Showing 1 - 25 of 95 results
An optogenetic approach to control and monitor inflammasome activation.
Inflammasomes are multiprotein platforms which control caspase-1 activation, leading to the processing of proinflammatory cytokines into mature and active cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, and to pyroptosis through the cleavage of gasdermin-D (GSDMD). Inflammasomes assemble upon activation of specific cytosolic pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) by damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) or pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). They converge to the nucleation of apoptosis-associated speck-like containing a caspase activation and recruitment domain (ASC) to form hetero-oligomers with caspase-1. Studying inflammasome encoding activities remains challenging because PAMPs and DAMPs are sensed by a large diversity of cytosolic and membranous PRRs. To bypass the different signals required to activate the inflammasome, we designed an optogenetic approach to temporally and quantitatively manipulate ASC assembly (i.e. in a PAMP- or DAMP-independent manner). We reveal that controlling light-sensitive oligomerization of ASC is sufficient to recapitulate the classical features of inflammasomes within minutes, and enabled us to decipher the complexity of volume regulation and pore opening during pyroptosis. Overall, this approach offers interesting perspective to decipher PRR signaling pathways in the field of innate immunity.
Optogenetic strategies for optimizing the performance of biosensors of membrane phospholipids in live cells.
High-performance biosensors are crucial for elucidating the spatiotemporal regulatory roles and dynamics of membrane lipids, but there is a lack of improvement strategies for biosensors with low sensitivity and low-content substrates detection. Here we developed universal optogenetic strategies to improve a set of membrane biosensors by trapping them into specific region and further reducing the background signal, or by optically-controlled phase separation for membrane lipids detection and tracking. These improved biosensors were superior to typical tools and light simulation would enhance their detection performance and resolution, which might contribute to the design and optimization of other biosensors.
Optogenetic control of Wnt signaling models cell-intrinsic embryogenic patterning using 2D human pluripotent stem cell culture.
In embryonic stem cell (ESC) models for early development, spatially and temporally varying patterns of signaling and cell types emerge spontaneously. However, mechanistic insight into this dynamic self-organization is limited by a lack of methods for spatiotemporal control of signaling, and the relevance of signal dynamics and cell-to-cell variability to pattern emergence remains unknown. Here, we combine optogenetic stimulation, imaging, and transcriptomic approaches to study self-organization of human ESCs (hESC) in two-dimensional (2D) culture. Morphogen dynamics were controlled via optogenetic activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling (optoWnt), which drove broad transcriptional changes and mesendoderm differentiation at high efficiency (>99% cells). When activated within cell subpopulations, optoWnt induced cell self-organization into distinct epithelial and mesenchymal domains, mediated by changes in cell migration, an epithelial to mesenchymal-like transition, and TGF-β signaling. Furthermore, we demonstrate that such optogenetic control of cell subpopulations can be used to uncover signaling feedback mechanisms between neighboring cell types. These findings reveal that cell-to-cell variability in Wnt signaling is sufficient to generate tissue-scale patterning and establish an hESC model system for investigating feedback mechanisms relevant to early human embryogenesis.
Optogenetic dissection of RET signaling reveals robust activation of ERK and enhanced filopodia-like protrusions of regenerating axons.
RET (REarranged during Transfection) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that transduces various external stimuli into biological functions, such as survival and differentiation, in neurons. In the current study, we developed an optogenetic tool for modulating RET signaling, termed optoRET, combining the cytosolic region of human RET with a blue-light-inducible homo-oligomerizing protein. By varying the duration of photoactivation, we were able to dynamically modulate RET signaling. Activation of optoRET recruited Grb2 (growth factor receptor-bound protein 2) and stimulated AKT and ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) in cultured neurons, evoking robust and efficient ERK activation. By locally activating the distal part of the neuron, we were able to retrogradely transduce the AKT and ERK signal to the soma and trigger formation of filopodia-like F-actin structures at stimulated regions through Cdc42 (cell division control 42) activation. Importantly, we successfully modulated RET signaling in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra in the mouse brain. Collectively, optoRET has the potential to be developed as a future therapeutic intervention, modulating RET downstream signaling with light.
Sequence- and structure-specific RNA oligonucleotide binding attenuates heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 dysfunction.
The RNA binding protein heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 (A1) regulates RNA metabolism, which is crucial to maintaining cellular homeostasis. A1 dysfunction mechanistically contributes to reduced cell viability and loss, but molecular mechanisms of how A1 dysfunction affects cell viability and loss, and methodologies to attenuate its dysfunction, are lacking. Utilizing in silico molecular modeling and an in vitro optogenetic system, this study examined the consequences of RNA oligonucleotide (RNAO) treatment on attenuating A1 dysfunction and its downstream cellular effects. In silico and thermal shift experiments revealed that binding of RNAOs to the RNA Recognition Motif 1 of A1 is stabilized by sequence- and structure-specific RNAO-A1 interactions. Using optogenetics to model A1 cellular dysfunction, we show that sequence- and structure-specific RNAOs significantly attenuated abnormal cytoplasmic A1 self-association kinetics and A1 cytoplasmic clustering. Downstream of A1 dysfunction, we demonstrate that A1 clustering affects the formation of stress granules, activates cell stress, and inhibits protein translation. With RNAO treatment, we show that stress granule formation is attenuated, cell stress is inhibited, and protein translation is restored. This study provides evidence that sequence- and structure-specific RNAO treatment attenuates A1 dysfunction and its downstream effects, thus allowing for the development of A1-specific therapies that attenuate A1 dysfunction and restore cellular homeostasis.
mRNA condensation fluidizes the cytoplasm.
The intracellular environment is packed with macromolecules of mesoscale size, and this crowded milieu significantly influences cell physiology. When exposed to stress, mRNAs released after translational arrest condense with RNA binding proteins, resulting in the formation of membraneless RNA protein (RNP) condensates known as processing bodies (P-bodies) and stress granules (SGs). However, the impact of the assembly of these condensates on the biophysical properties of the crowded cytoplasmic environment remains unclear. Here, we find that upon exposure to stress, polysome collapse and condensation of mRNAs increases mesoscale particle diffusivity in the cytoplasm. Increased mesoscale diffusivity is required for the efficient formation of Q-bodies, membraneless organelles that coordinate degradation of misfolded peptides that accumulate during stress. Additionally, we demonstrate that polysome collapse and stress granule formation has a similar effect in mammalian cells, fluidizing the cytoplasm at the mesoscale. We find that synthetic, light-induced RNA condensation is sufficient to fluidize the cytoplasm, demonstrating a causal effect of RNA condensation. Together, our work reveals a new functional role for stress-induced translation inhibition and formation of RNP condensates in modulating the physical properties of the cytoplasm to effectively respond to stressful conditions.
Optogenetic Activation of Ripk3 Reveals a Thresholding Mechanism in Intracellular and Intercellular Necroptosis.
Necroptosis is programmed cell death that involves active cytokine production and membrane ruptures. Whereas intracellular necroptosis has been extensively studied, intercellular propagation of necroptosis is much less understood. Pharmacological induction of necroptosis cannot delineate whether a necroptotic cell can propagate the death signal to its neighbor because of the confounding effect from the exogenously administrated death-inducers. To address this challenge, we develop an optogenetic system to enable ligand-free, optical induction of necroptosis at the single-cell level. This system, termed Light-activatable Receptor-Interacting Protein Kinase 3 or La-RIPK3, utilizes CRY2olig, a variant of the photoactivatable protein cryptochrome, to induce oligomerization of RIPK3 under blue light stimulation. Kinetic analysis La-RIPK3-activated cells shows that cytokine production and membrane rupture follows distinct kinetics. Moreover, membrane rupture requires a higher threshold of RIPK3 kinase activity than cytokine production. Intriguingly, intercellular propagation of necroptosis requires at least two proximal necroptotic cells, and a single necroptotic cell rarely induces such propagation. These results imply that RIPK3 acts as a gatekeeper to define the threshold of distinct functional outcomes of intracellular and intercellular necroptosis. Such a thresholding mechanism could allow cells to make informed decisions by evaluating the severity of environmental stress when walking a tightrope between committing an immunogenic suicidal fate and maintaining membrane integrity. This study highlights the role of RIPK3-containing necrosomes in regulating intracellular and intercellular necroptosis and offers an optimized optogenetic tool for investigating RIPK3-dependent necroptotic pathways.
Mechanosensitive stem cell fate choice is instructed by dynamic fluctuations in activation of Rho GTPases.
During the intricate process by which cells give rise to tissues, embryonic and adult stem cells are exposed to diverse mechanical signals from the extracellular matrix (ECM) that influence their fate. Cells can sense these cues in part through dynamic generation of protrusions, modulated and controlled by cyclic activation of Rho GTPases. However, it remains unclear how extracellular mechanical signals regulate Rho GTPase activation dynamics and how such rapid, transient activation dynamics are integrated to yield long-term, irreversible cell fate decisions. Here, we report that ECM stiffness cues alter not only the magnitude but also the temporal frequency of RhoA and Cdc42 activation in adult neural stem cells (NSCs). Using optogenetics to control the frequency of RhoA and Cdc42 activation, we further demonstrate that these dynamics are functionally significant, where high- vs. low-frequency activation of RhoA and Cdc42 drives astrocytic vs. neuronal differentiation, respectively. In addition, high-frequency Rho GTPase activation induces sustained phosphorylation of the TGFβ pathway effector SMAD1, which in turn drives the astrocytic differentiation. By contrast, under low-frequency Rho GTPase stimulation, cells fail to accumulate SMAD1 phosphorylation and instead undergo neurogenesis. Our findings reveal the temporal patterning of Rho GTPase signaling and the resulting accumulation of an SMAD1 signal as a critical mechanism through which ECM stiffness cues regulate NSC fate.
Optogenetic manipulation identifies the roles of ERK and AKT dynamics in controlling mouse embryonic stem cell exit from pluripotency.
ERK and AKT signaling control pluripotent cell self-renewal versus differentiation. ERK pathway activity over time (i.e., dynamics) is heterogeneous between individual pluripotent cells, even in response to the same stimuli. To analyze potential functions of ERK and AKT dynamics in controlling mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) fates, we developed ESC lines and experimental pipelines for the simultaneous long-term manipulation and quantification of ERK or AKT dynamics and cell fates. We show that ERK activity duration or amplitude or the type of ERK dynamics (e.g., transient, sustained, or oscillatory) alone does not influence exit from pluripotency, but the sum of activity over time does. Interestingly, cells retain memory of previous ERK pulses, with duration of memory retention dependent on duration of previous pulse length. FGF receptor/AKT dynamics counteract ERK-induced pluripotency exit. These findings improve our understanding of how cells integrate dynamics from multiple signaling pathways and translate them into cell fate cues.
Light-stimulated insulin secretion from pancreatic islet-like organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells.
Optogenetic techniques permit non-invasive, spatiotemporal, and reversible modulation of cellular activities. Here, we report a novel optogenetic regulatory system for insulin secretion in human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived pancreatic islet-like organoids using monSTIM1 (monster-opto-Stromal interaction molecule 1), an ultra-light-sensitive OptoSTIM1 variant. The monSTIM1 transgene was incorporated at the AAVS1 locus in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) by CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing. Not only were we able to elicit light-induced intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) transients from the resulting homozygous monSTIM1+/+-hESCs, but we also successfully differentiated them into pancreatic islet-like organoids (PIOs). Upon light stimulation, the β-cells in these monSTIM1+/+-PIOs displayed reversible and reproducible [Ca2+]i transient dynamics. Furthermore, in response to photoexcitation, they secreted human insulin. Light-responsive insulin secretion was similarly observed in monSTIM1+/+-PIOs produced from neonatal diabetes (ND) patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Under LED illumination, monSTIM1+/+-PIO-transplanted diabetic mice produced human c-peptide. Collectively, we developed a cellular model for the optogenetic control of insulin secretion using hPSCs, with the potential to be applied to the amelioration of hyperglycemic disorders.
Interaction between PI3K and the VDAC2 channel tethers Ras-PI3K-positive endosomes to mitochondria and promotes endosome maturation.
Intracellular organelles of mammalian cells communicate with one another during various cellular processes. The functions and molecular mechanisms of such interorganelle association remain largely unclear, however. We here identify voltage-dependent anion channel 2 (VDAC2), a mitochondrial outer membrane protein, as a binding partner of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), a regulator of clathrin-independent endocytosis downstream of the small GTPase Ras. VDAC2 tethers endosomes positive for the Ras-PI3K complex to mitochondria in response to cell stimulation with epidermal growth factor and promotes clathrin-independent endocytosis, as well as endosome maturation at membrane association sites. With an optogenetics system to induce mitochondrion-endosome association, we find that, in addition to its structural role in such association, VDAC2 is functionally implicated in the promotion of endosome maturation. The mitochondrion-endosome association thus plays a role in the regulation of clathrin-independent endocytosis and endosome maturation.
Enhancing Mitochondrial Functions by Optogenetic Clustering.
Known as the powerhouses of cells, mitochondria and its dynamics are important for their functions in cells. Herein, an optogenetic method that controlling mitochondria to form the clusters was developed. The plasmid named CRY2PHR-mCherry-Miro1TM was designed for the optogenetic system. The photoactivable protein CRY2PHR was anchored to mitochondria, via the specific organelle-targeting transmembrane domain Miro1TM. Under blue light illumination, CRY2PHR can form the oligomerization, called puncta. With the illuminated time extended, the puncta can interact, and the mitochondria were found to form clustering with reversibility and spatiotemporal controllability. The mitochondrial functions were found to enhance after the formation of optogenetic mitochondrial clusters. This method presented here provides a way to control mitochondrial clustering and raise mitochondrial functions up.
Spatiotemporal 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 average frequency of non-periodic ERK pulses. High pulse frequency is observed during initial acinus growth, correlating with rapid cell motility and proliferation. Subsequent decrease in motility correlates with lower ERK pulse frequency and quiescence. Later, during lumen formation, coordinated multicellular ERK waves emerge, correlating with high and low ERK pulse frequencies in outer surviving and inner dying cells, respectively. Optogenetic entrainment of ERK pulses causally connects high ERK pulse frequency with inner cell survival. Acini harboring the PIK3CA H1047R mutation display increased ERK pulse frequency and inner cell survival. Thus, fate decisions during acinar morphogenesis are coordinated by different spatiotemporal modalities of ERK pulse frequency.
CRY-BARs: Versatile light-gated molecular tools for the remodeling of membrane architectures.
BAR (Bin, Amphiphysin and Rvs) protein domains are responsible for the generation of membrane curvature and represent a critical mechanical component of cellular functions. Thus, BAR domains have great potential as components of membrane-remodeling tools for cell biologists. In this work, we describe the design and implementation of a family of versatile light-gated I-BAR (inverse-BAR) domain containing tools derived from the fusion of the A. thaliana Cryptochrome 2 photoreceptor and I-BAR protein domains ('CRY-BARs') with applications in the remodeling of membrane architectures and the control of cellular dynamics. By taking advantage of the intrinsic membrane binding propensity of the I-BAR domain, CRY-BARs can be used for spatial and temporal control of cellular processes that require induction of membrane protrusions. Using cell lines and primary neuron cultures, we demonstrate here that the CRY-BAR optogenetic tool evokes membrane dynamics changes associated with cellular activity. Moreover, we provide evidence that ezrin, an actin and PIP2 binding protein, acts as a relay between the plasma membrane and the actin cytoskeleton and therefore is an important mediator of switch function. Overall, we propose that CRY-BARs hold promise as a useful addition to the optogenetic toolkit to study membrane remodeling in live cells.
LITOS: a versatile LED illumination tool for optogenetic stimulation.
Optogenetics has become a key tool to manipulate biological processes with high spatio-temporal resolution. Recently, a number of commercial and open-source multi-well illumination devices have been developed to provide throughput in optogenetics experiments. However, available commercial devices remain expensive and lack flexibility, while open-source solutions require programming knowledge and/or include complex assembly processes. We present a LED Illumination Tool for Optogenetic Stimulation (LITOS) based on an assembled printed circuit board controlling a commercially available 32 × 64 LED matrix as illumination source. LITOS can be quickly assembled without any soldering, and includes an easy-to-use interface, accessible via a website hosted on the device itself. Complex light stimulation patterns can easily be programmed without coding expertise. LITOS can be used with different formats of multi-well plates, petri dishes, and flasks. We validated LITOS by measuring the activity of the MAPK/ERK signaling pathway in response to different dynamic light stimulation regimes using FGFR1 and Raf optogenetic actuators. LITOS can uniformly stimulate all the cells in a well and allows for flexible temporal stimulation schemes. LITOS's affordability and ease of use aims at democratizing optogenetics in any laboratory.
Visual detection of submicroscopic protein clusters with a phase-separation-based fluorescent reporter.
Protein clustering plays numerous roles in cell physiology and disease. However, protein oligomers can be difficult to detect because they are often small and fall below the detection limits of conventional fluorescence microscopy. Existing techniques to visualize such aggregates require specialized microscopy and may require overexpression of the protein of interest, which can introduce clustering artifacts that are not representative of the endogenous protein. Here we describe a fluorescent reporter strategy that detects endogenous protein clustering with high sensitivity, called CluMPS (Clusters Magnified by Phase Separation). A CluMPS reporter detects and visually amplifies even small clusters of a binding partner, generating large, easily quantifiable phase-separated condensates as a readout. We use optogenetic clustering to show that the CluMPS approach can reliably report on target clusters as small as tetramers. Experiments and simulations showed that CluMPS activation depends on the affinity for the target, the target cluster size, and the cluster size distribution. CluMPS detected small aggregates of pathological proteins where the corresponding GFP fusions appeared diffuse. Uniquely, CluMPS permitted visualization of clusters of endogenous proteins, allowing the measurement of drug response kinetics of oncogenic condensates in patient-derived cancer cells. Finally, CluMPS could be multiplexed to report on distinct clustered species in the same cell. CluMPS thus provides a powerful yet straightforward approach to observe higher-order protein assembly in its native cellular context.
Integration of light and temperature sensing by liquid-liquid phase separation of phytochrome B.
Light and temperature in plants are perceived by a common receptor, phytochrome B (phyB). How phyB distinguishes these signals remains elusive. Here, we report that phyB spontaneously undergoes phase separation to assemble liquid-like droplets. This capacity is driven by its C terminus through self-association, whereas the intrinsically disordered N-terminal extension (NTE) functions as a biophysical modulator of phase separation. Light exposure triggers a conformational change to subsequently alter phyB condensate assembly, while temperature sensation is directly mediated by the NTE to modulate the phase behavior of phyB droplets. Multiple signaling components are selectively incorporated into phyB droplets to form concentrated microreactors, allowing switch-like control of phyB signaling activity through phase transitions. Therefore, light and temperature cues are separately read out by phyB via allosteric changes and spontaneous phase separation, respectively. We provide a conceptual framework showing how the distinct but highly correlated physical signals are interpreted and sorted by one receptor.
Optogenetic actuator - ERK biosensor circuits identify MAPK network nodes that shape ERK dynamics.
Combining single-cell measurements of ERK activity dynamics with perturbations provides insights into the MAPK network topology. We built circuits consisting of an optogenetic actuator to activate MAPK signaling and an ERK biosensor to measure single-cell ERK dynamics. This allowed us to conduct RNAi screens to investigate the role of 50 MAPK proteins in ERK dynamics. We found that the MAPK network is robust against most node perturbations. We observed that the ERK-RAF and the ERK-RSK2-SOS negative feedback operate simultaneously to regulate ERK dynamics. Bypassing the RSK2-mediated feedback, either by direct optogenetic activation of RAS, or by RSK2 perturbation, sensitized ERK dynamics to further perturbations. Similarly, targeting this feedback in a human ErbB2-dependent oncogenic signaling model increased the efficiency of a MEK inhibitor. The RSK2-mediated feedback is thus important for the ability of the MAPK network to produce consistent ERK outputs, and its perturbation can enhance the efficiency of MAPK inhibitors.
Optical control of protein delivery and partitioning in the nucleolus.
The nucleolus is a subnuclear membraneless compartment intimately involved in ribosomal RNA synthesis, ribosome biogenesis and stress response. Multiple optogenetic devices have been developed to manipulate nuclear protein import and export, but molecular tools tailored for remote control over selective targeting or partitioning of cargo proteins into subnuclear compartments capable of phase separation are still limited. Here, we report a set of single-component photoinducible nucleolus-targeting tools, designated pNUTs, to enable rapid and reversible nucleoplasm-to-nucleolus shuttling, with the half-lives ranging from milliseconds to minutes. pNUTs allow both global protein infiltration into nucleoli and local delivery of cargoes into the outermost layer of the nucleolus, the granular component. When coupled with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-associated C9ORF72 proline/arginine-rich dipeptide repeats, pNUTs allow us to photomanipulate poly-proline-arginine nucleolar localization, perturb nucleolar protein nucleophosmin 1 and suppress nascent protein synthesis. pNUTs thus expand the optogenetic toolbox by permitting light-controllable interrogation of nucleolar functions and precise induction of ALS-associated toxicity in cellular models.
The rate of information transmission through the MAPK/ERK signaling pathway stimulated in a pulsatile manner.
Many intracellular signaling pathways, including the MAPK/ERK cascade, respond to an external stimulus in a yes-or-no manner. This has been reflected in estimates of the amount of information a single cell can transmit about the amplitude of an applied (and sustained) input signal, which turns out to only slightly exceed 1 bit. More information, however, can potentially be transmitted in response to time-varying stimulation. In this work, we find a lower bound of the MAPK/ERK signaling channel capacity. We use an epithelial cell line expressing an ERK activity reporter and an optogenetically modified fibroblast growth factor receptor, which allows triggering eventual ERK activity by short light pulses. We observe that it is possible to reconstruct the stimulatory input pattern with five-minute delay and one-minute resolution. By stimulating the cells with random pulse trains we demonstrate that the information transmission rate through the MAPK/ERK pathway can exceed 6 bits per hour. Such high information transmission rate allows the MAPK/ERK pathway to coordinate multiple processes including cell movement.
Oncogenic protein condensates modulate cell signal perception and drug tolerance.
Drug resistance remains a central challenge towards durable cancer therapy, including for cancers driven by the EML4-ALK oncogene. EML4-ALK and related fusion oncogenes form cytoplasmic protein condensates that transmit oncogenic signals through the Ras/Erk pathway. However, whether such condensates play a role in drug response or resistance development is unclear. Here, we applied optogenetic functional profiling to examine how EML4-ALK condensates impact signal transmission through transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), a common route of resistance signaling. We found that condensates dramatically suppress signaling through activated RTKs including EGFR. Conversely, ALK inhibition restored and hypersensitized RTK signals. Modulation of RTK sensitivity occurred because EML4-ALK condensates sequestered downstream adapters that are required to transduce signals from both EML4-ALK and ligand-stimulated RTKs. Strikingly, EGFR hypersensitization resulted in rapid and pulsatile Erk signal reactivation within 10s of minutes of drug addition. EGFR reactivation originated from paracrine signals from neighboring apoptotic cells, and reactivation could be blocked by inhibition of either EGFR or matrix metalloproteases. Paracrine signals promoted survival during ALK inhibition, and blockade of paracrine signals accelerated cell killing and suppressed drug tolerance. Our results uncover a regulatory role for protein condensates in cancer signaling and drug response and demonstrate the potential of optogenetic profiling for drug discovery based on functional biomarkers in cancer cells.
Nucleation of the destruction complex on the centrosome accelerates degradation of β-catenin and regulates Wnt signal transmission.
Wnt signal transduction is mediated by a protein assembly called the Destruction Complex (DC) made from scaffold proteins and kinases that are essential for transducing extracellular Wnt ligand concentrations to changes in nuclear β-catenin, the pathway’s transcriptional effector. Recently, DC scaffold proteins have been shown to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in vivo and in vitro providing evidence for a mesoscale organization of the DC. However, the mesoscale organization of DC at endogenous expression levels and how that organization could play a role in β-catenin processing is unknown. Here we find that the native mesoscale structure is a dynamic biomolecular condensate nucleated by the centrosome. Through a combination of advanced microscopy, CRISPR-engineered custom fluorescent tags, finite element simulations, and optogenetic tools, that allow for independent manipulation of the biophysical parameters that drive condensate formation, we find that a function of DC nucleation by the centrosome is to drive efficient processing of β-catenin by co-localizing DC components to a single reaction hub. We demonstrate that simply increasing the concentration of a single DC kinase onto the centrosome controls β-catenin processing. This simple change in localization completely alters the fate of the Wnt-driven human embryonic stem cell differentiation to mesoderm. Our findings demonstrate the role of nucleators in dynamically controlling the activities of biomolecular condensates and suggest a tight integration between cell cycle progression and Wnt signal transduction.
Wnt Signaling Rescues Amyloid Beta-Induced Gut Stem Cell Loss.
Patients with Alzheimer's disease suffer from a decrease in brain mass and a prevalence of amyloid-β plaques. These plaques are thought to play a role in disease progression, but their exact role is not entirely established. We developed an optogenetic model to induce amyloid-β intracellular oligomerization to model distinct disease etiologies. Here, we examine the effect of Wnt signaling on amyloid in an optogenetic, Drosophila gut stem cell model. We observe that Wnt activation rescues the detrimental effects of amyloid expression and oligomerization. We analyze the gene expression changes downstream of Wnt that contribute to this rescue and find changes in aging related genes, protein misfolding, metabolism, and inflammation. We propose that Wnt expression reduces inflammation through repression of Toll activating factors. We confirm that chronic Toll activation reduces lifespan, but a decrease in the upstream activator Persephone extends it. We propose that the protective effect observed for lithium treatment functions, at least in part, through Wnt activation and the inhibition of inflammation.
Substratum stiffness regulates Erk signaling dynamics through receptor-level control.
The EGFR/Erk pathway is triggered by extracellular ligand stimulation, leading to stimulus-dependent dynamics of pathway activity. Although mechanical properties of the microenvironment also affect Erk activity, their effects on Erk signaling dynamics are poorly understood. Here, we characterize how the stiffness of the underlying substratum affects Erk signaling dynamics in mammary epithelial cells. We find that soft microenvironments attenuate Erk signaling, both at steady state and in response to epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation. Optogenetic manipulation at multiple signaling nodes reveals that intracellular signal transmission is largely unaffected by substratum stiffness. Instead, we find that soft microenvironments decrease EGF receptor (EGFR) expression and alter the amount and spatial distribution of EGF binding at cell membranes. Our data demonstrate that the mechanical microenvironment tunes Erk signaling dynamics via receptor-ligand interactions, underscoring how multiple microenvironmental signals are jointly processed through a highly conserved pathway that regulates tissue development, homeostasis, and disease progression.
Stress ball morphogenesis: How the lizard builds its lung.
The function of the lung is closely coupled to its structural anatomy, which varies greatly across vertebrates. Although architecturally simple, a complex pattern of airflow is thought to be achieved in the lizard lung due to its cavernous central lumen and honeycomb-shaped wall. We find that the wall of the lizard lung is generated from an initially smooth epithelial sheet, which is pushed through holes in a hexagonal smooth muscle meshwork by forces from fluid pressure, similar to a stress ball. Combining transcriptomics with time-lapse imaging reveals that the hexagonal meshwork self-assembles in response to circumferential and axial stresses downstream of pressure. A computational model predicts the pressure-driven changes in epithelial topology, which we probe using optogenetically driven contraction of 3D-printed engineered muscle. These results reveal the physical principles used to sculpt the unusual architecture of the lizard lung, which could be exploited as a novel strategy to engineer tissues.