puncta per protrusion) is necessary to support stable GTPase-driven lamellipodia. Cdc42 bypasses the need for exogenous fibronectin by stimulating cellular fibronectin deposition under the newly formed lamellipodia.
Rac1 switching at the right time and location is essential for Fcγ receptor-mediated phagosome formation.
Lamellipodia are sheet-like cell protrusions driven by actin polymerization mainly through Rac1, a GTPase molecular switch. In Fcγ receptor-mediated phagocytosis of IgG-opsonized erythrocytes (IgG-Es), Rac1 activation is required for lamellipodial extension along the surface of IgG-Es. However, the significance of Rac1 deactivation in phagosome formation is poorly understood. Our live-cell imaging and electron microscopy revealed that RAW264 macrophages expressing a constitutively active Rac1 mutant showed defects in phagocytic cup formation, while lamellipodia were formed around IgG-Es. Because the activated Rac1 reduced the phosphorylation levels of myosin light chain, failure of the cup formation were probably due to inhibition of actin/myosin II contractility. Reversible photo-manipulation of the Rac1 switch in macrophages fed with IgG-Es could phenocopy two lamellipodial motilities: outward-extension and cup-constriction by Rac1 ON and OFF, respectively. In conjunction with FRET imaging of Rac1 activity, we provide a novel mechanistic model of phagosome formation spatiotemporally controlled by Rac1 switching within a phagocytic cup.
Optical control of membrane tethering and interorganellar communication at nanoscales.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) forms an extensive intracellular membranous network in eukaryotes that dynamically connects and communicates with diverse subcellular compartments such as plasma membrane (PM) through membrane contact sites (MCSs), with the inter-membrane gaps separated by a distance of 10-40 nm. Phosphoinositides (PI) constitute an important class of cell membrane phospholipids shared by many MCSs to regulate a myriad of cellular events, including membrane trafficking, calcium homeostasis and lipid metabolism. By installing photosensitivity into a series of engineered PI-binding domains with minimal sizes, we have created an optogenetic toolkit (designated as 'OptoPB') to enable rapid and reversible control of protein translocation and inter-membrane tethering at MCSs. These genetically-encoded, single-component tools can be used as scaffolds for grafting lipid-binding domains to dissect molecular determinants that govern protein-lipid interactions in living cells. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the use of OptoPB as a versatile fusion tag to photomanipulate protein translocation toward PM for reprogramming of PI metabolism. When tethered to the ER membrane with the insertion of flexible spacers, OptoPB can be applied to reversibly photo-tune the gap distances at nanometer scales between the two organellar membranes at MCSs, and to gauge the distance requirement for the free diffusion of protein complexes into MCSs. Our modular optical tools will find broad applications in non-invasive and remote control of protein subcellular localization and interorganellar contact sites that are critical for cell signaling.
Smartphone-controlled optogenetically engineered cells enable semiautomatic glucose homeostasis in diabetic mice.
With the increasingly dominant role of smartphones in our lives, mobile health care systems integrating advanced point-of-care technologies to manage chronic diseases are gaining attention. Using a multidisciplinary design principle coupling electrical engineering, software development, and synthetic biology, we have engineered a technological infrastructure enabling the smartphone-assisted semiautomatic treatment of diabetes in mice. A custom-designed home server SmartController was programmed to process wireless signals, enabling a smartphone to regulate hormone production by optically engineered cells implanted in diabetic mice via a far-red light (FRL)-responsive optogenetic interface. To develop this wireless controller network, we designed and implanted hydrogel capsules carrying both engineered cells and wirelessly powered FRL LEDs (light-emitting diodes). In vivo production of a short variant of human glucagon-like peptide 1 (shGLP-1) or mouse insulin by the engineered cells in the hydrogel could be remotely controlled by smartphone programs or a custom-engineered Bluetooth-active glucometer in a semiautomatic, glucose-dependent manner. By combining electronic device-generated digital signals with optogenetically engineered cells, this study provides a step toward translating cell-based therapies into the clinic.
Optical control of cell signaling by single-chain photoswitchable kinases.
Protein kinases transduce signals to regulate a wide array of cellular functions in eukaryotes. A generalizable method for optical control of kinases would enable fine spatiotemporal interrogation or manipulation of these various functions. We report the design and application of single-chain cofactor-free kinases with photoswitchable activity. We engineered a dimeric protein, pdDronpa, that dissociates in cyan light and reassociates in violet light. Attaching two pdDronpa domains at rationally selected locations in the kinase domain, we created the photoswitchable kinases psRaf1, psMEK1, psMEK2, and psCDK5. Using these photoswitchable kinases, we established an all-optical cell-based assay for screening inhibitors, uncovered a direct and rapid inhibitory feedback loop from ERK to MEK1, and mediated developmental changes and synaptic vesicle transport in vivo using light.
Engineering extrinsic disorder to control protein activity in living cells.
Optogenetic and chemogenetic control of proteins has revealed otherwise inaccessible facets of signaling dynamics. Here, we use light- or ligand-sensitive domains to modulate the structural disorder of diverse proteins, thereby generating robust allosteric switches. Sensory domains were inserted into nonconserved, surface-exposed loops that were tight and identified computationally as allosterically coupled to active sites. Allosteric switches introduced into motility signaling proteins (kinases, guanosine triphosphatases, and guanine exchange factors) controlled conversion between conformations closely resembling natural active and inactive states, as well as modulated the morphodynamics of living cells. Our results illustrate a broadly applicable approach to design physiological protein switches.
Using HEK293T Expression System to Study Photoactive Plant Cryptochromes.
Cryptochromes are photolyase-like blue light receptors that are conserved in plants and animals. Although the light-dependent catalytic mechanism of photolyase is well studied, the photochemical mechanism of cryptochromes remains largely unknown. Lack of an appropriate protein expression system to obtain photochemically active cryptochrome holoproteins is a technical obstacle for the study of plant cryptochromes. We report here an easy-to-use method to express and study Arabidopsis cryptochrome in HEK293T cells. Our results indicate that Arabidopsis cryptochromes expressed in HEK293T are photochemically active. We envision a broad use of this method in the functional investigation of plant proteins, especially in the large-scale analyses of photochemical activities of cryptochromes such as blue light-dependent protein-protein interactions.
Optogenetic activation reveals distinct roles of PIP3 and Akt in adipocyte insulin action.
Glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4; also known as SLC2A4) resides on intracellular vesicles in muscle and adipose cells, and translocates to the plasma membrane in response to insulin. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt signaling pathway plays a major role in GLUT4 translocation; however, a challenge has been to unravel the potentially distinct contributions of PI3K and Akt (of which there are three isoforms, Akt1-Akt3) to overall insulin action. Here, we describe new optogenetic tools based on CRY2 and the N-terminus of CIB1 (CIBN). We used these 'Opto' modules to activate PI3K and Akt selectively in time and space in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. We validated these tools using biochemical assays and performed live-cell kinetic analyses of IRAP-pHluorin translocation (IRAP is also known as LNPEP and acts as a surrogate marker for GLUT4 here). Strikingly, Opto-PIP3 largely mimicked the maximal effects of insulin stimulation, whereas Opto-Akt only partially triggered translocation. Conversely, drug-mediated inhibition of Akt only partially dampened the translocation response of Opto-PIP3 In spatial optogenetic studies, focal targeting of Akt to a region of the cell marked the sites where IRAP-pHluorin vesicles fused, supporting the idea that local Akt-mediated signaling regulates exocytosis. Taken together, these results indicate that PI3K and Akt play distinct roles, and that PI3K stimulates Akt-independent pathways that are important for GLUT4 translocation.
Toward total synthesis of cell function: Reconstituting cell dynamics with synthetic biology.
Biological phenomena, such as cellular differentiation and phagocytosis, are fundamental processes that enable cells to fulfill important physiological roles in multicellular organisms. In the field of synthetic biology, the study of these behaviors relies on the use of a broad range of molecular tools that enable the real-time manipulation and measurement of key components in the underlying signaling pathways. This Review will focus on a subset of synthetic biology tools known as bottom-up techniques, which use technologies such as optogenetics and chemically induced dimerization to reconstitute cellular behavior in cells. These techniques have been crucial not only in revealing causal relationships within signaling networks but also in identifying the minimal signaling components that are necessary for a given cellular function. We discuss studies that used these systems in a broad range of cellular and molecular phenomena, including the time-dependent modulation of protein activity in cellular proliferation and differentiation, the reconstitution of phagocytosis, the reconstitution of chemotaxis, and the regulation of actin reorganization. Finally, we discuss the potential contribution of synthetic biology to medicine.
A critical element of the light-induced quaternary structural changes in YtvA-LOV.
YtvA, a photosensory LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) protein from Bacillus subtilis, exists as a dimer that previously appeared to undergo surprisingly small structural changes after light illumination compared with other light-sensing proteins. However, we now report that light induces significant structural perturbations in a series of YtvA-LOV domain derivatives in which the Jα helix has been truncated or replaced. Results from native gel analysis showed significant mobility changes in these derivatives after light illumination; YtvA-LOV without the Jα helix dimerized in the dark state but existed as a monomer in the light state. The absence of the Jα helix also affected the dark regeneration kinetics and the stability of the flavin mononucleotide (FMN) binding to its binding site. Our results demonstrate an alternative way of photo-induced signal propagation that leads to a bigger functional response through dimer/monomer conversions of the YtvA-LOV than the local disruption of Jα helix in the As-LOV domain.
The rhodopsin-guanylyl cyclase of the aquatic fungus Blastocladiella emersonii enables fast optical control of cGMP signaling.
Blastocladiomycota fungi form motile zoospores that are guided by sensory photoreceptors to areas of optimal light conditions. We showed that the microbial rhodopsin of Blastocladiella emersonii is a rhodopsin-guanylyl cyclase (RhGC), a member of a previously uncharacterized rhodopsin class of light-activated enzymes that generate the second messenger cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Upon application of a short light flash, recombinant RhGC converted within 8 ms into a signaling state with blue-shifted absorption from which the dark state recovered within 100 ms. When expressed in Xenopus oocytes, Chinese hamster ovary cells, or mammalian neurons, RhGC generated cGMP in response to green light in a light dose-dependent manner on a subsecond time scale. Thus, we propose RhGC as a versatile tool for the optogenetic analysis of cGMP-dependent signaling processes in cell biology and the neurosciences.
Optogenetics. Engineering of a light-gated potassium channel.
The present palette of opsin-based optogenetic tools lacks a light-gated potassium (K(+)) channel desirable for silencing of excitable cells. Here, we describe the construction of a blue-light-induced K(+) channel 1 (BLINK1) engineered by fusing the plant LOV2-Jα photosensory module to the small viral K(+) channel Kcv. BLINK1 exhibits biophysical features of Kcv, including K(+) selectivity and high single-channel conductance but reversibly photoactivates in blue light. Opening of BLINK1 channels hyperpolarizes the cell to the K(+) equilibrium potential. Ectopic expression of BLINK1 reversibly inhibits the escape response in light-exposed zebrafish larvae. BLINK1 therefore provides a single-component optogenetic tool that can establish prolonged, physiological hyperpolarization of cells at low light intensities.