Showing 1 - 25 of 28 results
Optogenetic manipulation of cellular communication using engineered myosin motors.
Cells achieve highly efficient and accurate communication through cellular projections such as neurites and filopodia, yet there is a lack of genetically encoded tools that can selectively manipulate their composition and dynamics. Here, we present a versatile optogenetic toolbox of artificial multi-headed myosin motors that can move bidirectionally within long cellular extensions and allow for the selective transport of GFP-tagged cargo with light. Utilizing these engineered motors, we could transport bulky transmembrane receptors and organelles as well as actin remodellers to control the dynamics of both filopodia and neurites. Using an optimized in vivo imaging scheme, we further demonstrate that, upon limb amputation in axolotls, a complex array of filopodial extensions is formed. We selectively modulated these filopodial extensions and showed that they re-establish a Sonic Hedgehog signalling gradient during regeneration. Considering the ubiquitous existence of actin-based extensions, this toolbox shows the potential to manipulate cellular communication with unprecedented accuracy.
Nucleated transcriptional condensates amplify gene expression.
Membraneless organelles or condensates form through liquid-liquid phase separation1-4, which is thought to underlie gene transcription through condensation of the large-scale nucleolus5-7 or in smaller assemblies known as transcriptional condensates8-11. Transcriptional condensates have been hypothesized to phase separate at particular genomic loci and locally promote the biomolecular interactions underlying gene expression. However, there have been few quantitative biophysical tests of this model in living cells, and phase separation has not yet been directly linked with dynamic transcriptional outputs12,13. Here, we apply an optogenetic approach to show that FET-family transcriptional regulators exhibit a strong tendency to phase separate within living cells, a process that can drive localized RNA transcription. We find that TAF15 has a unique charge distribution among the FET family members that enhances its interactions with the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Nascent C-terminal domain clusters at primed genomic loci lower the energetic barrier for nucleation of TAF15 condensates, which in turn further recruit RNA polymerase II to drive transcriptional output. These results suggest that positive feedback between interacting transcriptional components drives localized phase separation to amplify gene expression.
Optogenetic TDP-43 nucleation induces persistent insoluble species and progressive motor dysfunction in vivo.
TDP-43 is a predominantly nuclear DNA/RNA binding protein that is often mislocalized into insoluble cytoplasmic inclusions in post-mortem patient tissue in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, most notably, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal and progressive neuromuscular disorder. The underlying causes of TDP-43 proteinopathies remain unclear, but recent studies indicate the formation of these protein assemblies is driven by aberrant phase transitions of RNA deficient TDP-43. Technical limitations have prevented our ability to understand how TDP-43 proteinopathy relates to disease pathogenesis. Current animal models of TDP-43 proteinopathy often rely on overexpression of wild-type TDP-43 to non-physiological levels that may initiate neurotoxicity through nuclear gain of function mechanisms, or by the expression of disease-causing mutations found in only a fraction of ALS patients. New technologies allowing for light-responsive control of subcellular protein crowding provide a promising approach to drive intracellular protein aggregation, as we have previously demonstrated in vitro. Here we present a model for the optogenetic induction of TDP-43 aggregation in Drosophila that recapitulates key biochemical features seen in patient pathology, most notably light-inducible persistent insoluble species and progressive motor dysfunction. These data describe a photokinetic in vivo model that could be as a future platform to identify novel genetic and pharmacological modifiers of diseases associated with TDP-43 neuropathology.
Phosphofructokinase Relocalizes into Subcellular Compartments with Liquid-like Properties In Vivo.
Although much is known about the biochemical regulation of glycolytic enzymes, less is understood about how they are organized inside cells. We systematically examine the dynamic subcellular localization of glycolytic protein phosphofructokinase-1/PFK-1.1 in Caenorhabditis elegans. We determine that endogenous PFK-1.1 localizes to subcellular compartments in vivo. In neurons, PFK-1.1 forms phase-separated condensates near synapses in response to energy stress from transient hypoxia. Restoring animals to normoxic conditions results in cytosolic dispersion of PFK-1.1. PFK-1.1 condensates exhibit liquid-like properties, including spheroid shapes due to surface tension, fluidity due to deformations, and fast internal molecular rearrangements. Heterologous self-association domain cryptochrome 2 promotes formation of PFK-1.1 condensates and recruitment of aldolase/ALDO-1. 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 form condensates in vivo.
The Proline-rich Domain Promotes Tau Liquid Liquid Phase Separation in Cells.
Tau protein in vitro can undergo liquid liquid phase separation (LLPS); however, observations of this phase transition in living cells are limited. To investigate protein state transitions in living cells we found that Cry2 can optogentically increase the association of full lengh tau with microtubules. To probe this mechanism, we identified tau domains that drive tau clustering on microtubules in living cells. The polyproline rich domain (PRD) drives LLPS and does so under the control of phosphorylation. These readily observable cytoplasmic condensates underwent fusion and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching consistent with the ability of the PRD to undergo LLPS in vitro. In absence of the MTBD, the tau PRD co-condensed with EB1, a regulator of plus-end microtubule dynamic instability. The specific domain properties of the MTBD and PRD serve distinct but mutually complementary roles that utilize LLPS in a cellular context to implement emergent functionalities that scale their relationship from binding alpha-beta tubulin heterodimers to the larger proportions of microtubules.
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.
Optogenetic modulation of TDP-43 oligomerization accelerates ALS-related pathologies in the spinal motor neurons.
Cytoplasmic aggregation of TDP-43 characterizes degenerating neurons in most cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 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.
Non-invasive optical control of endogenous Ca2+ channels in awake mice.
Optogenetic approaches for controlling Ca2+ channels provide powerful means for modulating diverse Ca2+-specific biological events in space and time. However, blue light-responsive photoreceptors are, in principle, considered inadequate for deep tissue stimulation unless accompanied by optic fiber insertion. Here, we present an ultra-light-sensitive optogenetic Ca2+ modulator, named monSTIM1 encompassing engineered cryptochrome2 for manipulating Ca2+ signaling in the brain of awake mice through non-invasive light delivery. Activation of monSTIM1 in either excitatory neurons or astrocytes of mice brain is able to induce Ca2+-dependent gene expression without any mechanical damage in the brain. Furthermore, we demonstrate that non-invasive Ca2+ modulation in neurons can be sufficiently and effectively translated into changes in behavioral phenotypes of awake mice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Optogenetic activation of EphB2 receptor in dendrites induced actin polymerization by activating Arg kinase.
Erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular (Eph) receptors regulate a wide array of developmental processes by responding to cell-cell contacts. EphB2 is well-expressed in brain and known to be important for dendritic spine development, as well as for the maintenance of the synapses, although the mechanisms of these functions have not been fully understood. Here we studied EphB2's functions in hippocampal neurons with an optogenetic approach, which allows us to specify spatial regions of signal activation and monitor in real-time the consequences of signal activation. We designed and constructed OptoEphB2, a genetically encoded photoactivatable EphB2. Photoactivation of OptoEphB2 in fibroblast cells induced receptor phosphorylation and resulted in cell rounding - a well-known cellular response to EphB2 activation. In contrast, local activation of OptoEphb2 in dendrites of hippocampal neurons induces rapid actin polymerization, resulting dynamic dendritic filopodial growth. Inhibition of Rac1 and CDC42 did not abolish OptoEphB2-induced actin polymerization. Instead, we identified Abelson Tyrosine-Protein Kinase 2 (Abl2/Arg) as a necessary effector in OptoEphB2-induced filopodia growth in dendrites. These findings provided new mechanistic insight into EphB2's role in neural development and demonstrated the advantage of OptoEphB as a new tool for studying EphB signaling.
Understanding CRY2 interactions for optical control of intracellular signaling.
Arabidopsis cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can simultaneously undergo light-dependent CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomerization and CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimerization, both of which have been widely used to optically control intracellular processes. Applications using CRY2-CIB1 interaction desire minimal CRY2 homo-oligomerization to avoid unintended complications, while those utilizing CRY2-CRY2 interaction prefer robust homo-oligomerization. However, selecting the type of CRY2 interaction has not been possible as the molecular mechanisms underlying CRY2 interactions are unknown. Here we report CRY2-CIB1 and CRY2-CRY2 interactions are governed by well-separated protein interfaces at the two termini of CRY2. N-terminal charges are critical for CRY2-CIB1 interaction. Moreover, two C-terminal charges impact CRY2 homo-oligomerization, with positive charges facilitating oligomerization and negative charges inhibiting it. By engineering C-terminal charges, we develop CRY2high and CRY2low with elevated or suppressed oligomerization respectively, which we use to tune the levels of Raf/MEK/ERK signaling. These results contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying light-induced CRY2 interactions and enhance the controllability of CRY2-based optogenetic systems.Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) can form light-regulated CRY2-CRY2 homo-oligomers or CRY2-CIB1 hetero-dimers, but modulating these interactions is difficult owing to the lack of interaction mechanism. Here the authors identify the interactions facilitating homo-oligomers and introduce mutations to create low and high oligomerization versions.
Optogenetic protein clustering through fluorescent protein tagging and extension of CRY2.
Protein homo-oligomerization is an important molecular mechanism in many biological processes. Therefore, the ability to control protein homo-oligomerization allows the manipulation and interrogation of numerous cellular events. To achieve this, cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from Arabidopsis thaliana has been recently utilized for blue light-dependent spatiotemporal control of protein homo-oligomerization. However, limited knowledge on molecular characteristics of CRY2 obscures its widespread applications. Here, we identify important determinants for efficient cryptochrome 2 clustering and introduce a new CRY2 module, named ''CRY2clust'', to induce rapid and efficient homo-oligomerization of target proteins by employing diverse fluorescent proteins and an extremely short peptide. Furthermore, we demonstrate advancement and versatility of CRY2clust by comparing against previously reported optogenetic tools. Our work not only expands the optogenetic clustering toolbox but also provides a guideline for designing CRY2-based new optogenetic modules.Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2) from A. thaliana can be used to control light-dependent protein homo-oligomerization, but the molecular mechanism of CRY2 clustering is not known, limiting its application. Here the authors identify determinants of CRY2 clustering and engineer fusion partners to modulate clustering efficiency.