Showing 1 - 25 of 90 results
Booster, a Red-Shifted Genetically Encoded Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) Biosensor Compatible with Cyan Fluorescent Protein/Yellow Fluorescent Protein-Based FRET Biosensors and Blue Light-Responsive Optogenetic Tools.
Genetically encoded Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based biosensors have been developed for the visualization of signaling molecule activities. Currently, most of them are comprised of cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins (CFP and YFP), precluding the use of multiple FRET biosensors within a single cell. Moreover, the FRET biosensors based on CFP and YFP are incompatible with the optogenetic tools that operate at blue light. To overcome these problems, here, we have developed FRET biosensors with red-shifted excitation and emission wavelengths. We chose mKOκ and mKate2 as the favorable donor and acceptor pair by calculating the Förster distance. By optimizing the order of fluorescent proteins and modulatory domains of the FRET biosensors, we developed a FRET biosensor backbone named "Booster". The performance of the protein kinase A (PKA) biosensor based on the Booster backbone (Booster-PKA) was comparable to that of AKAR3EV, a previously developed FRET biosensor comprising CFP and YFP. For the proof of concept, we first showed simultaneous monitoring of activities of two protein kinases with Booster-PKA and ERK FRET biosensors based on CFP and YFP. Second, we showed monitoring of PKA activation by Beggiatoa photoactivated adenylyl cyclase, an optogenetic generator of cyclic AMP. Finally, we presented PKA activity in living tissues of transgenic mice expressing Booster-PKA. Collectively, the results demonstrate the effectiveness and versatility of Booster biosensors as an imaging tool in vitro and in vivo.
An optogenetic tool for induced protein stabilization based on the Phaeodactylum tricornutum aureochrome 1a LOV domain.
Control of cellular events by optogenetic tools is a powerful approach to manipulate cellular functions in a minimally invasive manner. A common problem posed by the application of optogenetic tools is to tune the activity range to be physiologically relevant. Here, we characterized a photoreceptor of the light-oxygen-voltage domain family of Phaeodactylum tricornutum aureochrome 1a (AuLOV) as a tool for increasing protein stability under blue light conditions in budding yeast. Structural studies of AuLOVwt, the variants AuLOVM254 and AuLOVW349 revealed alternative dimer association modes for the dark state, which differ from previously reported AuLOV dark state structures. Rational design of AuLOV-dimer interface mutations resulted in an optimized optogenetic tool that we fused to the photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase from Beggiatoa sp.. This synergistic light-regulation approach using two photoreceptors resulted in an optimized, photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase with a cyclic AMP production activity that matches the physiological range of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Overall, we enlarged the optogenetic toolbox for yeast and demonstrated the importance of fine-tuning the optogenetic tool activity for successful application in cells.
Recent advances in the use of genetically encodable optical tools to elicit and monitor signaling events.
Cells rely on a complex network of spatiotemporally regulated signaling activities to effectively transduce information from extracellular cues to intracellular machinery. To probe this activity architecture, researchers have developed an extensive molecular tool kit of fluorescent biosensors and optogenetic actuators capable of monitoring and manipulating various signaling activities with high spatiotemporal precision. The goal of this review is to provide readers with an overview of basic concepts and recent advances in the development and application of genetically encodable biosensors and optogenetic tools for understanding signaling activity.
Role of cyclic nucleotides and their downstream signaling cascades in memory function: being at the right time at the right spot.
A plethora of studies indicate the important role of cAMP and cGMP cascades in neuronal plasticity and memory function. As a result, altered cyclic nucleotide signaling has been implicated in the pathophysiology of mnemonic dysfunction encountered in several diseases. In the present review we provide a wide overview of studies regarding the involvement of cyclic nucleotides, as well as their upstream and downstream molecules, in physiological and pathological mnemonic processes. Next, we discuss the regulation of the intracellular concentration of cyclic nucleotides via phosphodiesterases, the enzymes that degrade cAMP and/or cGMP, and via A-kinase-anchoring proteins that refine signal compartmentalization of cAMP signaling. We also provide an overview of the available data pointing to the existence of specific time windows in cyclic nucleotide signaling during neuroplasticity and memory formation and the significance to target these specific time phases for improving memory formation. Finally, we highlight the importance of emerging imaging tools like Förster resonance energy transfer imaging and optogenetics in detecting, measuring and manipulating the action of cyclic nucleotide signaling cascades.
The C-terminal region affects the activity of photoactivated adenylyl cyclase from Oscillatoria acuminata.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) is a unique protein that, upon blue light exposure, catalyzes cAMP production. The crystal structures of two PACs, from Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) and Beggiatoa sp. (bPAC), have been solved, and they show a high degree of similarity. However, the photoactivity of OaPAC is much lower than that of bPAC, and the regulatory mechanism of PAC photoactivity, which induces the difference in activity between OaPAC and bPAC, has not yet been clarified. Here, we investigated the role of the C-terminal region in OaPAC, the length of which is the only notable difference from bPAC. We found that the photoactivity of OaPAC was inversely proportional to the C-terminal length. However, the deletion of more than nine amino acids did not further increase the activity, indicating that the nine amino acids at the C-terminal critically affect the photoactivity. Besides, absorption spectral features of light-sensing domains (BLUF domains) of the C-terminal deletion mutants showed similar light-dependent spectral shifts as in WT, indicating that the C-terminal region influences the activity without interacting with the BLUF domain. The study characterizes new PAC mutants with modified photoactivities, which could be useful as optogenetics tools.
Primary Cilia Signaling Promotes Axonal Tract Development and Is Disrupted in Joubert Syndrome-Related Disorders Models.
Appropriate axonal growth and connectivity are essential for functional wiring of the brain. Joubert syndrome-related disorders (JSRD), a group of ciliopathies in which mutations disrupt primary cilia function, are characterized by axonal tract malformations. However, little is known about how cilia-driven signaling regulates axonal growth and connectivity. We demonstrate that the deletion of related JSRD genes, Arl13b and Inpp5e, in projection neurons leads to de-fasciculated and misoriented axonal tracts. Arl13b deletion disrupts the function of its downstream effector, Inpp5e, and deregulates ciliary-PI3K/AKT signaling. Chemogenetic activation of ciliary GPCR signaling and cilia-specific optogenetic modulation of downstream second messenger cascades (PI3K, AKT, and AC3) commonly regulated by ciliary signaling receptors induce rapid changes in axonal dynamics. Further, Arl13b deletion leads to changes in transcriptional landscape associated with dysregulated PI3K/AKT signaling. These data suggest that ciliary signaling acts to modulate axonal connectivity and that impaired primary cilia signaling underlies axonal tract defects in JSRD.
Elucidating cyclic AMP signaling in subcellular domains with optogenetic tools and fluorescent biosensors.
The second messenger 3',5'-cyclic nucleoside adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) plays a key role in signal transduction across prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Cyclic AMP signaling is compartmentalized into microdomains to fulfil specific functions. To define the function of cAMP within these microdomains, signaling needs to be analyzed with spatio-temporal precision. To this end, optogenetic approaches and genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors are particularly well suited. Synthesis and hydrolysis of cAMP can be directly manipulated by photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and light-regulated phosphodiesterases (PDEs), respectively. In addition, many biosensors have been designed to spatially and temporarily resolve cAMP dynamics in the cell. This review provides an overview about optogenetic tools and biosensors to shed light on the subcellular organization of cAMP signaling.
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.
Amelioration of Diabetes in a Murine Model upon Transplantation of Pancreatic β-Cells with Optogenetic Control of Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate.
Pharmacological augmentation of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), for example, to overcome insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes is linked to suboptimal regulation of blood sugar. Cultured β-cells and islets expressing a photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase (PAC) are amenable to GSIS potentiation with light. However, whether PAC-mediated enhancement of GSIS can improve the diabetic state remains unknown. To this end, β-cells were engineered with stable PAC expression that led to over 2-fold greater GSIS upon exposure to blue light while there were no changes in the absence of glucose. Moreover, the rate of oxygen consumption was unaltered despite the photoinduced elevation of GSIS. Transplantation of these cells into streptozotocin-treated mice resulted in improved glucose tolerance, lower hyperglycemia, and higher plasma insulin when subjected to illumination. Embedding optogenetic networks in β-cells for physiologically relevant control of GSIS will enable novel solutions potentially overcoming the shortcomings of current treatments for diabetes.
Biphasic Response of Protein Kinase A to Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate Triggers Distinct Epithelial Phenotypes.
Protein Kinase A (PKA) is an important cellular signaling hub whose activity has long been assumed to monotonically depend on the level of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Using an optogenetic tool that can introduce precise amounts of cAMP in MDCKI cells, we demonstrate that PKA activity is instead characterized by a biphasic response, in which PKA activity increases and then decreases as a function of cAMP. We reveal that this behavior results from an elaborate integration by PKA of many cellular signals triggered by cAMP. In addition to the direct activation of PKA, cAMP also modulates the activity of p38 and ERK, which then converge on PKA to inhibit it. These interactions and their ensuing biphasic PKA profile have important physiological repercussions, triggering two distinct transcriptional programs elicited by low and high cAMP doses. These transcriptional responses in turn influence the ability of MDCKI cells to proliferate and form acini. Our data, supported by computational analyses, synthesize a set of network interconnections involving PKA and other important signaling pathways into a model that demonstrates how cells can capitalize on signal integration to create a diverse set of responses to cAMP concentration and produce complex input-output relationships.
Compartmentalized cAMP Generation by Engineered Photoactivated Adenylyl Cyclases.
Because small-molecule activators of adenylyl cyclases (AC) affect ACs cell-wide, it is challenging to explore the signaling consequences of AC activity emanating from specific intracellular compartments. We explored this issue using a series of engineered, optogenetic, spatially restricted, photoactivable adenylyl cyclases (PACs) positioned at the plasma membrane (PM), the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM), and the nucleus (Nu). The biochemical consequences of brief photostimulation of PAC is primarily limited to the intracellular site occupied by the PAC. By contrast, sustained photostimulation results in distal cAMP signaling. Prolonged cAMP generation at the OMM profoundly stimulates nuclear protein kinase (PKA) activity. We have found that phosphodiesterases 3 (OMM and PM) and 4 (PM) modulate proximal (local) cAMP-triggered activity, whereas phosphodiesterase 4 regulates distal cAMP activity as well as the migration of PKA's catalytic subunit into the nucleus.
Using a Robust and Sensitive GFP-Based cGMP Sensor for Real Time Imaging in Intact Caenorhabditis elegans.
cGMP plays a role in sensory signaling and plasticity by regulating ion channels, phosphodiesterases and kinases. Studies that primarily used genetic and biochemical tools suggest that cGMP is spatiotemporally regulated in multiple sensory modalities. FRET- and GFP-based cGMP sensors were developed to visualize cGMP in primary cell culture and Caenorhabditis elegans to corroborate these findings. While a FRET-based sensor has been used in an intact animal to visualize cGMP, the requirement of a multiple emission system limits its ability to be used on its own as well as with other fluorophores. Here, we demonstrate that a C. elegans codon-optimized version of the cpEGFP-based cGMP sensor FlincG3 can be used to visualize rapidly changing cGMP levels in living, behaving C. elegans We coexpressed FlincG3 with the blue light-activated guanylyl cyclases BeCyclOp and bPGC in body wall muscles and found that the rate of change in FlincG3 fluorescence correlated with the rate of cGMP production by each cyclase. Furthermore, we show that FlincG3 responds to cultivation temperature, NaCl concentration changes and sodium dodecyl sulfate in the sensory neurons AFD, ASEL/R and PHB, respectively. Intriguingly, FlincG3 fluorescence in ASEL and ASER decreased in response to a NaCl concentration upstep and downstep, respectively, which is opposite in sign to the coexpressed calcium sensor jRGECO1a and previously published calcium recordings. These results illustrate that FlincG3 can be used to report rapidly changing cGMP levels in an intact animal and that the reporter can potentially reveal unexpected spatiotemporal landscapes of cGMP in response to stimuli.
Cyclic Nucleotide-Specific Optogenetics Highlights Compartmentalization of the Sperm Flagellum into cAMP Microdomains.
Inside the female genital tract, mammalian sperm undergo a maturation process called capacitation, which primes the sperm to navigate across the oviduct and fertilize the egg. Sperm capacitation and motility are controlled by 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Here, we show that optogenetics, the control of cellular signaling by genetically encoded light-activated proteins, allows to manipulate cAMP dynamics in sperm flagella and, thereby, sperm capacitation and motility by light. To this end, we used sperm that express the light-activated phosphodiesterase LAPD or the photo-activated adenylate cyclase bPAC. The control of cAMP by LAPD or bPAC combined with pharmacological interventions provides spatiotemporal precision and allows to probe the physiological function of cAMP compartmentalization in mammalian sperm.
Regulation of signaling proteins in the brain by light.
In order to study the role of signaling proteins, such as kinases and GTPases, in brain functions it is necessary to control their activity at the appropriate spatiotemporal resolution and to examine the cellular and behavioral effects of such changes in activity. Reduced spatiotemporal resolution in the regulation of these proteins activity will impede the ability to understand the proteins normal functions as longer modification of their activity in non-normal locations could lead to effects different from their natural functions. To control intracellular signaling proteins at the highest temporal resolution recent innovative optogenetic approaches were developed to allow the control of photoactivable signaling proteins activity by light. These photoactivatable proteins can be activated in selected cell population in brain and in specific subcellular compartments. Minimal-invasive tools are being developed to photoactivate these proteins for study and therapy. Together these techniques afford an unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling proteins activity to unveil the function of brain proteins with high accuracy in behaving animals. As dysfunctional signaling proteins are involved in brain diseases, the optogenetic technique has also the potential to be used as a tool to treat brain diseases.
Light-based control of metabolic flux through assembly of synthetic organelles.
To maximize a desired product, metabolic engineers typically express enzymes to high, constant levels. Yet, permanent pathway activation can have undesirable consequences including competition with essential pathways and accumulation of toxic intermediates. Faced with similar challenges, natural metabolic systems compartmentalize enzymes into organelles or post-translationally induce activity under certain conditions. Here we report that optogenetic control can be used to extend compartmentalization and dynamic control to engineered metabolisms in yeast. We describe a suite of optogenetic tools to trigger assembly and disassembly of metabolically active enzyme clusters. Using the deoxyviolacein biosynthesis pathway as a model system, we find that light-switchable clustering can enhance product formation six-fold and product specificity 18-fold by decreasing the concentration of intermediate metabolites and reducing flux through competing pathways. Inducible compartmentalization of enzymes into synthetic organelles can thus be used to control engineered metabolic pathways, limit intermediates and favor the formation of desired products.
Characterization and engineering of photoactivated adenylyl cyclases.
Cyclic nucleoside monophosphates (cNMP) serve as universal second messengers in signal transduction across prokaryotes and eukaryotes. As signaling often relies on transiently formed microdomains of elevated second messenger concentration, means to precisely perturb the spatiotemporal dynamics of cNMPs are uniquely poised for the interrogation of the underlying physiological processes. Optogenetics appears particularly suited as it affords light-dependent, accurate control in time and space of diverse cellular processes. Several sensory photoreceptors function as photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PAC) and hence serve as light-regulated actuators for the control of intracellular levels of 3', 5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate. To characterize PACs and to refine their properties, we devised a test bed for the facile analysis of these photoreceptors. Cyclase activity is monitored in bacterial cells via expression of a fluorescent reporter, and programmable illumination allows the rapid exploration of multiple lighting regimes. We thus probed two PACs responding to blue and red light, respectively, and observed significant dark activity for both. We next engineered derivatives of the red-light-sensitive PAC with altered responses to light, with one variant, denoted DdPAC, showing enhanced response to light. These PAC variants stand to enrich the optogenetic toolkit and thus facilitate the detailed analysis of cNMP metabolism and signaling.
Luminescence-activated nucleotide cyclase regulates spatial and temporal cAMP synthesis.
cAMP is a ubiquitous second messenger that regulates cellular proliferation, differentiation, attachment, migration, and several other processes. It has become increasingly evident that tight regulation of cAMP accumulation and localization confers divergent yet specific signaling to downstream pathways. Currently, few tools are available that have sufficient spatial and temporal resolution to study location-biased cAMP signaling. Here, we introduce a new fusion protein consisting of a light-activated adenylyl cyclase (bPAC) and luciferase (nLuc). This construct allows dual activation of cAMP production through temporally precise photostimulation or chronic chemical stimulation that can be fined-tuned to mimic physiological levels and duration of cAMP synthesis to trigger downstream events. By targeting this construct to different compartments, we show that cAMP produced in the cytosol and nucleus stimulates proliferation in thyroid cells. The bPAC-nLuc fusion construct adds a new reagent to the available toolkit to study cAMP-regulated processes in living cells.
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.
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.
Potassium channel-based optogenetic silencing.
Optogenetics enables manipulation of biological processes with light at high spatio-temporal resolution to control the behavior of cells, networks, or even whole animals. In contrast to the performance of excitatory rhodopsins, the effectiveness of inhibitory optogenetic tools is still insufficient. Here we report a two-component optical silencer system comprising photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and the small cyclic nucleotide-gated potassium channel SthK. Activation of this 'PAC-K' silencer by brief pulses of low-intensity blue light causes robust and reversible silencing of cardiomyocyte excitation and neuronal firing. In vivo expression of PAC-K in mouse and zebrafish neurons is well tolerated, where blue light inhibits neuronal activity and blocks motor responses. In combination with red-light absorbing channelrhodopsins, the distinct action spectra of PACs allow independent bimodal control of neuronal activity. PAC-K represents a reliable optogenetic silencer with intrinsic amplification for sustained potassium-mediated hyperpolarization, conferring high operational light sensitivity to the cells of interest.
Synthetic Light-Activated Ion Channels for Optogenetic Activation and Inhibition.
Optogenetic manipulation of cells or living organisms became widely used in neuroscience following the introduction of the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). ChR2 is a non-selective cation channel, ideally suited to depolarize and evoke action potentials in neurons. However, its calcium (Ca2+) permeability and single channel conductance are low and for some applications longer-lasting increases in intracellular Ca2+ might be desirable. Moreover, there is need for an efficient light-gated potassium (K+) channel that can rapidly inhibit spiking in targeted neurons. Considering the importance of Ca2+ and K+ in cell physiology, light-activated Ca2+-permeant and K+-specific channels would be welcome additions to the optogenetic toolbox. Here we describe the engineering of novel light-gated Ca2+-permeant and K+-specific channels by fusing a bacterial photoactivated adenylyl cyclase to cyclic nucleotide-gated channels with high permeability for Ca2+ or for K+, respectively. Optimized fusion constructs showed strong light-gated conductance in Xenopus laevis oocytes and in rat hippocampal neurons. These constructs could also be used to control the motility of Drosophila melanogaster larvae, when expressed in motoneurons. Illumination led to body contraction when motoneurons expressed the light-sensitive Ca2+-permeant channel, and to body extension when expressing the light-sensitive K+ channel, both effectively and reversibly paralyzing the larvae. Further optimization of these constructs will be required for application in adult flies since both constructs led to eclosion failure when expressed in motoneurons.
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.
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.