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Development of a Synthetic Switch to Control Protein Stability in Eukaryotic Cells with Light.
In eukaryotic cells, virtually all regulatory processes are influenced by proteolysis. Thus, synthetic control of protein stability is a powerful approach to influence cellular behavior. To achieve this, selected target proteins are modified with a conditional degradation sequence (degron) that responds to a distinct signal. For development of a synthetic degron, an appropriate sensor domain is fused with a degron such that activity of the degron is under control of the sensor. This chapter describes the development of a light-activated, synthetic degron in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This photosensitive degron module is composed of the light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) 2 photoreceptor domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phototropin 1 and a degron derived from murine ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). Excitation of the photoreceptor with blue light induces a conformational change that leads to exposure and activation of the degron. Subsequently, the protein is targeted for degradation by the proteasome. Here, the strategy for degron module development and optimization is described in detail together with experimental aspects, which were pivotal for successful implementation of light-controlled proteolysis. The engineering of the photosensitive degron (psd) module may well serve as a blueprint for future development of sophisticated synthetic switches.
Controlling Protein Activity and Degradation Using Blue Light.
Regulation of protein stability is a fundamental process in eukaryotic cells and pivotal to, e.g., cell cycle progression, faithful chromosome segregation, or protein quality control. Synthetic regulation of protein stability requires conditional degradation sequences (degrons) that induce a stability switch upon a specific signal. Fusion to a selected target protein permits to influence virtually every process in a cell. Light as signal is advantageous due to its precise applicability in time, space, quality, and quantity. Light control of protein stability was achieved by fusing the LOV2 photoreceptor domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phototropin1 with a synthetic degron (cODC1) derived from the carboxy-terminal degron of ornithine decarboxylase to obtain the photosensitive degron (psd) module. The psd module can be attached to the carboxy terminus of target proteins that are localized to the cytosol or nucleus to obtain light control over their stability. Blue light induces structural changes in the LOV2 domain, which in turn lead to activation of the degron and thus proteasomal degradation of the whole fusion protein. Variants of the psd module with diverse characteristics are useful to fine-tune the stability of a selected target at permissive (darkness) and restrictive conditions (blue light).
A photosensitive degron enables acute light-induced protein degradation in the nervous system.
Acutely inducing degradation enables studying the function of essential proteins. Available techniques target proteins post-translationally, via ubiquitin or by fusing destabilizing domains (degrons), and in some cases degradation is controllable by small molecules. Yet, they are comparably slow, possibly inducing compensatory changes, and do not allow localized protein depletion. The photosensitizer miniature singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG), fused to proteins of interest, provides fast light-induced protein destruction, e.g. affecting neurotransmission within minutes, but the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated also affect proteins nearby, causing multifaceted phenotypes. A photosensitive degron (psd), recently developed and characterized in yeast, only targets the protein it is fused to, acting quickly as it is ubiquitin-independent, and the B-LID light-inducible degron was similarly shown to affect protein abundance in zebrafish. We implemented the psd in Caenorhabditis elegans and compared it to miniSOG. The psd effectively caused protein degradation within one hour of low intensity blue light (30 μW/mm(2)). Targeting synaptotagmin (SNT-1::tagRFP::psd), required for efficient neurotransmission, reduced locomotion within 15 minutes of illumination and within one hour behavior and miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) were affected almost to the same degree seen in snt-1 mutants. Thus, psd effectively photo-degrades specific proteins, quickly inducing loss-of-function effects without affecting bystander proteins.
Photo-sensitive degron variants for tuning protein stability by light.
Regulated proteolysis by the proteasome is one of the fundamental mechanisms used in eukaryotic cells to control cellular behavior. Efficient tools to regulate protein stability offer synthetic influence on molecular level on a selected biological process. Optogenetic control of protein stability has been achieved with the photo-sensitive degron (psd) module. This engineered tool consists of the photoreceptor domain light oxygen voltage 2 (LOV2) from Arabidopsis thaliana phototropin1 fused to a sequence that induces direct proteasomal degradation, which was derived from the carboxy-terminal degron of murine ornithine decarboxylase. The abundance of target proteins tagged with the psd module can be regulated by blue light if the degradation tag is exposed to the cytoplasm or the nucleus.
Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light.
Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are a large family of cell surface receptors that sense growth factors and hormones and regulate a variety of cell behaviours in health and disease. Contactless activation of RTKs with spatial and temporal precision is currently not feasible. Here, we generated RTKs that are insensitive to endogenous ligands but can be selectively activated by low-intensity blue light. We screened light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-sensing domains for their ability to activate RTKs by light-activated dimerization. Incorporation of LOV domains found in aureochrome photoreceptors of stramenopiles resulted in robust activation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and rearranged during transfection (RET). In human cancer and endothelial cells, light induced cellular signalling with spatial and temporal precision. Furthermore, light faithfully mimicked complex mitogenic and morphogenic cell behaviour induced by growth factors. RTKs under optical control (Opto-RTKs) provide a powerful optogenetic approach to actuate cellular signals and manipulate cell behaviour.
A LOV2 domain-based optogenetic tool to control protein degradation and cellular function.
Light perception is indispensable for plants to respond adequately to external cues and is linked to proteolysis of key transcriptional regulators. To provide synthetic light control of protein stability, we developed a generic photosensitive degron (psd) module combining the light-reactive LOV2 domain of Arabidopsis thaliana phot1 with the murine ornithine decarboxylase-like degradation sequence cODC1. Functionality of the psd module was demonstrated in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Generation of conditional mutants, light regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase activity, light-based patterning of cell growth, and yeast photography exemplified its versatility. In silico modeling of psd module behavior increased understanding of its characteristics. This engineered degron module transfers the principle of light-regulated degradation to nonplant organisms. It will be highly beneficial to control protein levels in biotechnological or biomedical applications and offers the potential to render a plethora of biological processes light-switchable.