Showing 1 - 25 of 274 results
Lighting the way: Recent insights into the structure and regulation of phototropin blue light receptors.
The phototropins (phots) are light-activated kinases that are critical for plant physiology and the many diverse optogenetic tools that they have inspired. Phototropins combine two blue light sensing Light-Oxygen-Voltage (LOV) domains (LOV1 and LOV2) and a C-terminal serine/threonine kinase domain, using the LOV domains to control the catalytic activity of the kinase. While much is known about the structure and photochemistry of the light-perceiving LOV domains, particularly in how activation of the LOV2 domain triggers the unfolding of alpha helices that communicate the light signal to the kinase domain, many questions about phot structure and mechanism remain. Recent studies have made progress addressing these questions by utilizing small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and other biophysical approaches to study multidomain phots from Chlamydomonas and Arabidopsis, leading to models where the domains have an extended linear arrangement, with the activating LOV2 domain contacting the kinase domain N-lobe. We discuss this and other advances which have improved structural and mechanistic understanding of phot regulation in this review, along with the challenges that will have to be overcome to obtain high-resolution structural information on these exciting photoreceptors. Such information will be essential to advancing fundamental understanding of plant physiology while enabling engineering efforts at both the whole plant and molecular levels.
Optogenetic manipulation of YAP cellular localisation and function.
YAP, an effector of the Hippo signalling pathway, promotes organ growth and regeneration. Prolonged YAP activation results in uncontrolled proliferation and cancer. Therefore, exogenous regulation of YAP activity has potential translational applications. We present a versatile optogenetic construct (optoYAP) for manipulating YAP localisation, and consequently its activity and function. We attached a LOV2 domain that photocages a nuclear localisation signal (NLS) to the N-terminus of YAP. In 488 nm light, the LOV2 domain unfolds, exposing the NLS, which shuttles optoYAP into the nucleus. Nuclear import of optoYAP is reversible and tuneable by light intensity. In cell culture, activated optoYAP promotes YAP target gene expression, cell proliferation, and anchorage-independent growth. Similarly, we can utilise optoYAP in zebrafish embryos to modulate target genes. OptoYAP is functional in both cell culture and in vivo, providing a powerful tool to address basic research questions and therapeutic applications in regeneration and disease.
Structural Determinants for Light-Dependent Membrane Binding of a Photoswitchable Polybasic Domain.
OptoPB is an optogenetic tool engineered by fusion of the phosphoinositide (PI)-binding polybasic domain of Rit1 (Rit-PB) to a photoreactive light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain. OptoPB selectively and reversibly binds the plasma membrane (PM) under blue light excitation, and in the dark, it releases back to the cytoplasm. However, the molecular mechanism of optical regulation and lipid recognition is still unclear. Here using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, liposome pulldown assay, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), we find that OptoPB binds to membrane mimetics containing di- or triphosphorylated phosphatidylinositols, particularly phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2), an acidic phospholipid predominantly located in the eukaryotic PM. In the dark, steric hindrance prevented this protein-membrane interaction, while 470 nm blue light illumination activated it. NMR titration and site-directed mutagenesis revealed that both cationic and hydrophobic Rit-PB residues are essential to the membrane interaction, indicating that OptoPB binds the membrane via a specific PI(4,5)P2-dependent mechanism.
A single-chain and fast-responding light-inducible Cre recombinase as a novel optogenetic switch.
Optogenetics enables genome manipulations with high spatiotemporal resolution, opening exciting possibilities for fundamental and applied biological research. Here, we report the development of LiCre, a novel light-inducible Cre recombinase. LiCre is made of a single flavin-containing protein comprising the AsLOV2 photoreceptor domain of Avena sativa fused to a Cre variant carrying destabilizing mutations in its N-terminal and C-terminal domains. LiCre can be activated within minutes of illumination with blue light, without the need of additional chemicals. When compared to existing photoactivatable Cre recombinases based on two split units, LiCre displayed faster and stronger activation by light as well as a lower residual activity in the dark. LiCre was efficient both in yeast, where it allowed us to control the production of β-carotene with light, and in human cells. Given its simplicity and performances, LiCre is particularly suited for fundamental and biomedical research, as well as for controlling industrial bioprocesses.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
Optogenetic Control of Myocardin‐Related Transcription Factor A Subcellular Localization and Transcriptional Activity Steers Membrane Blebbing and Invasive Cancer Cell Motility.
The myocardin‐related transcription factor A (MRTF‐A) controls the transcriptional activity of the serum response factor (SRF) in a tightly controlled actin‐dependent manner. In turn, MRTF‐A is crucial for many actin‐dependent processes including adhesion, migration, and contractility and has emerged as novel targets for anti‐tumor strategies. MRTF‐A rapidly shuttles between cytoplasmic and nuclear compartment via dynamic actin interactions within its N‐terminal RPEL domain. Here, optogenetics is used to spatiotemporally control MRTF‐A nuclear localization by blue light using the light‐oxygen‐voltage‐sensing domain 2‐domain based system LEXY (light‐inducible nuclear export system). It is found that light‐regulated nuclear export of MRTF‐A occurs within 10–20 min. Importantly, MRTF‐A‐LEXY shuttling is independent of perturbations of actin dynamics. Furthermore, light‐regulation of MRTF‐A‐LEXY is reversible and repeatable for several cycles of illumination and its subcellular localization correlates with SRF transcriptional activity. As a consequence, optogenetic control of MRTF‐A subcellular localization determines subsequent cytoskeletal dynamics such as non‐apoptotic plasma membrane blebbing as well as invasive tumor‐cell migration through 3D collagen matrix. This data demonstrate robust optogenetic regulation of MRTF as a powerful tool to control SRF‐dependent transcription as well as cell motile behavior.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
High levels of Dorsal transcription factor downregulate, not promote, snail expression by regulating enhancer action.
In Drosophila embryos, genes expressed along the dorsal-ventral axis are responsive to concentration of the Dorsal (Dl) transcription factor, which varies in space; however, levels of this morphogen also build over time. Since expression of high-threshold Dl target genes such as snail (sna) is supported before Dl levels peak, it is unclear what role increasing levels have if any. Here we investigated action of two enhancers that control sna expression in embryos, demonstrating using genome editing that Dl binding sites within one enhancer located promoter proximally, sna.prox, can limit the ability of the other distally-located enhancer, sna.dis, to increase sna levels. In addition, MS2-MCP live imaging was used to study sna transcription rate in wildtype, dl heterozygote, and a background in which a photo-sensitive degron is fused to Dl (dl-BLID). The results demonstrate that, when Dl levels are high, Dl acts through sna.prox to limit the activity of sna.dis and thereby influence sna transcription rate. In contrast, when Dl levels are kept low using dl-BLID, sna.prox positively influences sna transcription rate. Collectively, our data support the view that Dl’s effect on gene expression changes over time, switching from promoting sna expression at low concentration to dampening sna expression at high concentration by regulating enhancer interactions. We propose this differential action of the Dl morphogen is likely supported by occupancy of this factor first to high and then low affinity binding sites over time as Dl levels rise to coordinate action of these two co-acting enhancers.
Optogenetics: The Art of Illuminating Complex Signaling Pathways.
Dissection of cell signaling requires tools that can mimic spatiotemporal dynamics of individual pathways in living cells. Optogenetic methods enable manipulation of signaling processes with precise timing and local control. In this review, we describe recent optogenetic approaches for regulation of cell signaling, highlight their advantages and limitations, and discuss examples of their application.
Optical sensors of G protein signaling.
Heterotrimeric G proteins are central mediators of cellular signal transduction. They receive, process, and transduce signals from G protein-coupled receptors to downstream effectors. Since their discovery, a number of optical sensors of G protein localization and function have been developed and applied in living systems. In this minireview, we provide an overview of existing G protein-based sensors and the experimental approaches they utilize, with emphasis on live-cell imaging techniques. We outline recent advances, as well as identify current challenges and likely future directions in the field of G protein sensor development.
Design of smart antibody mimetics with photosensitive switches.
As two prominent examples of intracellular single-domain antibodies or antibody mimetics derived from synthetic protein scaffolds, monobodies and nanobodies are gaining wide applications in cell biology, structural biology, synthetic immunology, and theranostics. We introduce herein a generally-applicable method to engineer light-controllable monobodies and nanobodies, designated as moonbody and sunbody, respectively. These engineered antibody-like modular domains enable rapid and reversible antibody-antigen recognition by utilizing light. By paralleled insertion of two LOV2 modules into a single sunbody and the use of bivalent sunbodies, we substantially enhance the range of dynamic changes of photo-switchable sunbodies. Furthermore, we demonstrate the use of moonbodies or sunbodies to precisely control protein degradation, gene transcription, and base editing by harnessing the power of light.
A light way for nuclear cell biologists.
The nucleus is a very complex organelle present in eukaryotic cells. Having the crucial task to safeguard, organize and manage the genetic information, it must tightly control its molecular constituents, its shape and its internal architecture at any given time. Despite our vast knowledge of nuclear cell biology, much is yet to be unraveled. For instance, only recently we came to appreciate the existence of a dynamic nuclear cytoskeleton made of actin filaments that regulates processes such as gene expression, DNA repair and nuclear expansion. This suggests further exciting discoveries ahead of us. Modern cell biologists embrace a new methodology relying on precise perturbations of cellular processes that require a reversible, highly spatially-confinable, rapid, inexpensive and tunable external stimulus: light. In this review, we discuss how optogenetics, the state-of-the-art technology that uses genetically-encoded light-sensitive proteins to steer biological processes, can be adopted to specifically investigate nuclear cell biology.
The rise and shine of yeast optogenetics.
Optogenetics refers to the control of biological processes with light. The activation of cellular phenomena by defined wavelengths has several advantages compared to traditional chemically-inducible systems, such as spatiotemporal resolution, dose-response regulation, low cost and moderate toxic effects. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in yeast, a remarkable biological platform that is not only a model organism for cellular and molecular biology studies, but also a microorganism with diverse biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the main optogenetic systems implemented in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which allow orthogonal control (by light) of gene expression, protein subcellular localization, reconstitution of protein activity, or protein sequestration by oligomerization. Furthermore, we review the application of optogenetic systems in the control of metabolic pathways, heterologous protein production and flocculation. We then revise an example of a previously described yeast optogenetic switch, named FUN-LOV, which allows precise and strong activation of the target gene. Finally, we describe optogenetic systems that have not yet been implemented in yeast, which could therefore be used to expand the panel of available tools in this biological chassis. In conclusion, a wide repertoire of optogenetic systems can be used to address fundamental biological questions and broaden the biotechnological toolkit in yeast.
Enlightening Allostery: Designing Switchable Proteins by Photoreceptor Fusion.
Optogenetics harnesses natural photoreceptors to non-invasively control selected processes in cells with previously unmet spatiotemporal precision. Linking the activity of a protein of choice to the conformational state of a photosensor domain through allosteric coupling represents a powerful method for engineering light-responsive proteins. It enables the design of compact and highly potent single-component optogenetic systems with fast on- and off-switching kinetics. However, designing protein-photoreceptor chimeras, in which structural changes of the photoreceptor are effectively propagated to the fused effector protein, is a challenging engineering problem and often relies on trial and error. Here, recent advances in the design and application of optogenetic allosteric switches are reviewed. First, an overview of existing optogenetic tools based on inducible allostery is provided and their utility for cell biology applications is highlighted. Focusing on light-oxygen-voltage domains, a widely applied class of small blue light sensors, the available strategies for engineering light-dependent allostery are presented and their individual advantages and limitations are highlighted. Finally, high-throughput screening technologies based on comprehensive insertion libraries, which could accelerate the creation of stimulus-responsive receptor-protein chimeras for use in optogenetics and beyond, are discussed.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Optogenetic interrogation and control of cell signaling.
Signaling networks control the flow of information through biological systems and coordinate the chemical processes that constitute cellular life. Optogenetic actuators - genetically encoded proteins that undergo light-induced changes in activity or conformation - are useful tools for probing signaling networks over time and space. They have permitted detailed dissections of cellular proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death, and enabled the assembly of synthetic systems with applications in areas as diverse as photography, chemical synthesis, and medicine. In this review, we provide a brief introduction to optogenetic systems and describe their application to molecular-level analyses of cell signaling. Our discussion highlights important research achievements and speculates on future opportunities to exploit optogenetic systems in the study and assembly of complex biochemical networks.
Livecell reporters reveal bidirectional acceleration of nucleocytoplasmic transport by O-GlcNAc modification of the nuclear pore complex.
Macromolecular transportacross the nuclear envelope is fundamental to eukaryotic cells and depends on facilitated diffusion through nuclear pore complexes (NPCs). The interior of NPCs contains apermeability barriermade of phenylalanine-glycine (FG) repeat domainsthat selectively facilitatesthe permeation ofcargoes bound to nuclear transport receptors (NTRs)1,2.The NPC is enriched in O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) modification3-8, but itsfunctional rolein nucleocytoplasmic transport isunclear. We developed high-throughput assaysbased on optogenetic probes to quantify the kinetics of nuclear import and exportin living human cells and showedthat the O-GlcNAc modification of the NPC accelerates the nucleocytoplasmic transport in both directions.Super-resolution imaging of O-GlcNAc revealed strong enrichmentat the FG barrier ofthe NPC channel. O-GlcNAcmodificationalso promoted the passive permeation of a small,inert protein through NPCs.Our results suggest that O-GlcNAc modification acceleratesnucleocytoplasmic transport by enhancingthe non-specific permeabilitythe FG-repeat barrier.
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.
An optogenetic switch for the Set2 methyltransferase provides evidence for transcription-dependent and -independent dynamics of H3K36 methylation.
Histone H3 lysine 36 methylation (H3K36me) is a conserved histone modification associated with transcription and DNA repair. Although the effects of H3K36 methylation have been studied, the genome-wide dynamics of H3K36me deposition and removal are not known. We established rapid and reversible optogenetic control for Set2, the sole H3K36 methyltransferase in yeast, by fusing the enzyme with the light-activated nuclear shuttle (LANS) domain. Light activation resulted in efficient Set2-LANS nuclear localization followed by H3K36me3 deposition in vivo, with total H3K36me3 levels correlating with RNA abundance. Although genes showed disparate levels of H3K36 methylation, relative rates of H3K36me3 accumulation were largely linear and consistent across genes, suggesting that H3K36me3 deposition occurs in a directed fashion on all transcribed genes regardless of their overall transcription frequency. Removal of H3K36me3 was highly dependent on the demethylase Rph1. However, the per-gene rate of H3K36me3 loss weakly correlated with RNA abundance and followed exponential decay, suggesting H3K36 demethylases act in a global, stochastic manner. Altogether, these data provide a detailed temporal view of H3K36 methylation and demethylation that suggests transcription-dependent and -independent mechanisms for H3K36me deposition and removal, respectively.
Open-Closed Structure of Light Responsive Protein LOV2 Regulates its Molecular Interaction with Binding Partner.
Optogenetic approaches have broad applications including regulating cell signalling and gene expression. Photo-responsive protein LOV2 and its binding partner ZDK represent an important protein caging/uncaging optogenetic system. Herein, we combine time-resolved small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to reveal different structural states of LOV2 and the light-controlled mechanism of interaction between LOV2 and ZDK. In response to blue light within a time frame of ca. 70 s, LOV2 has a significantly higher value of radius of gyration Rg (29.6± 0.3 Å vs 26.4± 0.4 Å) than its dark state, suggesting unwinding of the C-terminal Jα-helix into an open structure. Atomic force microscopy was used to characterise molecular interactions of LOV2 in open and closed states with ZDK at a single molecule level. The closed state of LOV2 enables strong binding with ZDK, characterised by 60-fold lower dissociation rate and ~1.5 times higher activation energy barrier than its open state. In combination, these data support a light-switching mechanism that is modulated by the proximity of multiple binding sites of LOV2 for ZDK.
Optogenetic activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins by LOV2GIVe, a rationally engineered modular protein.
Heterotrimeric G-proteins are signal transducers involved in mediating the action of many natural extracellular stimuli as well as of many therapeutic agents. Non-invasive approaches to manipulate the activity of G-proteins with high precision are crucial to understand their regulation in space and time. Here, we developed LOV2GIVe, an engineered modular protein that allows the activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins with blue light. This optogenetic construct relies on a versatile design that differs from tools previously developed for similar purposes, i.e. metazoan opsins, which are light-activated GPCRs. Instead, LOV2GIVe consists of the fusion of a G-protein activating peptide derived from a non-GPCR regulator of G-proteins to a small plant protein domain, such that light uncages the G-protein activating module. Targeting LOV2GIVe to cell membranes allowed for light-dependent activation of Gi proteins in different experimental systems. In summary, LOV2GIVe expands the armamentarium and versatility of tools available to manipulate heterotrimeric G-protein activity.
Optogenetics and biosensors set the stage for metabolic cybergenetics.
Cybergenetic systems use computer interfaces to enable feed-back controls over biological processes in real time. The complex and dynamic nature of cellular metabolism makes cybergenetics attractive for controlling engineered metabolic pathways in microbial fermentations. Cybergenetics would not only create new avenues of research into cellular metabolism, it would also enable unprecedented strategies for pathway optimization and bioreactor operation and automation. Implementation of metabolic cybergenetics, however, will require new capabilities from actuators, biosensors, and control algorithms. The recent application of optogenetics in metabolic engineering, the expanding role of genetically encoded biosensors in strain development, and continued progress in control algorithms for biological processes suggest that this technology will become available in the not so distant future.
Optogenetic Control Reveals Differential Promoter Interpretation of Transcription Factor Nuclear Translocation Dynamics.
Gene expression is thought to be affected not only by the concentration of transcription factors (TFs) but also the dynamics of their nuclear translocation. Testing this hypothesis requires direct control of TF dynamics. Here, we engineer CLASP, an optogenetic tool for rapid and tunable translocation of a TF of interest. Using CLASP fused to Crz1, we observe that, for the same integrated concentration of nuclear TF over time, changing input dynamics changes target gene expression: pulsatile inputs yield higher expression than continuous inputs, or vice versa, depending on the target gene. Computational modeling reveals that a dose-response saturating at low TF input can yield higher gene expression for pulsatile versus continuous input, and that multi-state promoter activation can yield the opposite behavior. Our integrated tool development and modeling approach characterize promoter responses to Crz1 nuclear translocation dynamics, extracting quantitative features that may help explain the differential expression of target genes.