Showing 1 - 25 of 394 results
Precise control of microtubule disassembly in living cells.
Microtubules tightly regulate various cellular activities. Our understanding of microtubules is largely based on experiments using microtubule-targeting agents, which, however, are insufficient to dissect the dynamic mechanisms of specific microtubule populations, due to their slow effects on the entire pool of microtubules. To overcome this technological limitation, we have used chemo and optogenetics to disassemble specific microtubule subtypes, including tyrosinated microtubules, primary cilia, mitotic spindles, and intercellular bridges, by rapidly recruiting engineered microtubule-cleaving enzymes onto target microtubules in a reversible manner. Using this approach, we show that acute microtubule disassembly swiftly halts vesicular trafficking and lysosomal dynamics. It also immediately triggers Golgi and ER reorganization and slows the fusion/fission of mitochondria without affecting mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition, cell rigidity is increased after microtubule disruption owing to increased contractile stress fibers. Microtubule disruption furthermore prevents cell division, but does not cause cell death during interphase. Overall, the reported tools facilitate detailed analysis of how microtubules precisely regulate cellular architecture and functions.
Force propagation between epithelial cells depends on active coupling and mechano-structural polarization.
Cell-generated forces play a major role in coordinating the large-scale behavior of cell assemblies, in particular during development, wound healing and cancer. Mechanical signals propagate faster than biochemical signals, but can have similar effects, especially in epithelial tissues with strong cell-cell adhesion. However, a quantitative description of the transmission chain from force generation in a sender cell, force propagation across cell-cell boundaries, and the concomitant response of receiver cells is missing. For a quantitative analysis of this important situation, here we propose a minimal model system of two epithelial cells on an H-pattern (“cell doublet”). After optogenetically activating RhoA, a major regulator of cell contractility, in the sender cell, we measure the mechanical response of the receiver cell by traction force and monolayer stress microscopies. In general, we find that the receiver cells shows an active response so that the cell doublet forms a coherent unit. However, force propagation and response of the receiver cell also strongly depends on the mechano-structural polarization in the cell assembly, which is controlled by cell-matrix adhesion to the adhesive micropattern. We find that the response of the receiver cell is stronger when the mechano-structural polarization axis is oriented perpendicular to the direction of force propagation, reminiscent of the Poisson effect in passive materials. We finally show that the same effects are at work in small tissues. Our work demonstrates that cellular organization and active mechanical response of a tissue is key to maintain signal strength and leads to the emergence of elasticity, which means that signals are not dissipated like in a viscous system, but can propagate over large distances.
Spatiotemporal dynamics of membrane surface charge regulates cell polarity and migration.
During cell migration and polarization, hundreds of signal transduction and cytoskeletal components self-organize to generate localized protrusions. Although biochemical and genetic analyses have delineated many specific interactions, how the activation and localization of so many different molecules are spatiotemporally orchestrated at the subcellular level has remained unclear. Here we show that the regulation of negative surface charge on the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane plays an integrative role in the molecular interactions. Surface charge, or zeta potential, is transiently lowered at new protrusions and within cortical waves of Ras/PI3K/TORC2/F-actin network activation. Rapid alterations of inner leaflet anionic phospholipids, such as PI(4,5)P2, PI(3,4)P2, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidic acid, collectively contribute to the surface charge changes. Abruptly reducing the surface charge by recruiting positively charged optogenetic actuators was sufficient to trigger the entire biochemical network, initiate de novo protrusions, and abrogate pre-existing polarity. These effects were blocked by genetic or pharmacological inhibitions of key signaling components such as Akt and PI3K/TORC2. Conversely, increasing the negative surface deactivated the network and locally suppressed chemoattractant-induced protrusions or subverted EGF-induced ERK activation. Computational simulations involving excitable biochemical networks demonstrated that slight changes in feedback loops, induced by recruitment of the actuators, could lead to outsized effects on system activation. We propose that key signaling network components act on, and are in turn acted upon, by surface charge, closing feedback loops which bring about the global-scale molecular self-organization required for spontaneous protrusion formation, cell migration, and polarity establishment.
Peeking under the hood of early embryogenesis: Using tools and synthetic biology to understand native control systems and sculpt tissues.
Early embryogenesis requires rapid division of pluripotent blastomeres, regulated genome activation, precise spatiotemporal signaling to pattern cell fate, and morphogenesis to shape primitive tissue architectures. The complexity of this process has inspired researchers to move beyond simple genetic perturbation into engineered devices and synthetic biology tools to permit temporal and spatial manipulation of the control systems guiding development. By precise alteration of embryo organization, it is now possible to advance beyond basic analytical strategies and directly test the sufficiency of models for developmental regulation. Separately, advances in micropatterning and embryoid culture have facilitated the bottom-up construction of complex embryo tissues allowing ex vivo systems to recapitulate even later stages of development. Embryos fertilized and grown ex vivo offer an excellent opportunity to exogenously perturb fundamental pathways governing embryogenesis. Here we review the technologies developed to thermally modulate the embryo cell cycle, and optically regulate morphogen and signaling pathways in space and time, specifically in the blastula embryo. Additionally, we highlight recent advances in cell patterning in two and three dimensions that have helped reveal the self-organizing properties and gene regulatory networks guiding early embryo organization.
Light-dependent modulation of protein localization and function in living bacteria cells.
Most bacteria lack membrane-enclosed organelles to compartmentalize cellular processes. In lieu of physical compartments, bacterial proteins are often recruited to macromolecular scaffolds at specific subcellular locations to carry out their functions. Consequently, the ability to modulate a protein’s subcellular location with high precision and speed bears the potential to manipulate its corresponding cellular functions. Here we demonstrate that the CRY2/CIB1 system from Arabidopsis thaliana can be used to rapidly direct proteins to different subcellular locations inside live E. coli cells including the nucleoid, the cell pole, membrane, and the midcell division plane. We further show that such light-induced re-localization can be used to rapidly inhibit cytokinesis in actively dividing E. coli cells. Finally, we demonstrate that the CRY2/CIBN binding kinetics can be modulated by green light, adding a new dimension of control to the system.
Engineered Cas9 extracellular vesicles as a novel gene editing tool.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have shown promise as biological delivery vehicles, but therapeutic applications require efficient cargo loading. Here, we developed new methods for CRISPR/Cas9 loading into EVs through reversible heterodimerization of Cas9-fusions with EV sorting partners. Cas9-loaded EVs were collected from engineered Expi293F cells using standard methodology, characterized using nanoparticle tracking analysis, western blotting, and transmission electron microscopy and analysed for CRISPR/Cas9-mediated functional gene editing in a Cre-reporter cellular assay. Light-induced dimerization using Cryptochrome 2 combined with CD9 or a Myristoylation-Palmitoylation-Palmitoylation lipid modification resulted in efficient loading with approximately 25 Cas9 molecules per EV and high functional delivery with 51% gene editing of the Cre reporter cassette in HEK293 and 25% in HepG2 cells, respectively. This approach was also effective for targeting knock-down of the therapeutically relevant PCSK9 gene with 6% indel efficiency in HEK293. Cas9 transfer was detergent-sensitive and associated with the EV fractions after size exclusion chromatography, indicative of EV-mediated transfer. Considering the advantages of EVs over other delivery vectors we envision that this study will prove useful for a range of therapeutic applications, including CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing.
Light-induced fermenter production of derivatives of the sweet protein monellin is maximized in prestationary Saccharomyces cerevisiae cultures.
Optogenetics has great potential for biotechnology and metabolic engineering due to the cost-effective control of cellular activities. The usage of optogenetics techniques for the biosynthesis of bioactive molecules ensures reduced costs and enhanced regulatory possibilities. This requires development of efficient methods for light-delivery during a production process in a fermenter. Here, we benchmarked the fermenter production of a low-caloric sweetener in Saccharomyces cerevisiae with optogenetic tools against the production in small scale cell culture flasks. An expression system based on the light-controlled interaction between Cry2 and Cib1 was used for sweet-protein production. Optimization of the fermenter process was achieved by increasing the light-flux during the production phase to circumvent shading by yeast cells at high densities. Maximal amounts of the sweet-protein were produced in a pre-stationary growth phase, whereas at later stages, a decay in protein abundance was observable. Our investigation showcases the upscaling of an optogenetic production process from small flasks to a bioreactor. Optogenetic-controlled production in a fermenter is highly cost-effective due to the cheap inducer and therefore a viable alternative to chemicals for a process that requires an induction step.
Design and engineering of light-sensitive protein switches.
Engineered, light-sensitive protein switches are used to interrogate a broad variety of biological processes. These switches are typically constructed by genetically fusing naturally occurring light-responsive protein domains with functional domains from other proteins. Protein activity can be controlled using a variety of mechanisms including light-induced colocalization, caging, and allosteric regulation. Protein design efforts have focused on reducing background signaling, maximizing the change in activity upon light stimulation, and perturbing the kinetics of switching. It is common to combine structure-based modeling with experimental screening to identify ideal fusion points between domains and discover point mutations that optimize switching. Here, we introduce commonly used light-sensitive domains and summarize recent progress in using them to regulate protein activity.
Upregulated flotillins and sphingosine kinase 2 derail AXL vesicular traffic to promote epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
Altered endocytosis and vesicular trafficking are major players during tumorigenesis. Flotillin overexpression, a feature observed in many invasive tumors and identified as a marker of poor prognosis, induces a deregulated endocytic and trafficking pathway called upregulated flotillin-induced trafficking (UFIT). Here, we found that in non-tumoral mammary epithelial cells, induction of the UFIT pathway promotes epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and accelerates the endocytosis of several transmembrane receptors, including AXL, in flotillin-positive late endosomes. AXL overexpression, frequently observed in cancer cells, is linked to EMT and metastasis formation. In flotillin-overexpressing non-tumoral mammary epithelial cells and in invasive breast carcinoma cells, we found that the UFIT pathway-mediated AXL endocytosis allows its stabilization and depends on sphingosine kinase 2, a lipid kinase recruited in flotillin-rich plasma membrane domains and endosomes. Thus, the deregulation of vesicular trafficking following flotillin upregulation, and through sphingosine kinase 2, emerges as a new mechanism of AXL overexpression and EMT-inducing signaling pathway activation.
Optogenetic tools for microbial synthetic biology.
Chemical induction is one of the most common modalities used to manipulate gene expression in living systems. However, chemical induction can be toxic or expensive that compromise the economic feasibility when it comes to industrial-scale synthetic biology applications. These complications have driven the pursuit of better induction systems. Optogenetics technique can be a solution as it not only enables dynamic control with unprecedented spatiotemporal precision but also is inexpensive and eco-friendlier. The optogenetic technique harnesses natural light-sensing modules that are genetically encodable and re-programmable in various hosts. By further engineering these modules to connect with the microbial regulatory machinery, gene expression and protein activity can be finely tuned simply through light irradiation. Recent works on applying optogenetics to microbial synthetic biology have yielded remarkable achievements. To further expand the usability of optogenetics, more optogenetic tools with greater portability that are compatible with different microbial hosts need to be developed. This review focuses on non-opsin optogenetic systems and the current state of optogenetic advancements in microbes, by showcasing the different designs and functions of optogenetic tools, followed by an insight into the optogenetic approaches used to circumvent challenges in synthetic biology.
Optogenetic Control of PIP2 Interactions Shaping ENaC Activity.
The activity of the epithelial Na+ Channel (ENaC) is strongly dependent on the membrane phospholipid phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2). PIP2 binds two distinct cationic clusters within the N termini of β- and γ-ENaC subunits (βN1 and γN2). The affinities of these sites were previously determined using short synthetic peptides, yet their role in sensitizing ENaC to changes in PIP2 levels in the cellular system is not well established. We addressed this question by comparing the effects of PIP2 depletion and recovery on ENaC channel activity and intracellular Na+ levels [Na+]i. We tested effects on ENaC activity with mutations to the PIP2 binding sites using the optogenetic system CIBN/CRY2-OCRL to selectively deplete PIP2. We monitored changes of [Na+]i by measuring the fluorescent Na+ indicator, CoroNa Green AM, and changes in channel activity by performing patch clamp electrophysiology. Whole cell patch clamp measurements showed a complete lack of response to PIP2 depletion and recovery in ENaC with mutations to βN1 or γN2 or both sites, compared to wild type ENaC. Whereas mutant βN1 also had no change in CoroNa Green fluorescence in response to PIP2 depletion, γN2 did have reduced [Na+]i, which was explained by having shorter CoroNa Green uptake and half-life. These results suggest that CoroNa Green measurements should be interpreted with caution. Importantly, the electrophysiology results show that the βN1 and γN2 sites on ENaC are each necessary to permit maximal ENaC activity in the presence of PIP2.
An optogenetic tool to recruit individual PKC isozymes to the cell surface and promote specific phosphorylation of membrane proteins.
The Protein kinase C family consists of several closely related kinases. These enzymes regulate the function of proteins through the phosphorylation of hydroxyl groups on serines and/or threonines. The selective activation of individual PKC isozymes has proven challenging due to a lack of specific activator molecules. Here we developed an optogenetic, blue-light activated PKC isozyme that harnesses a plant-based dimerization system between the photosensitive cryptochrome-2 (CRY2) and the N-terminus of the transcription factor CIB1 (CIBN). We show that tagging CRY2 with the catalytic domain of PKC isozymes can efficiently promote its translocation to the cell surface upon blue light exposure. We demonstrate this system using PKCε and show that this leads to robust activation of a K+ channel (GIRK1/4) previously shown to be activated by PKCε. We anticipate that this approach can be utilized for other PKC isoforms to provide a reliable and direct stimulus for targeted membrane protein phosphorylation by the relevant PKCs.
A guide to designing photocontrol in proteins: methods, strategies and applications.
Light is essential for various biochemical processes in all domains of life. In its presence certain proteins inside a cell are excited, which either stimulates or inhibits subsequent cellular processes. The artificial photocontrol of specifically proteins is of growing interest for the investigation of scientific questions on the organismal, cellular and molecular level as well as for the development of medicinal drugs or biocatalytic tools. For the targeted design of photocontrol in proteins, three major methods have been developed over the last decades, which employ either chemical engineering of small-molecule photosensitive effectors (photopharmacology), incorporation of photoactive non-canonical amino acids by genetic code expansion (photoxenoprotein engineering), or fusion with photoreactive biological modules (hybrid protein optogenetics). This review compares the different methods as well as their strategies and current applications for the light-regulation of proteins and provides background information useful for the implementation of each technique.
Regulation of EGF-stimulated activation of the PI-3K/AKT pathway by exocyst-mediated exocytosis.
The phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI-3K)/AKT cell survival pathway is an important pathway activated by EGFR signaling. Here we show, that in addition to previously described critical components of this pathway, i.e., the docking protein Gab1, the PI-3K/AKT pathway in epithelial cells is regulated by the exocyst complex, which is a vesicle tether that is essential for exocytosis. Using live-cell imaging, we demonstrate that PI(3,4,5)P3 levels fluctuate at the membrane on a minutes time scale and that these fluctuations are associated with local PI(3,4,5)P3 increases at sites where recycling vesicles undergo exocytic fusion. Supporting a role for exocytosis in PI(3,4,5)P3 generation, acute promotion of exocytosis by optogenetically driving exocyst-mediated vesicle tethering upregulates PI(3,4,5)P3 production and AKT activation. Conversely, acute inhibition of exocytosis using Endosidin2, a small-molecule inhibitor of the exocyst subunit Exo70, impairs PI(3,4,5)P3 production and AKT activation induced by EGF stimulation of epithelial cells. Moreover, prolonged inhibition of EGF signaling by EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors results in spontaneous reactivation of AKT without a concomitant relief of EGFR inhibition. However, this reactivation can be negated by acutely inhibiting the exocyst. These experiments demonstrate that exocyst-mediated exocytosis – by regulating PI(3,4,5)P3 levels at the plasma membrane – subserves activation of the PI-3K/AKT pathway by EGFR in epithelial cells.
The cell polarity determinant Dlg1 facilitates epithelial invagination by promoting tissue-scale mechanical coordination.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction serves as a fundamental mechanism to convert flat epithelial sheets into multilayered structures. It remains unknown whether additional mechanical inputs are required for apical constriction-mediated folding. Using Drosophila mesoderm invagination as a model, we identified an important role for the non-constricting, lateral mesodermal cells adjacent to the constriction domain ('flanking cells') in facilitating epithelial folding. We found that depletion of the basolateral determinant Dlg1 disrupts the transition between apical constriction and invagination without affecting the rate of apical constriction. Strikingly, the observed delay in invagination is associated with ineffective apical myosin contractions in the flanking cells that lead to overstretching of their apical domain. The defects in the flanking cells impede ventral-directed movement of the lateral ectoderm, suggesting reduced mechanical coupling between tissues. Specifically disrupting the flanking cells in wild-type embryos by laser ablation or optogenetic depletion of cortical actin is sufficient to delay the apical constriction-to-invagination transition. Our findings indicate that effective mesoderm invagination requires intact flanking cells and suggest a role for tissue-scale mechanical coupling during epithelial folding.
Cell size and actin architecture determine force generation in optogenetically activated adherent cells.
Adherent cells use actomyosin contractility to generate mechanical force and to sense the physical properties of their environment, with dramatic consequences for migration, division, differentiation and fate. However, the organization of the actomyosin system within cells is highly variable, with its assembly and function being controlled by small GTPases from the Rho-family. How activation of these regulators translates into cell-scale force generation and the corresponding sensing capabilities in the context of different physical environments is not understood. Here we probe this relationship combining recent advances in non-neuronal optogenetics with micropatterning and traction force microscopy on soft elastic substrates. We find that after whole-cell RhoA-activation by the CRY2/CIBN optogenetic system with a short pulse of 100 milliseconds, single cells contract before returning to their original tension setpoint with near perfect precision on a time scale of several minutes. To decouple the biochemical and mechanical elements of this response, we introduce a mathematical model that is parametrized by fits to the dynamics of the substrate deformation energy. We find that the RhoA-response builds up quickly on a time scale of 20 seconds, but decays slowly on a time scale of 50 seconds. The larger the cells and the more polarized their actin cytoskeleton, the more substrate deformation energy is generated. RhoA-activation starts to saturate if optogenetic pulse length exceeds 50 milliseconds, revealing the intrinsic limits of biochemical activation. Together our results suggest that adherent cells establish tensional homeostasis by the RhoA-system, but that the setpoint and the dynamics around it are strongly determined by cell size and the architecture of the actin cytoskeleton, which both are controlled by the extracellular environment.
Optogenetics Illuminates Applications in Microbial Engineering.
Optogenetics has been used in a variety of microbial engineering applications, such as chemical and protein production, studies of cell physiology, and engineered microbe-host interactions. These diverse applications benefit from the precise spatiotemporal control that light affords, as well as its tunability, reversibility, and orthogonality. This combination of unique capabilities has enabled a surge of studies in recent years investigating complex biological systems with completely new approaches. We briefly describe the optogenetic tools that have been developed for microbial engineering, emphasizing the scientific advancements that they have enabled. In particular, we focus on the unique benefits and applications of implementing optogenetic control, from bacterial therapeutics to cybergenetics. Finally, we discuss future research directions, with special attention given to the development of orthogonal multichromatic controls. With an abundance of advantages offered by optogenetics, the future is bright in microbial engineering. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Volume 13 is October 2022. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Optogenetic Application to Investigating Cell Behavior and Neurological Disease.
Cells reside in a dynamic microenvironment that presents them with regulatory signals that vary in time, space, and amplitude. The cell, in turn, interprets these signals and accordingly initiates downstream processes including cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and self-organization. Conventional approaches to perturb and investigate signaling pathways (e.g., agonist/antagonist addition, overexpression, silencing, knockouts) are often binary perturbations that do not offer precise control over signaling levels, and/or provide limited spatial or temporal control. In contrast, optogenetics leverages light-sensitive proteins to control cellular signaling dynamics and target gene expression and, by virtue of precise hardware control over illumination, offers the capacity to interrogate how spatiotemporally varying signals modulate gene regulatory networks and cellular behaviors. Recent studies have employed various optogenetic systems in stem cell, embryonic, and somatic cell patterning studies, which have addressed fundamental questions of how cell-cell communication, subcellular protein localization, and signal integration affect cell fate. Other efforts have explored how alteration of signaling dynamics may contribute to neurological diseases and have in the process created physiologically relevant models that could inform new therapeutic strategies. In this review, we focus on emerging applications within the expanding field of optogenetics to study gene regulation, cell signaling, neurodevelopment, and neurological disorders, and we comment on current limitations and future directions for the growth of the field.
Spindle reorientation in response to mechanical stress is an emergent property of the spindle positioning mechanisms.
Proper orientation of the mitotic spindle plays a crucial role in embryos, during tissue development, and in adults, where it functions to dissipate mechanical stress to maintain tissue integrity and homeostasis. While mitotic spindles have been shown to reorient in response to external mechanical stresses, the subcellular cues that mediate spindle reorientation remain unclear. Here, we have used a combination of optogenetics and computational modelling to better understand how mitotic spindles respond to inhomogeneous tension within the actomyosin cortex. Strikingly, we find that the optogenetic activation of RhoA only influences spindle orientation when it is induced at both poles of the cell. Under these conditions, the sudden local increase in cortical tension induced by RhoA activation reduces pulling forces exerted by cortical regulators on astral microtubules. This leads to a perturbation of the torque balance exerted on the spindle, which causes it to rotate. Thus, spindle rotation in response to mechanical stress is an emergent phenomenon arising from the interaction between the spindle positioning machinery and the cell cortex.
Spatio-temporal, optogenetic control of gene expression in organoids.
Organoids derived from stem cells become increasingly important to study human development and to model disease. However, methods are needed to control and study spatio-temporal patterns of gene expression in organoids. To this aim, we combined optogenetics and gene perturbation technologies to activate or knock-down RNA of target genes, at single-cell resolution and in programmable spatio-temporal patterns. To illustrate the usefulness of our approach, we locally activated Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling in an organoid model for human neurodevelopment. High-resolution spatial transcriptomic and single-cell analyses showed that this local induction was sufficient to generate stereotypically patterned organoids in three dimensions and revealed new insights into SHH’s contribution to gene regulation in neurodevelopment. With this study, we propose optogenetic perturbations in combination with spatial transcriptomics as a powerful technology to reprogram and study cell fates and tissue patterning in organoids.
New developments in the biology of fibroblast growth factors.
The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family is composed of 18 secreted signaling proteins consisting of canonical FGFs and endocrine FGFs that activate four receptor tyrosine kinases (FGFRs 1-4) and four intracellular proteins (intracellular FGFs or iFGFs) that primarily function to regulate the activity of voltage-gated sodium channels and other molecules. The canonical FGFs, endocrine FGFs, and iFGFs have been reviewed extensively by us and others. In this review, we briefly summarize past reviews and then focus on new developments in the FGF field since our last review in 2015. Some of the highlights in the past 6 years include the use of optogenetic tools, viral vectors, and inducible transgenes to experimentally modulate FGF signaling, the clinical use of small molecule FGFR inhibitors, an expanded understanding of endocrine FGF signaling, functions for FGF signaling in stem cell pluripotency and differentiation, roles for FGF signaling in tissue homeostasis and regeneration, a continuing elaboration of mechanisms of FGF signaling in development, and an expanding appreciation of roles for FGF signaling in neuropsychiatric diseases. This article is categorized under: Cardiovascular Diseases > Molecular and Cellular Physiology Neurological Diseases > Molecular and Cellular Physiology Congenital Diseases > Stem Cells and Development Cancer > Stem Cells and Development.
Advances in Ophthalmic Optogenetics: Approaches and Applications.
Recent advances in optogenetics hold promise for vision restoration in degenerative eye diseases. Optogenetics refers to techniques that use light to control the cellular activity of targeted cells. Although optogenetics is a relatively new technology, multiple therapeutic options are already being explored in pre-clinical and phase I/II clinical trials with the aim of developing novel, safe, and effective treatments for major blinding eye diseases, such as glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. Optogenetic approaches to visual restoration are primarily aimed at replacing lost or dysfunctional photoreceptors by inserting light-sensitive proteins into downstream retinal neurons that have no intrinsic light sensitivity. Such approaches are attractive because they are agnostic to the genetic causes of retinal degeneration, which raises hopes that all forms of retinal dystrophic and degenerative diseases could become treatable. Optogenetic strategies can also have a far-reaching impact on translational research by serving as important tools to study the pathogenesis of retinal degeneration and to identify clinically relevant therapeutic targets. For example, the CRY-CIBN optogenetic system has been recently applied to animal models of glaucoma, suggesting a potential role of OCRL in the regulation of intraocular pressure in trabecular meshwork. As optogenetic strategies are being intensely investigated, it appears crucial to consider the opportunities and challenges such therapies may offer. Here, we review the more recent promising optogenetic molecules, vectors, and applications of optogenetics for the treatment of retinal degeneration and glaucoma. We also summarize the preliminary results of ongoing clinical trials for visual restoration.
Optogenetic and Chemical Induction Systems for Regulation of Transgene Expression in Plants: Use in Basic and Applied Research.
Continuous and ubiquitous expression of foreign genes sometimes results in harmful effects on the growth, development and metabolic activities of plants. Tissue-specific promoters help to overcome this disadvantage, but do not allow one to precisely control transgene expression over time. Thus, inducible transgene expression systems have obvious benefits. In plants, transcriptional regulation is usually driven by chemical agents under the control of chemically-inducible promoters. These systems are diverse, but usually contain two elements, the chimeric transcription factor and the reporter gene. The commonly used chemically-induced expression systems are tetracycline-, steroid-, insecticide-, copper-, and ethanol-regulated. Unlike chemical-inducible systems, optogenetic tools enable spatiotemporal, quantitative and reversible control over transgene expression with light, overcoming limitations of chemically-inducible systems. This review updates and summarizes optogenetic and chemical induction methods of transgene expression used in basic plant research and discusses their potential in field applications.
Optophysiology: Illuminating cell physiology with optogenetics.
Optogenetics combines light and genetics to enable precise control of living cells, tissues, and organisms with tailored functions. Optogenetics has the advantages of noninvasiveness, rapid responsiveness, tunable reversibility, and superior spatiotemporal resolution. Following the initial discovery of microbial opsins as light-actuated ion channels, a plethora of naturally occurring or engineered photoreceptors or photosensitive domains that respond to light at varying wavelengths has ushered in the next chapter of optogenetics. Through protein engineering and synthetic biology approaches, genetically encoded photoswitches can be modularly engineered into protein scaffolds or host cells to control a myriad of biological processes, as well as to enable behavioral control and disease intervention in vivo. Here, we summarize these optogenetic tools on the basis of their fundamental photochemical properties to better inform the chemical basis and design principles. We also highlight exemplary applications of opsin-free optogenetics in dissecting cellular physiology (designated "optophysiology") and describe the current progress, as well as future trends, in wireless optogenetics, which enables remote interrogation of physiological processes with minimal invasiveness. This review is anticipated to spark novel thoughts on engineering next-generation optogenetic tools and devices that promise to accelerate both basic and translational studies.
Mechanical strain stimulates COPII-dependent trafficking via Rac1.
Secretory trafficking from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is subject to regulation by extrinsic and intrinsic factors. While much of the focus has been on biochemical triggers, little is known whether and how the ER is subject to regulation by mechanical signals. Here, we show that COPII-dependent ER-export is regulated by mechanical strain. Mechanotransduction to the ER was mediated via a previously unappreciated ER-localized pool of the small GTPase Rac1. Mechanistically, we show that Rac1 interacts with the small GTPase Sar1 to drive budding of COPII carriers and stimulate ER-to-Golgi transport. Altogether, we establish an unprecedented link between mechanical strain and export from the ER.