Showing 1 - 25 of 158 results
Perspectives of RAS and RHEB GTPase Signaling Pathways in Regenerating Brain Neurons.
Cellular activation of RAS GTPases into the GTP-binding "ON" state is a key switch for regulating brain functions. Molecular protein structural elements of rat sarcoma (RAS) and RAS homolog protein enriched in brain (RHEB) GTPases involved in this switch are discussed including their subcellular membrane localization for triggering specific signaling pathways resulting in regulation of synaptic connectivity, axonal growth, differentiation, migration, cytoskeletal dynamics, neural protection, and apoptosis. A beneficial role of neuronal H-RAS activity is suggested from cellular and animal models of neurodegenerative diseases. Recent experiments on optogenetic regulation offer insights into the spatiotemporal aspects controlling RAS/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) or phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) pathways. As optogenetic manipulation of cellular signaling in deep brain regions critically requires penetration of light through large distances of absorbing tissue, we discuss magnetic guidance of re-growing axons as a complementary approach. In Parkinson's disease, dopaminergic neuronal cell bodies degenerate in the substantia nigra. Current human trials of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons must take into account the inability of neuronal axons navigating over a large distance from the grafted site into striatal target regions. Grafting dopaminergic precursor neurons directly into the degenerating substantia nigra is discussed as a novel concept aiming to guide axonal growth by activating GTPase signaling through protein-functionalized intracellular magnetic nanoparticles responding to external magnets.
A bright future: optogenetics to dissect the spatiotemporal control of cell behavior.
Cells sense, process, and respond to extracellular information using signaling networks: collections of proteins that act as precise biochemical sensors. These protein networks are characterized by both complex temporal organization, such as pulses of signaling activity, and by complex spatial organization, where proteins assemble structures at particular locations and times within the cell. Yet despite their ubiquity, studying these spatial and temporal properties has remained challenging because they emerge from the entire protein network rather than a single node, and cannot be easily tuned by drugs or mutations. These challenges are being met by a new generation of optogenetic tools capable of directly controlling the activity of individual signaling nodes over time and the assembly of protein complexes in space. Here, we outline how these recent innovations are being used in conjunction with engineering-influenced experimental design to address longstanding questions in signaling biology.
Engineering Improved Photoswitches for the Control of Nucleocytoplasmic Distribution.
Optogenetic techniques use light-responsive proteins to study dynamic processes in living cells and organisms. These techniques typically rely on repurposed naturally occurring light-sensitive proteins to control sub-cellular localization and activity. We previously engineered two optogenetic systems, the Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS) and the Light-Inducible Nuclear eXporter (LINX), by embedding nuclear import or export sequence motifs into the C-terminal helix of the light-responsive LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1, thus enabling light-dependent trafficking of a target protein into and out of the nucleus. While LANS and LINX are effective tools, we posited that mutations within the LOV2 hinge-loop, which connects the core PAS domain and the C-terminal helix, would further improve the functionality of these switches. Here, we identify hinge-loop mutations that favourably shift the dynamic range (the ratio of the on- to off-target subcellular accumulation) of the LANS and LINX photoswitches. We demonstrate the utility of these new optogenetic tools to control gene transcription and epigenetic modifications, thereby expanding the optogenetic 'tool kit' for the research community.
Programming Bacteria With Light—Sensors and Applications in Synthetic Biology
Photo-receptors are widely present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, which serves as the foundation of tuning cell behaviors with light. While practices in eukaryotic cells have been relatively established, trials in bacterial cells have only been emerging in the past few years. A number of light sensors have been engineered in bacteria cells and most of them fall into the categories of two-component and one-component systems. Such a sensor toolbox has enabled practices in controlling synthetic circuits at the level of transcription and protein activity which is a major topic in synthetic biology, according to the central dogma. Additionally, engineered light sensors and practices of tuning synthetic circuits have served as a foundation for achieving light based real-time feedback control. Here, we review programming bacteria cells with light, introducing engineered light sensors in bacteria and their applications, including tuning synthetic circuits and achieving feedback controls over microbial cell culture.
Integrating chemical and mechanical signals through dynamic coupling between cellular protrusions and pulsed ERK activation.
The Ras-ERK signaling pathway regulates diverse cellular processes in response to environmental stimuli and contains important therapeutic targets for cancer. Recent single cell studies revealed stochastic pulses of ERK activation, the frequency of which determines functional outcomes such as cell proliferation. Here we show that ERK pulses are initiated by localized protrusive activities. Chemically and optogenetically induced protrusions trigger ERK activation through various entry points into the feedback loop involving Ras, PI3K, the cytoskeleton, and cellular adhesion. The excitability of the protrusive signaling network drives stochastic ERK activation in unstimulated cells and oscillations upon growth factor stimulation. Importantly, protrusions allow cells to sense combined signals from substrate stiffness and the growth factor. Thus, by uncovering the basis of ERK pulse generation we demonstrate how signals involved in cell growth and differentiation are regulated by dynamic protrusions that integrate chemical and mechanical inputs from the environment.
Bringing Light to Transcription: The Optogenetics Repertoire.
The ability to manipulate expression of exogenous genes in particular regions of living organisms has profoundly transformed the way we study biomolecular processes involved in both normal development and disease. Unfortunately, most of the classical inducible systems lack fine spatial and temporal accuracy, thereby limiting the study of molecular events that strongly depend on time, duration of activation, or cellular localization. By exploiting genetically engineered photo sensing proteins that respond to specific wavelengths, we can now provide acute control of numerous molecular activities with unprecedented precision. In this review, we present a comprehensive breakdown of all of the current optogenetic systems adapted to regulate gene expression in both unicellular and multicellular organisms. We focus on the advantages and disadvantages of these different tools and discuss current and future challenges in the successful translation to more complex organisms.
Engineered anti-CRISPR proteins for optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9.
Anti-CRISPR proteins are powerful tools for CRISPR-Cas9 regulation; the ability to precisely modulate their activity could facilitate spatiotemporally confined genome perturbations and uncover fundamental aspects of CRISPR biology. We engineered optogenetic anti-CRISPR variants comprising hybrids of AcrIIA4, a potent Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 inhibitor, and the LOV2 photosensor from Avena sativa. Coexpression of these proteins with CRISPR-Cas9 effectors enabled light-mediated genome and epigenome editing, and revealed rapid Cas9 genome targeting in human cells.
Cyclic Stiffness Modulation of Cell‐Laden Protein–Polymer Hydrogels in Response to User‐Specified Stimuli Including Light.
Although mechanical signals presented by the extracellular matrix are known to regulate many essential cell functions, the specific effects of these interactions, particularly in response to dynamic and heterogeneous cues, remain largely unknown. Here, a modular semisynthetic approach is introduced to create protein–polymer hydrogel biomaterials that undergo reversible stiffening in response to user‐specified inputs. Employing a novel dual‐chemoenzymatic modification strategy, fusion protein‐based gel crosslinkers are created that exhibit stimuli‐dependent intramolecular association. Linkers based on calmodulin yield calcium‐sensitive materials, while those containing the photosensitive light, oxygen, and voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) protein give phototunable constructs whose moduli can be cycled on demand with spatiotemporal control about living cells. These unique materials are exploited to demonstrate the significant role that cyclic mechanical loading plays on fibroblast‐to‐myofibroblast transdifferentiation in 3D space. The moduli‐switchable materials should prove useful for studies in mechanobiology, providing new avenues to probe and direct matrix‐driven changes in 4D cell physiology.
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 Medicine: Synthetic Therapeutic Solutions Precision-Guided by Light.
Gene- and cell-based therapies are well recognized as central pillars of next-generation medicine, but controllability remains a critical issue for clinical applications. In this context, optogenetics is opening up exciting new opportunities for precision-guided medicine by using illumination with light of appropriate intensity and wavelength as a trigger signal to achieve pinpoint spatiotemporal control of cellular activities, such as transgene expression. In this review, we highlight recent advances in optogenetics, focusing on devices for biomedical applications. We introduce the construction and applications of optogenetic-based biomedical tools to treat neurological diseases, diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer, as well as bioelectronic implants that combine light-interfaced electronic devices and optogenetic systems into portable personalized precision bioelectronic medical tools. Optogenetics-based technology promises the capability to achieve traceless, remotely controlled precision dosing of an enormous range of therapeutic outputs. Finally, we discuss the prospects for optogenetic medicine, as well as some emerging challenges.
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.
Fam49/CYRI interacts with Rac1 and locally suppresses protrusions.
Actin-based protrusions are reinforced through positive feedback, but it is unclear what restricts their size, or limits positive signals when they retract or split. We identify an evolutionarily conserved regulator of actin-based protrusion: CYRI (CYFIP-related Rac interactor) also known as Fam49 (family of unknown function 49). CYRI binds activated Rac1 via a domain of unknown function (DUF1394) shared with CYFIP, defining DUF1394 as a Rac1-binding module. CYRI-depleted cells have broad lamellipodia enriched in Scar/WAVE, but reduced protrusion-retraction dynamics. Pseudopods induced by optogenetic Rac1 activation in CYRI-depleted cells are larger and longer lived. Conversely, CYRI overexpression suppresses recruitment of active Scar/WAVE to the cell edge, resulting in short-lived, unproductive protrusions. CYRI thus focuses protrusion signals and regulates pseudopod complexity by inhibiting Scar/WAVE-induced actin polymerization. It thus behaves like a 'local inhibitor' as predicted in widely accepted mathematical models, but not previously identified in cells. CYRI therefore regulates chemotaxis, cell migration and epithelial polarization by controlling the polarity and plasticity of protrusions.
Switchable inteins for conditional protein splicing.
Synthetic biologists aim at engineering controllable biological parts such as DNA, RNA and proteins in order to steer biological activities using external inputs. Proteins can be controlled in several ways, for instance by regulating the expression of their encoding genes with small molecules or light. However, post-translationally modifying pre-existing proteins to regulate their function or localization leads to faster responses. Conditional splicing of internal protein domains, termed inteins, is an attractive methodology for this purpose. Here we discuss methods to control intein activity with a focus on those compatible with applications in living cells.
Discovering selective binders for photoswitchable proteins using phage display.
Nature provides an array of proteins that change conformation in response to light. The discovery of a complementary array of proteins that bind only the light-state or dark-state conformation of their photoactive partner proteins would allow each light-switchable protein to be used as an optogenetic tool to control protein-protein interactions. However, as many photoactive proteins have no known binding partner, the advantages of optogenetic control - precise spatial and temporal resolution - are currently restricted to a few well-defined natural systems. In addition, the affinities and kinetics of native interactions are often sub-optimal and are difficult to engineer in the absence of any structural information. We report a phage display strategy using a small scaffold protein that can be used to discover new binding partners for both light and dark states of a given light-switchable protein. We used our approach to generate binding partners that interact specifically with the light state or the dark state conformation of two light-switchable proteins: PYP, a test case for a protein with no known partners, and AsLOV2 a well-characterized protein. We show that these novel light-switchable protein-protein interactions can function in living cells to control subcellular localization processes.
CRAC channel-based optogenetics.
Store-operated Ca²+ entry (SOCE) constitutes a major Ca2+ influx pathway in mammals to regulate a myriad of physiological processes, including muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, gene expression, and metabolism. In non-excitable cells, the Ca²+ release-activated Ca²+ (CRAC) channel, composed of ORAI and stromal interaction molecules (STIM), constitutes a prototypical example of SOCE to mediate Ca2+ entry at specialized membrane contact sites (MCSs) between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane (PM). The key steps of SOCE activation include the oligomerization of the luminal domain of the ER-resident Ca2+ sensor STIM1 upon Ca²+ store depletion, subsequent signal propagation toward the cytoplasmic domain to trigger a conformational switch and overcome the intramolecular autoinhibition, and ultimate exposure of the minimal ORAI-activating domain to directly engage and gate ORAI channels in the plasma membrane. This exquisitely coordinated cellular event is also facilitated by the C-terminal polybasic domain of STIM1, which physically associates with negatively charged phosphoinositides embedded in the inner leaflet of the PM to enable efficient translocation of STIM1 into ER-PM MCSs. Here, we present recent progress in recapitulating STIM1-mediated SOCE activation by engineering CRAC channels with optogenetic approaches. These STIM1-based optogenetic tools make it possible to not only mechanistically recapture the key molecular steps of SOCE activation, but also remotely and reversibly control Ca²+-dependent cellular processes, inter-organellar tethering at MCSs, and transcriptional reprogramming when combined with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome-editing tools.
A compendium of chemical and genetic approaches to light-regulated gene transcription.
On-cue regulation of gene transcription is an invaluable tool for the study of biological processes and the development and integration of next-generation therapeutics. Ideal reagents for the precise regulation of gene transcription should be nontoxic to the host system, highly tunable, and provide a high level of spatial and temporal control. Light, when coupled with protein or small molecule-linked photoresponsive elements, presents an attractive means of meeting the demands of an ideal system for regulating gene transcription. In this review, we cover recent developments in the burgeoning field of light-regulated gene transcription, covering both genetically encoded and small-molecule based strategies for optical regulation of transcription during the period 2012 till present.
Illuminating pathogen-host intimacy through optogenetics.
The birth and subsequent evolution of optogenetics has resulted in an unprecedented advancement in our understanding of the brain. Its outstanding success does usher wider applications; however, the tool remains still largely relegated to neuroscience. Here, we introduce selected aspects of optogenetics with potential applications in infection biology that will not only answer long-standing questions about intracellular pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) but also broaden the dimension of current research in entwined models. In this essay, we illustrate how a judicious integration of optogenetics with routine methods can illuminate the host-pathogen interactions in a way that has not been feasible otherwise.
Blue-Light Receptors for Optogenetics.
Sensory photoreceptors underpin light-dependent adaptations of organismal physiology, development, and behavior in nature. Adapted for optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors become genetically encoded actuators and reporters to enable the noninvasive, spatiotemporally accurate and reversible control by light of cellular processes. Rooted in a mechanistic understanding of natural photoreceptors, artificial photoreceptors with customized light-gated function have been engineered that greatly expand the scope of optogenetics beyond the original application of light-controlled ion flow. As we survey presently, UV/blue-light-sensitive photoreceptors have particularly allowed optogenetics to transcend its initial neuroscience applications by unlocking numerous additional cellular processes and parameters for optogenetic intervention, including gene expression, DNA recombination, subcellular localization, cytoskeleton dynamics, intracellular protein stability, signal transduction cascades, apoptosis, and enzyme activity. The engineering of novel photoreceptors benefits from powerful and reusable design strategies, most importantly light-dependent protein association and (un)folding reactions. Additionally, modified versions of these same sensory photoreceptors serve as fluorescent proteins and generators of singlet oxygen, thereby further enriching the optogenetic toolkit. The available and upcoming UV/blue-light-sensitive actuators and reporters enable the detailed and quantitative interrogation of cellular signal networks and processes in increasingly more precise and illuminating manners.
Controlling Cells with Light and LOV.
Optogenetics is a powerful method for studying dynamic processes in living cells and has advanced cell biology research over the recent past. Key to the successful application of optogenetics is the careful design of the light‐sensing module, typically employing a natural or engineered photoreceptor that links the exogenous light input to the cellular process under investigation. Light–oxygen–voltage (LOV) domains, a highly diverse class of small blue light sensors, have proven to be particularly versatile for engineering optogenetic input modules. These can function via diverse modalities, including inducible allostery, protein recruitment, dimerization, or dissociation. This study reviews recent advances in the development of LOV domain‐based optogenetic tools and their application for studying and controlling selected cellular functions. Focusing on the widely employed LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin‐1, this review highlights the broad spectrum of engineering opportunities that can be explored to achieve customized optogenetic regulation. Finally, major bottlenecks in the development of optogenetic methods are discussed and strategies to overcome these with recent synthetic biology approaches are pointed out.
LOV Domains in the Design of Photoresponsive Enzymes.
In nature, a multitude of mechanisms have emerged for regulating biological processes and, specifically, protein activity. Light as a natural regulatory element is of outstanding interest for studying and modulating protein activity because it can be precisely applied with regard to a site of action, instant of time, or intensity. Naturally occuring photoresponsive proteins, predominantly those containing a light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain, have been characterized structurally and mechanistically and also conjugated to various proteins of interest. Immediate advantages of these new photoresponsive proteins such as genetic encoding, no requirement of chemical modification, and reversibility are paid by difficulties in predicting the envisaged activity or type and site of domain fusion. In this article, we summarize recent advances and give a survey on currently available design concepts for engineering photoswitchable proteins.
Near-infrared light-controlled systems for gene transcription regulation, protein targeting and spectral multiplexing.
Near-infrared (NIR, 740-780 nm) optogenetic systems are well-suited to spectral multiplexing with blue-light-controlled tools. Here, we present two protocols, one for regulation of gene transcription and another for control of protein localization, that use a NIR-responsive bacterial phytochrome BphP1-QPAS1 optogenetic pair. In the first protocol, cells are transfected with the optogenetic constructs for independently controlling gene transcription by NIR (BphP1-QPAS1) and blue (LightOn) light. The NIR and blue-light-controlled gene transcription systems show minimal spectral crosstalk and induce a 35- to 40-fold increase in reporter gene expression. In the second protocol, the BphP1-QPAS1 pair is combined with a light-oxygen-voltage-sensing (LOV) domain-based construct into a single optogenetic tool, termed iRIS. This dual-light-controllable protein localization tool allows tridirectional protein translocation among the cytoplasm, nucleus and plasma membrane. Both procedures can be performed within 3-5 d. Use of NIR light-controlled optogenetic systems should advance basic and biomedical research.
Optogenetic regulation of transcription.
Optogenetics has become widely recognized for its success in real-time control of brain neurons by utilizing nonmammalian photosensitive proteins to open or close membrane channels. Here we review a less well known type of optogenetic constructs that employs photosensitive proteins to transduce the signal to regulate gene transcription, and its possible use in medicine. One of the problems with existing gene therapies is that they could remain active indefnitely while not allowing regulated transgene production on demand. Optogenetic regulation of transcription (ORT) could potentially be used to regulate the production of a biological drug in situ, by repeatedly applying light to the tissue, and inducing expression of therapeutic transgenes when needed. Red and near infrared wavelengths, which are capable of penetration into tissues, have potential for therapeutic applications. Existing ORT systems are reviewed herein with these considerations in mind.
Optogenetics: A Primer for Chemists.
The field of optogenetics uses genetically encoded, light-responsive proteins to control physiological processes. This technology has been hailed as the one of the ten big ideas in brain science in the past decade, the breakthrough of the decade, and the method of the year in 2010 and again in 2014. The excitement evidenced by these proclamations is confirmed by a couple of impressive numbers. The term "optogenetics" was coined in 2006. As of December 2017, "optogenetics" is found in the title or abstract of almost 1600 currently funded National Institutes of Health grants. In addition, nearly 600 reviews on optogenetics have appeared since 2006, which averages out to approximately one review per week! However, in spite of these impressive numbers, the potential applications and implications of optogenetics are not even close to being fully realized. This is due, in large part, to the challenges associated with the design of optogenetic analogs of endogenous proteins. This review is written from a chemist's perspective, with a focus on the molecular strategies that have been developed for the construction of optogenetic proteins.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
A Rac1-FMNL2 signaling module affects cell-cell contact formation independent of Cdc42 and membrane protrusions.
De novo formation of epithelial cell-cell contacts relies on actin-based protrusions as well as tightly controlled turnover of junctional actin once cells encounter each other and adhesion complexes assemble. The specific contributions of individual actin regulators on either protrusion formation or junctional actin turnover remain largely unexplored. Based on our previous findings of Formin-like 2 (FMNL2)-mediated control of junctional actin dynamics, we investigated its potential role in membrane protrusions and impact on newly forming epithelial contacts. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated loss of FMNL2 in human MCF10A cells combined with optogenetic control of Rac1 activity confirmed its critical function in the establishment of intercellular contacts. While lamellipodial protrusion rates remained unaffected, FMNL2 knockout cells were characterized by impaired filopodia formation similar to depletion of the Rho GTPase Cdc42. Silencing of Cdc42, however, failed to affect FMNL2-mediated contact formation. Hence, we propose a cell-cell contact-specific and Rac1-mediated function of FMNL2 entirely independent of Cdc42. Consistent with this, direct visualizations of native epithelial junction formation revealed a striking and specifically Rac1- and not Cdc42-dependent recruitment of FMNL2 to newly forming junctions as well as established cell-cell contacts within epithelial sheets.