Showing 1 - 25 of 46 results
Optogenetic inhibition of Delta reveals digital Notch signaling output during tissue differentiation.
Spatio-temporal regulation of signalling pathways plays a key role in generating diverse responses during the development of multicellular organisms. The role of signal dynamics in transferring signalling information in vivo is incompletely understood. Here we employ genome engineering in Drosophila melanogaster to generate a functional optogenetic allele of the Notch ligand Delta (opto-Delta), which replaces both copies of the endogenous wild type locus. Using clonal analysis, we show that optogenetic activation blocks Notch activation through cis-inhibition in signal-receiving cells. Signal perturbation in combination with quantitative analysis of a live transcriptional reporter of Notch pathway activity reveals differential tissue- and cell-scale regulatory modes. While at the tissue-level the duration of Notch signalling determines the probability with which a cellular response will occur, in individual cells Notch activation acts through a switch-like mechanism. Thus, time confers regulatory properties to Notch signalling that exhibit integrative digital behaviours during tissue differentiation.
Composition dependent phase separation underlies directional flux through the nucleolus.
Intracellular bodies such as nucleoli, Cajal bodies, and various signaling assemblies, represent membraneless organelles, or condensates, that form via liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS)1,2. Biomolecular interactions, particularly homotypic interactions mediated by self-associating intrinsically disordered protein regions (IDRs), are thought to underlie the thermodynamic driving forces for LLPS, forming condensates that can facilitate the assembly and processing of biochemically active complexes, such as ribosomal subunits within the nucleolus. Simplified model systems3–6 have led to the concept that a single fixed saturation concentration (Csat) is a defining feature of endogenous LLPS7–9, and has been suggested as a mechanism for intracellular concentration buffering2,7,8,10. However, the assumption of a fixed Csat remains largely untested within living cells, where the richly multicomponent nature of condensates could complicate this simple picture. Here we show that heterotypic multicomponent interactions dominate endogenous LLPS, and give rise to nucleoli and other condensates that do not exhibit a fixed Csat. As the concentration of individual components is varied, their partition coefficients change, in a manner that can be used to extract thermodynamic interaction energies, that we interpret within a framework we term polyphasic interaction thermodynamic analysis (PITA). We find that heterotypic interactions between protein and RNA components stabilize a variety of archetypal intracellular condensates, including the nucleolus, Cajal bodies, stress granules, and P bodies. These findings imply that the composition of condensates is finely tuned by the thermodynamics of the underlying biomolecular interaction network. In the context of RNA processing condensates such as the nucleolus, this stoichiometric self-tuning manifests in selective exclusion of fully-assembled RNP complexes, providing a thermodynamic basis for vectorial ribosomal RNA (rRNA) flux out of the nucleolus. The PITA methodology is conceptually straightforward and readily implemented, and it can be broadly utilized to extract thermodynamic parameters from microscopy images. These approaches pave the way for a deep understanding of the thermodynamics of multi-component intracellular phase behavior and its interplay with nonequilibrium activity characteristic of endogenous condensates.
Optogenetic modulation of TDP-43 oligomerization fast-forwards ALS-related pathologies in the spinal motor neurons.
Cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 characterizes degenerating neurons in most cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), yet the mechanisms and cellular outcomes of TDP-43 pathology remain largely elusive. Here, we develop an optogenetic TDP-43 variant (opTDP-43), whose multimerization status can be modulated in vivo through external light illumination. Using the translucent zebrafish neuromuscular system, we demonstrate that short-term light stimulation reversibly induces cytoplasmic opTDP-43 mislocalization, but not aggregation, in the spinal motor neuron, leading to an axon outgrowth defect associated with myofiber denervation. In contrast, opTDP-43 forms pathological aggregates in the cytoplasm after longer-term illumination and seeds non-optogenetic TDP-43 aggregation. Furthermore, we find that an ALS-linked mutation in the intrinsically disordered region (IDR) exacerbates the light-dependent opTDP-43 toxicity on locomotor behavior. Together, our results propose that IDR-mediated TDP-43 oligomerization triggers both acute and long-term pathologies of motor neurons, which may be relevant to the pathogenesis and progression of ALS.
Nucleated transcriptional condensates amplify gene expression.
Liquid-liquid phase separation is thought to underly gene transcription, through the condensation of the large-scale nucleolus, or in smaller assemblies known as transcriptional hubs or condensates. However, phase separation has not yet been directly linked with transcriptional output, and our biophysical understanding of transcription dynamics is poor. Here, we utilize an optogenetic approach to control condensation of key FET-family transcriptional regulators, particularly TAF15. We show that amino acid sequence-dependent phase separation of TAF15 is enhanced significantly due to strong nuclear interactions with the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA Pol II. Nascent CTD clusters at primed genomic loci lower the energetic barrier for nucleation of TAF15 condensates, which in turn further recruit RNA Pol II to drive transcriptional output. These results suggest a model in which positive feedback between key transcriptional components drives intermittent dynamics of localized phase separation, to amplify gene expression.
Controlling the material properties and rRNA processing function of the nucleolus using light.
The nucleolus is a prominent nuclear condensate that plays a central role in ribosome biogenesis by facilitating the transcription and processing of nascent ribosomal RNA (rRNA). A number of studies have highlighted the active viscoelastic nature of the nucleolus, whose material properties and phase behavior are a consequence of underlying molecular interactions. However, the ways in which the material properties of the nucleolus impact its function in rRNA biogenesis are not understood. Here we utilize the Cry2olig optogenetic system to modulate the viscoelastic properties of the nucleolus. We show that above a threshold concentration of Cry2olig protein, the nucleolus can be gelled into a tightly linked, low mobility meshwork. Gelled nucleoli no longer coalesce and relax into spheres but nonetheless permit continued internal molecular mobility of small proteins. These changes in nucleolar material properties manifest in specific alterations in rRNA processing steps, including a buildup of larger rRNA precursors and a depletion of smaller rRNA precursors. We propose that the flux of processed rRNA may be actively tuned by the cell through modulating nucleolar material properties, which suggests the potential of materials-based approaches for therapeutic intervention in ribosomopathies.
Light-induced dimerization approaches to control cellular processes.
Light-inducible approaches provide means to control biological systems with spatial and temporal resolution that is unmatched by traditional genetic perturbations. Recent developments of optogenetic and chemo-optogenetic systems for induced proximity in cells facilitate rapid and reversible manipulation of highly dynamic cellular processes and have become valuable tools in diverse biological applications. The new expansions of the toolbox facilitate control of signal transduction, genome editing, 'painting' patterns of active molecules onto cellular membranes and light-induced cell cycle control. A combination of light- and chemically induced dimerization approaches has also seen interesting progress. Here we provide an overview of the optogenetic systems and the emerging chemo-optogenetic systems, and discuss recent applications in tackling complex biological problems.
m6A-binding YTHDF proteins promote stress granule formation by modulating phase separation of stress granule proteins.
Diverse RNAs and RNA-binding proteins form phase-separated, membraneless granules in cells under stress conditions. However, the role of the prevalent mRNA methylation, m6A, and its binding proteins in stress granule (SG) assembly remain unclear. Here, we show that m6A-modified mRNAs are enriched in SGs, and that m6A-binding YTHDF proteins are critical for SG formation. Depletion of YTHDF1/3 inhibits SG formation and recruitment of m6A-modified mRNAs to SGs. Both the N-terminal intrinsically disordered region and the C-terminal m6A-binding YTH domain of YTHDF proteins are crucial for SG formation. Super-resolution imaging further reveals that YTHDF proteins are in a super-saturated state, forming clusters that reside in the periphery of and at the junctions between SG core clusters, and promote SG phase separation by reducing the activation energy barrier and critical size for condensate formation. Our results reveal a new function and mechanistic insights of the m6A-binding YTHDF proteins in regulating phase separation.
Phase separation of 53BP1 determines liquid-like behavior of DNA repair compartments.
The DNA damage response (DDR) generates transient repair compartments to concentrate repair proteins and activate signaling factors. The physicochemical properties of these spatially confined compartments and their function remain poorly understood. Here, we establish, based on live cell microscopy and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated endogenous protein tagging, that 53BP1-marked repair compartments are dynamic, show droplet-like behavior, and undergo frequent fusion and fission events. 53BP1 assembly, but not the upstream accumulation of γH2AX and MDC1, is highly sensitive to changes in osmotic pressure, temperature, salt concentration and to disruption of hydrophobic interactions. Phase separation of 53BP1 is substantiated by optoDroplet experiments, which further allowed dissection of the 53BP1 sequence elements that cooperate for light-induced clustering. Moreover, we found the tumor suppressor protein p53 to be enriched within 53BP1 optoDroplets, and conditions that disrupt 53BP1 phase separation impair 53BP1-dependent induction of p53 and diminish p53 target gene expression. We thus suggest that 53BP1 phase separation integrates localized DNA damage recognition and repair factor assembly with global p53-dependent gene activation and cell fate decisions.
LADL: light-activated dynamic looping for endogenous gene expression control.
Mammalian genomes are folded into tens of thousands of long-range looping interactions. The cause-and-effect relationship between looping and genome function is poorly understood, and the extent to which loops are dynamic on short time scales remains an unanswered question. Here, we engineer a new class of synthetic architectural proteins for directed rearrangement of the three-dimensional genome using blue light. We target our light-activated-dynamic-looping (LADL) system to two genomic anchors with CRISPR guide RNAs and induce their spatial colocalization via light-induced heterodimerization of cryptochrome 2 and a dCas9-CIBN fusion protein. We apply LADL to redirect a stretch enhancer (SE) away from its endogenous Klf4 target gene and to the Zfp462 promoter. Using single-molecule RNA-FISH, we demonstrate that de novo formation of the Zfp462-SE loop correlates with a modest increase in Zfp462 expression. LADL facilitates colocalization of genomic loci without exogenous chemical cofactors and will enable future efforts to engineer reversible and oscillatory loops on short time scales.
Regulation of signaling proteins in the brain by light.
In order to study the role of signaling proteins, such as kinases and GTPases, in brain functions it is necessary to control their activity at the appropriate spatiotemporal resolution and to examine the cellular and behavioral effects of such changes in activity. Reduced spatiotemporal resolution in the regulation of these proteins activity will impede the ability to understand the proteins normal functions as longer modification of their activity in non-normal locations could lead to effects different from their natural functions. To control intracellular signaling proteins at the highest temporal resolution recent innovative optogenetic approaches were developed to allow the control of photoactivable signaling proteins activity by light. These photoactivatable proteins can be activated in selected cell population in brain and in specific subcellular compartments. Minimal-invasive tools are being developed to photoactivate these proteins for study and therapy. Together these techniques afford an unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling proteins activity to unveil the function of brain proteins with high accuracy in behaving animals. As dysfunctional signaling proteins are involved in brain diseases, the optogenetic technique has also the potential to be used as a tool to treat brain diseases.
Nuclear actin regulates inducible transcription by enhancing RNA polymerase II clustering.
Gene expression in response to external stimuli underlies a variety of fundamental cellular processes. However, how the transcription machinery is regulated under these scenarios is largely unknown. Here, we discover a novel role of nuclear actin in inducible transcriptional regulation using next-generation transcriptome sequencing and super-resolution microscopy. The RNA-seq data reveal that nuclear actin is required for the establishment of the serum-induced transcriptional program. Using super-resolution imaging, we found a remarkable enhancement of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) clustering upon serum stimulation and this enhancement requires the presence of nuclear actin. To study the molecular mechanisms, we firstly observed that Pol II clusters co-localized with the serum-response genes and nuclear actin polymerized in adjacent to Pol II clusters upon serum stimulation. Furthermore, N-WASP and Arp2/3 are reported to interact with Pol II, and we demonstrated N-WASP is required for serum-enhanced Pol II clustering. Importantly, using an optogenetic tool, we revealed that N-WASP phase-separated with the carboxy-terminal domain of Pol II and nuclear actin. In addition to serum stimulation, we found nuclear actin also essential in enhancing Pol II clustering upon interferon-γ treatment. Taken together, our work unveils nuclear actin promotes the formation of transcription factory on inducible genes, acting as a general mechanism underlying the rapid response to environmental cues.
The Glycolytic Protein Phosphofructokinase Dynamically Relocalizes into Subcellular Compartments with Liquid-like Properties in vivo.
While much is known about the biochemical regulation of glycolytic enzymes, less is understood about how they are organized inside cells. Here we built a hybrid microfluidic-hydrogel device for use in Caenorhabditis elegans to systematically examine and quantify the dynamic subcellular localization of the rate-limiting enzyme of glycolysis, phosphofructokinase-1/PFK-1.1. We determine that endogenous PFK-1.1 localizes to distinct, tissue-specific subcellular compartments in vivo. In neurons, PFK-1.1 is diffusely localized in the cytosol, but capable of dynamically forming phase-separated condensates near synapses in response to energy stress from transient hypoxia. Restoring animals to normoxic conditions results in the dispersion of PFK-1.1 in the cytosol, indicating that PFK-1.1 reversibly organizes into biomolecular condensates in response to cues within the cellular environment. PFK-1.1 condensates exhibit liquid-like properties, including spheroid shapes due to surface tension, fluidity due to deformations, and fast internal molecular rearrangements. Prolonged conditions of energy stress during sustained hypoxia alter the biophysical properties of PFK-1.1 in vivo, affecting its viscosity and mobility within phase-separated condensates. PFK-1.1’s ability to form tetramers is critical for its capacity to form condensates in vivo, and heterologous self-association domain such as cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) is sufficient to constitutively induce the formation of PFK-1.1 condensates. PFK-1.1 condensates do not correspond to stress granules and might represent novel metabolic subcompartments. Our studies indicate that glycolytic protein PFK-1.1 can dynamically compartmentalize in vivo to specific subcellular compartments in response to acute energy stress via multivalency as phase-separated condensates.
Light-based control of metabolic flux through assembly of synthetic organelles.
To maximize a desired product, metabolic engineers typically express enzymes to high, constant levels. Yet, permanent pathway activation can have undesirable consequences including competition with essential pathways and accumulation of toxic intermediates. Faced with similar challenges, natural metabolic systems compartmentalize enzymes into organelles or post-translationally induce activity under certain conditions. Here we report that optogenetic control can be used to extend compartmentalization and dynamic control to engineered metabolisms in yeast. We describe a suite of optogenetic tools to trigger assembly and disassembly of metabolically active enzyme clusters. Using the deoxyviolacein biosynthesis pathway as a model system, we find that light-switchable clustering can enhance product formation six-fold and product specificity 18-fold by decreasing the concentration of intermediate metabolites and reducing flux through competing pathways. Inducible compartmentalization of enzymes into synthetic organelles can thus be used to control engineered metabolic pathways, limit intermediates and favor the formation of desired products.
NF-κB signaling dynamics is controlled by a dose-sensing autoregulatory loop.
Over the last decade, multiple studies have shown that signaling proteins activated in different temporal patterns, such as oscillatory, transient, and sustained, can result in distinct gene expression patterns or cell fates. However, the molecular events that ensure appropriate stimulus- and dose-dependent dynamics are not often understood and are difficult to investigate. Here, we used single-cell analysis to dissect the mechanisms underlying the stimulus- and dose-encoding patterns in the innate immune signaling network. We found that Toll-like receptor (TLR) and interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling dynamics relied on a dose-dependent, autoinhibitory loop that rendered cells refractory to further stimulation. Using inducible gene expression and optogenetics to perturb the network at different levels, we identified IL-1R-associated kinase 1 (IRAK1) as the dose-sensing node responsible for limiting signal flow during the innate immune response. Although the kinase activity of IRAK1 was not required for signal propagation, it played a critical role in inhibiting the nucleocytoplasmic oscillations of the transcription factor NF-κB. Thus, protein activities that may be "dispensable" from a topological perspective can nevertheless be essential in shaping the dynamic response to the external environment.
RNA Binding Antagonizes Neurotoxic Phase Transitions of TDP-43.
TDP-43 proteinopathy is a pathological hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia where cytoplasmic TDP-43 inclusions are observed within degenerating regions of patient postmortem tissue. The mechanism by which TDP-43 aggregates has remained elusive due to technological limitations, which prevent the analysis of specific TDP-43 interactions in live cells. We present an optogenetic approach to reliably induce TDP-43 proteinopathy under spatiotemporal control. We show that the formation of pathologically relevant inclusions is driven by aberrant interactions between low-complexity domains of TDP-43 that are antagonized by RNA binding. Although stress granules are hypothesized to be a conduit for seeding TDP-43 proteinopathy, we demonstrate pathological inclusions outside these RNA-rich structures. Furthermore, we show that aberrant phase transitions of cytoplasmic TDP-43 are neurotoxic and that treatment with oligonucleotides composed of TDP-43 target sequences prevent inclusions and rescue neurotoxicity. Collectively, these studies provide insight into the mechanisms that underlie TDP-43 proteinopathy and present a potential avenue for therapeutic intervention.
Photodimerization systems for regulating protein-protein interactions with light.
Optogenetic dimerizers are modular domains that can be utilized in a variety of versatile ways to modulate cellular biochemistry. Because of their modularity, many applications using these tools can be easily transferred to new targets without extensive engineering. While a number of photodimerizer systems are currently available, the field remains nascent, with new optimizations for existing systems and new approaches to regulating biological function continuing to be introduced at a steady pace.
Light-Induced Protein Clustering for Optogenetic Interference and Protein Interaction Analysis in Drosophila S2 Cells.
Drosophila Schneider 2 (S2) cells are a simple and powerful system commonly used in cell biology because they are well suited for high resolution microscopy and RNAi-mediated depletion. However, understanding dynamic processes, such as cell division, also requires methodology to interfere with protein function with high spatiotemporal control. In this research study, we report the adaptation of an optogenetic tool to Drosophila S2 cells. Light-activated reversible inhibition by assembled trap (LARIAT) relies on the rapid light-dependent heterodimerization between cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) and cryptochrome-interacting bHLH 1 (CIB1) to form large protein clusters. An anti-green fluorescent protein (GFP) nanobody fused with CRY2 allows this method to quickly trap any GFP-tagged protein in these light-induced protein clusters. We evaluated clustering kinetics in response to light for different LARIAT modules, and showed the ability of GFP-LARIAT to inactivate the mitotic protein Mps1 and to disrupt the membrane localization of the polarity regulator Lethal Giant Larvae (Lgl). Moreover, we validated light-induced co-clustering assays to assess protein-protein interactions in S2 cells. In conclusion, GFP-based LARIAT is a versatile tool to answer different biological questions, since it enables probing of dynamic processes and protein-protein interactions with high spatiotemporal resolution in Drosophila S2 cells.
A bright future: optogenetics to dissect the spatiotemporal control of cell behavior.
Cells sense, process, and respond to extracellular information using signaling networks: collections of proteins that act as precise biochemical sensors. These protein networks are characterized by both complex temporal organization, such as pulses of signaling activity, and by complex spatial organization, where proteins assemble structures at particular locations and times within the cell. Yet despite their ubiquity, studying these spatial and temporal properties has remained challenging because they emerge from the entire protein network rather than a single node, and cannot be easily tuned by drugs or mutations. These challenges are being met by a new generation of optogenetic tools capable of directly controlling the activity of individual signaling nodes over time and the assembly of protein complexes in space. Here, we outline how these recent innovations are being used in conjunction with engineering-influenced experimental design to address longstanding questions in signaling biology.
Mechanobiology of Protein Droplets: Force Arises from Disorder.
The use of optogenetic approaches has revealed new roles for intracellular protein condensates
described in two papers in this issue of Cell (Bracha et. al., 2018; Shin et al., 2018). These results
show that growing condensates are able to exert mechanical forces resulting in chromatin
rearrangement, establishing a new role for liquid-liquid phase separation in the mechanobiology
of the cell.
Light‐Controlled Mammalian Cells and Their Therapeutic Applications in Synthetic Biology.
The ability to remote control the expression of therapeutic genes in mammalian cells in order to treat disease is a central goal of synthetic biology‐inspired therapeutic strategies. Furthermore, optogenetics, a combination of light and genetic sciences, provides an unprecedented ability to use light for precise control of various cellular activities with high spatiotemporal resolution. Recent work to combine optogenetics and therapeutic synthetic biology has led to the engineering of light‐controllable designer cells, whose behavior can be regulated precisely and noninvasively. This Review focuses mainly on non‐neural optogenetic systems, which are often used in synthetic biology, and their applications in genetic programing of mammalian cells. Here, a brief overview of the optogenetic tool kit that is available to build light‐sensitive mammalian cells is provided. Then, recently developed strategies for the control of designer cells with specific biological functions are summarized. Recent translational applications of optogenetically engineered cells are also highlighted, ranging from in vitro basic research to in vivo light‐controlled gene therapy. Finally, current bottlenecks, possible solutions, and future prospects for optogenetics in synthetic biology are discussed.
Increasing spatial resolution of photoregulated GTPases through immobilized peripheral membrane proteins.
Light-induced dimerizing systems, e.g. iLID, are an increasingly utilized optogenetics tool to perturb cellular signaling. The major benefit of this technique is that it allows external spatiotemporal control over protein localization with sub-cellular specificity. However, when it comes to local recruitment of signaling components to the plasmamembrane, this precision in localization is easily lost due to rapid diffusion of the membrane anchor. In this study, we explore different approaches of countering the diffusion of peripheral membrane anchors, to the point where we detect immobilized fractions with iFRAP on a timescale of several minutes. One method involves simultaneous binding of the membrane anchor to a secondary structure, the microtubules. The other strategy utilizes clustering of the anchor into large immobile structures, which can also be interlinked by employing tandem recruitable domains. For both approaches, the anchors are peripheral membrane constructs, which also makes them suitable for in vitro use. Upon combining these slower diffusing anchors with recruitable guanine exchange factors (GEFs), we show that we can elicit much more localized morphological responses from Rac1 and Cdc42 as compared to a regular CAAX-box based membrane anchor in living cells. Thanks to these new slow diffusing anchors, more precisely defined membrane recruitment experiments are now possible.
Activation of EphB2 Forward Signaling Enhances Memory Consolidation.
EphB2 is involved in enhancing synaptic transmission and gene expression. To explore the roles of EphB2 in memory formation and enhancement, we used a photoactivatable EphB2 (optoEphB2) to activate EphB2 forward signaling in pyramidal neurons in lateral amygdala (LA). Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning, but not minutes afterward, enhanced long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning. Photoactivation of optoEphB2 during fear conditioning led to activation of the cAMP/Ca2+ responsive element binding (CREB) protein. Application of light to a kinase-dead optoEphB2 in LA did not lead to enhancement of long-term fear conditioning memory or to activation of CREB. Long-term, but not short-term, auditory fear conditioning memory was impaired in mice lacking EphB2 forward signaling (EphB2lacZ/lacZ). Activation of optoEphB2 in LA of EphB2lacZ/lacZ mice enhanced long-term fear conditioning memory. The present findings show that the level of EphB2 forward signaling activity during learning determines the strength of long-term memory consolidation.
Filopodia Conduct Target Selection in Cortical Neurons Using Differences in Signal Kinetics of a Single Kinase.
Dendritic filopodia select synaptic partner axons by interviewing the cell surface of potential targets, but how filopodia decipher the complex pattern of adhesive and repulsive molecular cues to find appropriate contacts is unknown. Here, we demonstrate in cortical neurons that a single cue is sufficient for dendritic filopodia to reject or select specific axonal contacts for elaboration as synaptic sites. Super-resolution and live-cell imaging reveals that EphB2 is located in the tips of filopodia and at nascent synaptic sites. Surprisingly, a genetically encoded indicator of EphB kinase activity, unbiased classification, and a photoactivatable EphB2 reveal that simple differences in the kinetics of EphB kinase signaling at the tips of filopodia mediate the choice between retraction and synaptogenesis. This may enable individual filopodia to choose targets based on differences in the activation rate of a single tyrosine kinase, greatly simplifying the process of partner selection and suggesting a general principle.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
Analysis of the CaMKIIα and β splice-variant distribution among brain regions reveals isoform-specific differences in holoenzyme formation.
Four CaMKII isoforms are encoded by distinct genes, and alternative splicing within the variable linker-region generates additional diversity. The α and β isoforms are largely brain-specific, where they mediate synaptic functions underlying learning, memory and cognition. Here, we determined the α and β splice-variant distribution among different mouse brain regions. Surprisingly, the nuclear variant αB was detected in all regions, and even dominated in hypothalamus and brain stem. For CaMKIIβ, the full-length variant dominated in most regions (with higher amounts of minor variants again seen in hypothalamus and brain stem). The mammalian but not fish CaMKIIβ gene lacks exon v3Nthat encodes the nuclear localization signal in αB, but contains three exons not found in the CaMKIIα gene (exons v1, v4, v5). While skipping of exons v1 and/or v5 generated the minor splice-variants β', βe and βe', essentially all transcripts contained exon v4. However, we instead detected another minor splice-variant (now termed βH), which lacks part of the hub domain that mediates formation of CaMKII holoenzymes. Surprisingly, in an optogenetic cellular assay of protein interactions, CaMKIIβH was impaired for binding to the β hub domain, but still bound CaMKIIα. This provides the first indication for isoform-specific differences in holoenzyme formation.