Showing 1 - 25 of 320 results
Strategies for site-specific recombination with high efficiency and precise spatiotemporal resolution.
Site-specific recombinases (SSRs) are invaluable genome engineering tools that have enormously boosted our understanding of gene functions and cell lineage relationships in developmental biology, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and multiple diseases. However, the ever-increasing complexity of biomedical research requires the development of novel site-specific genetic recombination technologies that can manipulate genomic DNA with high efficiency and fine spatiotemporal control. Here, we review the latest innovative strategies of the commonly used Cre-loxP recombination system and its combinatorial strategies with other SSR systems. We also highlight recent progress with a focus on the new generation of chemical- and light-inducible genetic systems and discuss the merits and limitations of each new and established system. Finally, we provide the future perspectives of combining various recombination systems or improving well-established site-specific genetic tools to achieve more efficient and precise spatiotemporal genetic manipulation.
A single-chain and fast-responding light-inducible Cre recombinase as a novel optogenetic switch.
Optogenetics enables genome manipulations with high spatiotemporal resolution, opening exciting possibilities for fundamental and applied biological research. Here, we report the development of LiCre, a novel light-inducible Cre recombinase. LiCre is made of a single flavin-containing protein comprising the AsLOV2 photoreceptor domain of Avena sativa fused to a Cre variant carrying destabilizing mutations in its N-terminal and C-terminal domains. LiCre can be activated within minutes of illumination with blue light, without the need of additional chemicals. When compared to existing photoactivatable Cre recombinases based on two split units, LiCre displayed faster and stronger activation by light as well as a lower residual activity in the dark. LiCre was efficient both in yeast, where it allowed us to control the production of β-carotene with light, and in human cells. Given its simplicity and performances, LiCre is particularly suited for fundamental and biomedical research, as well as for controlling industrial bioprocesses.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals switching of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
Precise control of the timing and amplitude of protein activity in living cells can explain how cells compute responses to complex biochemical stimuli. The small GTPase RhoA can promote either focal adhesion (FA) growth or cell edge retraction, but how a cell chooses between these opposite outcomes is poorly understood. Here, we developed a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor (psRhoGEF) to obtain precise optical control of endogenous RhoA activity. We find that low levels of RhoA activation by psRhoGEF induces edge retraction and FA disassembly, while high levels of RhoA activation induces both FA growth and disassembly. We observed that mDia-induced Src activation at FAs occurs preferentially at lower levels of RhoA activation. Strikingly, inhibition of Src causes a switch from FA disassembly to growth. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation reveals how cells use signal amplitude and biochemical context to select between alternative responses to a single biochemical signal.
Transient light-activated gene expression in Chinese hamster ovary cells.
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are widely used for industrial production of biopharmaceuticals. Many genetic, chemical, and environmental approaches have been developed to modulate cellular pathways to improve titers. However, these methods are often irreversible or have off-target effects. Development of techniques which are precise, tunable, and reversible will facilitate temporal regulation of target pathways to maximize titers. In this study, we investigate the use of optogenetics in CHO cells. The light-activated CRISPR-dCas9 effector (LACE) system was first transiently transfected to express eGFP in a light-inducible manner. Then, a stable system was tested using lentiviral transduction.
A CRISPR-Cas9-Based Near-Infrared Upconversion-Activated DNA Methylation Editing System.
DNA methylation is a kind of a crucial epigenetic marker orchestrating gene expression, molecular function, and cellular phenotype. However, manipulating the methylation status of specific genes remains challenging. Here, a clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats-Cas9-based near-infrared upconversion-activated DNA methylation editing system (CNAMS) was designed for the optogenetic editing of DNA methylation. The fusion proteins of photosensitive CRY2PHR, the catalytic domain of DNMT3A or TET1, and the fusion proteins for CIBN and catalytically inactive Cas9 (dCas9) were engineered. The CNAMS could control DNA methylation editing in response to blue light, thus allowing methylation editing in a spatiotemporal manner. Furthermore, after combination with upconversion nanoparticles, the spectral sensitivity of DNA methylation editing was extended from the blue light to near-infrared (NIR) light, providing the possibility for remote DNA methylation editing. These results demonstrated a meaningful step forward toward realizing the specific editing of DNA methylation, suggesting the wide utility of our CNAMS for functional studies on epigenetic regulation and potential therapeutic strategies for related diseases.
Transcription activation is enhanced by multivalent interactions independent of liquid-liquid phase separation.
Transcription factors (TFs) consist of a DNA binding and an activation domain (AD) that are considered to be independent and exchangeable modules. However, recent studies conclude that also the physico-chemical properties of the AD can control TF assembly at chromatin via driving a phase separation into “transcriptional condensates”. Here, we dissected the mechanism of transcription activation at a reporter gene array with real-time single-cell fluorescence microscopy readouts. Our comparison of different synthetic TFs reveals that the phase separation propensity of the AD correlates with high transcription activation capacity by increasing binding site occupancy, residence time and the recruitment of co-activators. However, we find that the actual formation of phase separated TF liquid-like droplets has a neutral or inhibitory effect on transcription induction. Thus, our study suggests that the ability of a TF to phase separate reflects the functionally important property of the AD to establish multivalent interactions but does not by itself enhance transcription.
A synthetic BRET-based optogenetic device for pulsatile transgene expression enabling glucose homeostasis in mice.
Pulsing cellular dynamics in genetic circuits have been shown to provide critical capabilities to cells in stress response, signaling and development. Despite the fascinating discoveries made in the past few years, the mechanisms and functional capabilities of most pulsing systems remain unclear, and one of the critical challenges is the lack of a technology that allows pulsatile regulation of transgene expression both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we describe the development of a synthetic BRET-based transgene expression (LuminON) system based on a luminescent transcription factor, termed luminGAVPO, by fusing NanoLuc luciferase to the light-switchable transcription factor GAVPO. luminGAVPO allows pulsatile and quantitative activation of transgene expression via both chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches in mammalian cells and mice. Both the pulse amplitude and duration of transgene expression are highly tunable via adjustment of the amount of furimazine. We further demonstrated LuminON-mediated blood-glucose homeostasis in type 1 diabetic mice. We believe that the BRET-based LuminON system with the pulsatile dynamics of transgene expression provides a highly sensitive tool for precise manipulation in biological systems that has strong potential for application in diverse basic biological studies and gene- and cell-based precision therapies in the future.
Control of SRC molecular dynamics encodes distinct cytoskeletal responses by specifying signaling pathway usage.
Upon activation by different transmembrane receptors, the same signaling protein can induce distinct cellular responses. A way to decipher the mechanisms of such pleiotropic signaling activity is to directly manipulate the decision-making activity that supports the selection between distinct cellular responses. We developed an optogenetic probe (optoSRC) to control SRC signaling, an example of a pleiotropic signaling node, and we demonstrated its ability to generate different acto-adhesive structures (lamellipodia or invadosomes) upon distinct spatio-temporal control of SRC kinase activity. The occurrence of each acto-adhesive structure was simply dictated by the dynamics of optoSRC nanoclusters in adhesive sites, which were dependent on the SH3 and Unique domains of the protein. The different decision-making events regulated by optoSRC dynamics induced distinct downstream signaling pathways, which we characterized using time-resolved proteomic and network analyses. Collectively, by manipulating the molecular mobility of SRC kinase activity, these experiments reveal the pleiotropy-encoding mechanism of SRC signaling.
Optogenetic Control of Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate Production by Light‐sensitive Cryptochrome Proteins on the Plasma Membrane.
Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)‐triphosphate (PIP3), acts as a fundamental second messenger, is emerging as a promising biomarker for disease diagnosis and prognosis. However, the real time analysis of phosphoinositide in living cells remains key challenge owing to the low basal abundance and its fast metabolic rate. Herein, we design an optogenetic system that uses light sensitive protein‐protein interaction between Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and CIB1 to spatiotemporally visualize the PIP3 production with sub‐second timescale. In this system, a CIBN is anchored on the plasma membrane, whereas a CRY2 fused with a constitutively active PI3‐kinase (acPI3K) would be driven from the cytosol to the membrane by the blue‐light‐activated CRY2‐CIB1 interaction upon light irradiation. The PIP3 production is visualized via a fused fluorescent protein by the translocation of a Pleckstrin Homology (PH) domain(GRP1) from the cytosol to the plasma membrane with high specificity. We demonstrated the fast dynamics and reversibility of the optogenetic system initiated PIP3 synthesis on the plasma membrane. Notably, the real‐time cell movements were also observed upon localized light stimulation. The established optogenetic method provides a novel spatiotemporal strategy for specific PIP3 visualization, which is beneficial to improve the understanding of PIP3 functions.
Random sub-diffusion and capture of genes by the nuclear pore reduces dynamics and coordinates interchromosomal movement.
Hundreds of genes interact with the yeast nuclear pore complex (NPC), localizing at the nuclear periphery and clustering with co-regulated genes. Dynamic tracking of peripheral genes shows that they cycle on and off the NPC and that interaction with the NPC slows their sub-diffusive movement. Furthermore, NPC-dependent inter-chromosomal clustering leads to coordinated movement of pairs of loci separated by hundreds of nanometers. We developed Fractional Brownian Motion simulations for chromosomal loci in the nucleoplasm and interacting with NPCs. These simulations predict the rate and nature of random sub-diffusion during repositioning from nucleoplasm to periphery and match measurements from two different experimental models, arguing that recruitment to the nuclear periphery is due to random subdiffusion, collision, and capture by NPCs. Finally, the simulations do not lead to inter-chromosomal clustering or coordinated movement, suggesting that interaction with the NPC is necessary, but not sufficient, to cause clustering.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
Optogenetic control of small GTPases reveals RhoA mediates intracellular calcium signaling.
Rho/Ras family small GTPases are known to regulate numerous cellular processes, including cytoskeletal reorganization, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation. These processes are also controlled by Ca2+, and consequently, crosstalk between these signals is considered likely. However, systematic quantitative evaluation has not yet been reported. To fill this gap, we constructed optogenetic tools to control the activity of small GTPases (RhoA, Rac1, Cdc42, Ras, Rap, and Ral) using an improved light-inducible dimer system (iLID). We characterized these optogenetic tools with genetically encoded red fluorescence intensity-based small GTPase biosensors and confirmed these optogenetic tools' specificities. Using these optogenetic tools, we investigated calcium mobilization immediately after small GTPase activation. Unexpectedly, we found that a transient intracellular calcium elevation was specifically induced by RhoA activation in RPE1 and HeLa cells. RhoA activation also induced transient intracellular calcium elevation in MDCK and HEK293T cells, suggesting that generally RhoA induces calcium signaling. Interestingly, the molecular mechanisms linking RhoA activation to calcium increases were shown to be different among the different cell types: In RPE1 and HeLa cells, RhoA activated phospholipase C epsilon (PLCε) at the plasma membrane, which in turn induced Ca2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The RhoA-PLCε axis induced calcium-dependent NFAT nuclear translocation, suggesting it does activate intracellular calcium signaling. Conversely, in MDCK and HEK293T cells, RhoA-ROCK-myosin II axis induced the calcium transients. These data suggest universal coordination of RhoA and calcium signaling in cellular processes, such as cellular contraction and gene expression.
Synthetic gene networks recapitulate dynamic signal decoding and differential gene expression.
Cells live in constantly changing environments and employ dynamic signaling pathways to transduce information about the signals they encounter. However, the mechanisms by which dynamic signals are decoded into appropriate gene expression patterns remain poorly understood. Here, we devise networked optogenetic pathways that achieve novel dynamic signal processing functions that recapitulate cellular information processing. Exploiting light-responsive transcriptional regulators with differing response kinetics, we build a falling-edge pulse-detector and show that this circuit can be employed to demultiplex dynamically encoded signals. We combine this demultiplexer with dCas9-based gene networks to construct pulsatile-signal filters and decoders. Applying information theory, we show that dynamic multiplexing significantly increases the information transmission capacity from signal to gene expression state. Finally, we use dynamic multiplexing for precise multidimensional regulation of a heterologous metabolic pathway. Our results elucidate design principles of dynamic information processing and provide original synthetic systems capable of decoding complex signals for biotechnological applications.
A Light-Inducible Split-dCas9 System for Inhibiting the Progression of Bladder Cancer Cells by Activating p53 and E-cadherin.
Optogenetic systems have been increasingly investigated in the field of biomedicine. Previous studies had found the inhibitory effect of the light-inducible genetic circuits on cancer cell growth. In our study, we applied an AND logic gates to the light-inducible genetic circuits to inhibit the cancer cells more specifically. The circuit would only be activated in the presence of both the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) and the human uroplakin II (hUPII) promoter. The activated logic gate led to the expression of the p53 or E-cadherin protein, which could inhibit the biological function of tumor cells. In addition, we split the dCas9 protein to reduce the size of the synthetic circuit compared to the full-length dCas9. This light-inducible system provides a potential therapeutic strategy for future bladder cancer.
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Optogenetics: The Art of Illuminating Complex Signaling Pathways.
Dissection of cell signaling requires tools that can mimic spatiotemporal dynamics of individual pathways in living cells. Optogenetic methods enable manipulation of signaling processes with precise timing and local control. In this review, we describe recent optogenetic approaches for regulation of cell signaling, highlight their advantages and limitations, and discuss examples of their application.
Efficient photoactivatable Dre recombinase for cell type-specific spatiotemporal control of genome engineering in the mouse.
Precise genetic engineering in specific cell types within an intact organism is intriguing yet challenging, especially in a spatiotemporal manner without the interference caused by chemical inducers. Here we engineered a photoactivatable Dre recombinase based on the identification of an optimal split site and demonstrated that it efficiently regulated transgene expression in mouse tissues spatiotemporally upon blue light illumination. Moreover, through a double-floxed inverted open reading frame strategy, we developed a Cre-activated light-inducible Dre (CALID) system. Taking advantage of well-defined cell-type-specific promoters or a well-established Cre transgenic mouse strain, we demonstrated that the CALID system was able to activate endogenous reporter expression for either bulk or sparse labeling of CaMKIIα-positive excitatory neurons and parvalbumin interneurons in the brain. This flexible and tunable system could be a powerful tool for the dissection and modulation of developmental and genetic complexity in a wide range of biological systems.
Regulating enzymatic reactions in Escherichia coli utilizing light-responsive cellular compartments based on liquid-liquid phase separation.
Enzymatic reactions in cells are well organized into different compartments, among which protein-based membraneless compartments formed through liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) are believed to play important roles1,2. Hijacking them for our own purpose has promising applications in metabolic engineering3. Yet, it is still hard to precisely and dynamically control target enzymatic reactions in those compartments4. To address those problems, we developed Photo-Activated Switch in E. coli (PhASE), based on phase separating scaffold proteins and optogenetic tools. In this system, a protein of interest (POI) can be enriched up to 15-fold by LLPS-based compartments from cytosol within only a few seconds once activated by light, and become fully dispersed again within 15 minutes. Furthermore, we explored the potentiality of the LLPS-based compartment in enriching small organic molecules directly via chemical-scaffold interaction. With enzymes and substrates co-localized under light induction, the overall reaction efficiency could be enhanced. Using luciferin and catechol oxidation as model enzymatic reactions, we found that they could accelerate 2.3-fold and 1.6-fold, respectively, when regulated by PhASE. We anticipate our system to be an extension of the synthetic biology toolkit, facilitating rapid recruitment and release of POIs, and reversible regulation of enzymatic reactions.
A light way for nuclear cell biologists.
The nucleus is a very complex organelle present in eukaryotic cells. Having the crucial task to safeguard, organize and manage the genetic information, it must tightly control its molecular constituents, its shape and its internal architecture at any given time. Despite our vast knowledge of nuclear cell biology, much is yet to be unraveled. For instance, only recently we came to appreciate the existence of a dynamic nuclear cytoskeleton made of actin filaments that regulates processes such as gene expression, DNA repair and nuclear expansion. This suggests further exciting discoveries ahead of us. Modern cell biologists embrace a new methodology relying on precise perturbations of cellular processes that require a reversible, highly spatially-confinable, rapid, inexpensive and tunable external stimulus: light. In this review, we discuss how optogenetics, the state-of-the-art technology that uses genetically-encoded light-sensitive proteins to steer biological processes, can be adopted to specifically investigate nuclear cell biology.
The Promise of Optogenetics for Bioproduction: Dynamic Control Strategies and Scale-Up Instruments.
Progress in metabolic engineering and synthetic and systems biology has made bioproduction an increasingly attractive and competitive strategy for synthesizing biomolecules, recombinant proteins and biofuels from renewable feedstocks. Yet, due to poor productivity, it remains difficult to make a bioproduction process economically viable at large scale. Achieving dynamic control of cellular processes could lead to even better yields by balancing the two characteristic phases of bioproduction, namely, growth versus production, which lie at the heart of a trade-off that substantially impacts productivity. The versatility and controllability offered by light will be a key element in attaining the level of control desired. The popularity of light-mediated control is increasing, with an expanding repertoire of optogenetic systems for novel applications, and many optogenetic devices have been designed to test optogenetic strains at various culture scales for bioproduction objectives. In this review, we aim to highlight the most important advances in this direction. We discuss how optogenetics is currently applied to control metabolism in the context of bioproduction, describe the optogenetic instruments and devices used at the laboratory scale for strain development, and explore how current industrial-scale bioproduction processes could be adapted for optogenetics or could benefit from existing photobioreactor designs. We then draw attention to the steps that must be undertaken to further optimize the control of biological systems in order to take full advantage of the potential offered by microbial factories.
Spatio-temporal Control of ERK Pulse Frequency Coordinates Fate Decisions during Mammary Acinar Morphogenesis.
The signaling events controlling proliferation, survival, and apoptosis during mammary epithelial acinar morphogenesis remain poorly characterized. By imaging single-cell ERK activity dynamics in MCF10A acini, we find that these fates depend on the frequency of ERK pulses. High pulse frequency is observed during initial acinus growth, correlating with rapid cell motility. Subsequent decrease in motility correlates with lower ERK pulse frequency and quiescence. Later, during lumen formation, coordinated ERK waves emerge across multiple cells of an acinus, correlating with high and low ERK pulse frequency in outer surviving and inner dying cells respectively. A PIK3CA H1047R mutation, commonly observed in breast cancer, increases ERK pulse frequency and inner cell survival, causing loss of lumen formation. Optogenetic entrainment of ERK pulses causally connects high ERK pulse frequency with inner cell survival. Thus, fate decisions during acinar morphogenesis are fine-tuned by different spatio-temporal coordination modalities of ERK pulse frequency.
Single-Protein Tracking to Study Protein Interactions During Integrin-Based Migration.
Cell migration is a complex biophysical process which involves the coordination of molecular assemblies including integrin-dependent adhesions, signaling networks and force-generating cytoskeletal structures incorporating both actin polymerization and myosin activity. During the last decades, proteomic studies have generated impressive protein-protein interaction maps, although the subcellular location, duration, strength, sequence, and nature of these interactions are still concealed. In this chapter we describe how recent developments in superresolution microscopy (SRM) and single-protein tracking (SPT) start to unravel protein interactions and actions in subcellular molecular assemblies driving cell migration.
Structural insights into the photoactivation of Arabidopsis CRY2.
The blue-light receptor cryptochrome (CRY) in plants undergoes oligomerization to transduce blue-light signals after irradiation, but the corresponding molecular mechanism remains poorly understood. Here, we report the cryogenic electron microscopy structure of a blue-light-activated CRY2 tetramer at a resolution of 3.1 Å, which shows how the CRY2 tetramer assembles. Our study provides insights into blue-light-mediated activation of CRY2 and a theoretical basis for developing regulators of CRYs for optogenetic manipulation.