Showing 1 - 25 of 37 results
Multiple-site diversification of regulatory sequences enables inter-species operability of genetic devices.
The features of the light-responsive cyanobacterial CcaSR regulatory module that determine interoperability of this optogenetic device between Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida have been examined. For this, all structural parts (i.e. ho1 and pcyA genes for synthesis of phycocyanobilin, the ccaS/ccaR system from Synechocystis and its cognate downstream promoter) were maintained but their expression levels and stoichiometry diversified by [i] reassembling them together in a single broad host range, standardized vector and [ii] subjecting the non-coding regulatory sequences to multiple cycles of directed evolution with random genomic mutations (DIvERGE), a recombineering method that intensifies mutation rates within discrete DNA segments. Once passed to P. putida, various clones displayed a wide dynamic range, insignificant leakiness and excellent capacity in response to green light. Inspection of the evolutionary intermediates pinpointed translational control as the main bottleneck for interoperability and suggested a general approach for easing the exchange of genetic cargoes between different species i.e. optimization of relative expression levels and upturning of subcomplex stoichiometry.
Emerging Species and Genome Editing Tools: Future Prospects in Cyanobacterial Synthetic Biology.
Recent advances in synthetic biology and an emerging algal biotechnology market have spurred a prolific increase in the availability of molecular tools for cyanobacterial research. Nevertheless, work to date has focused primarily on only a small subset of model species, which arguably limits fundamental discovery and applied research towards wider commercialisation. Here, we review the requirements for uptake of new strains, including several recently characterised fast-growing species and promising non-model species. Furthermore, we discuss the potential applications of new techniques available for transformation, genetic engineering and regulation, including an up-to-date appraisal of current Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR associated protein (CRISPR/Cas) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) research in cyanobacteria. We also provide an overview of several exciting molecular tools that could be ported to cyanobacteria for more advanced metabolic engineering approaches (e.g., genetic circuit design). Lastly, we introduce a forthcoming mutant library for the model species Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 that promises to provide a further powerful resource for the cyanobacterial research community.
Light-inducible flux control of triosephosphate isomerase on glycolysis in Escherichia coli.
An engineering tool for controlling flux distribution on metabolic pathways to an appropriate state is highly desirable in bio-production. An optogenetic switch, which regulates gene expression by light illumination is an attractive on/off switchable system, and is a promising way for flux control with an external stimulus. We demonstrated a light-inducible flux control between glycolysis and the methylglyoxal (MGO) pathway in Escherichia coli using a CcaS/CcaR system. CcaR is phosphorylated by green light and is dephosphorylated by red light. Phosphorylated CcaR induces gene expression under the cpcG2 promoter. The tpiA gene was expressed under the cpcG2 promoter in a genomic tpiA deletion strain. The strain was then cultured with glucose minimum medium under green or red light. We found that tpiA mRNA level under green light was four times higher than that under red light. The repression of tpiA expression led to a decrease in glycolytic flux, resulting in slower growth under red light (0.25 h-1 ) when compared to green light (0.37 h-1 ). The maximum extracellular MGO concentration under red light (0.2 mM) was higher than that under green light (0.05 mM). These phenotypes confirm that the MGO pathway flux was enhanced under red light. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Optogenetic control of Bacillus subtilis gene expression.
The Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis exhibits complex spatial and temporal gene expression signals. Although optogenetic tools are ideal for studying such processes, none has been engineered for this organism. Here, we port a cyanobacterial light sensor pathway comprising the green/red photoreversible two-component system CcaSR, two metabolic enzymes for production of the chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), and an output promoter to control transcription of a gene of interest into B. subtilis. Following an initial non-functional design, we optimize expression of pathway genes, enhance PCB production via a translational fusion of the biosynthetic enzymes, engineer a strong chimeric output promoter, and increase dynamic range with a miniaturized photosensor kinase. Our final design exhibits over 70-fold activation and rapid response dynamics, making it well-suited to studying a wide range of gene regulatory processes. In addition, the synthetic biology methods we develop to port this pathway should make B. subtilis easier to engineer in the future.
Optogenetic switch for controlling the central metabolic flux of Escherichia coli.
Dynamically controlling cellular metabolism can improve a cell's yield and productivity towards a target compound. However, the application of this strategy is currently limited by the availability of reversible metabolic switches. Unlike chemical inducers, light can readily be applied and removed from the medium multiple times without causing chemical changes. This makes light-inducible systems a potent tool to dynamically control cellular metabolism. Here we describe the construction of a light-inducible metabolic switch to regulate flux distribution between two glycolytic pathways, the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas (EMP) and oxidative pentose phosphate (oxPP) pathways. This was achieved by using chromatic acclimation sensor/regulator (CcaSR) optogenetic system to control the expression of pgi, a metabolic gene which expression determines flux distribution between EMP and oxPP pathways. Control over these pathways may allow us to maximize Escherichia coli's yield on highly-reduced compounds such as mevalonate. Background pgi expression of the initial CcaSR construct was too high to significantly reduce pgi expression during the OFF-state. Therefore, we attenuated the system's output leakage by adjusting plasmid copy number and by tagging Pgi with ssRA protein degradation signal. Using our CcaSR-pgi ver.3, we could control EMP:oxPP flux ratio to 50:49 and 0.5:99 (of total glycolytic flux) by exposure to green and red light, respectively.
Rewiring bacterial two-component systems by modular DNA-binding domain swapping.
Two-component systems (TCSs) are the largest family of multi-step signal transduction pathways and valuable sensors for synthetic biology. However, most TCSs remain uncharacterized or difficult to harness for applications. Major challenges are that many TCS output promoters are unknown, subject to cross-regulation, or silent in heterologous hosts. Here, we demonstrate that the two largest families of response regulator DNA-binding domains can be interchanged with remarkable flexibility, enabling the corresponding TCSs to be rewired to synthetic output promoters. We exploit this plasticity to eliminate cross-regulation, un-silence a gram-negative TCS in a gram-positive host, and engineer a system with over 1,300-fold activation. Finally, we apply DNA-binding domain swapping to screen uncharacterized Shewanella oneidensis TCSs in Escherichia coli, leading to the discovery of a previously uncharacterized pH sensor. This work should accelerate fundamental TCS studies and enable the engineering of a large family of genetically encoded sensors with diverse applications.
Biological signal generators: integrating synthetic biology tools and in silico control.
Biological networks sense extracellular stimuli and generate appropriate outputs within the cell that determine cellular response. Biological signal generators are becoming an important tool for understanding how information is transmitted in these networks and controlling network behavior. Signal generators produce well-defined, dynamic, intracellular signals of important network components, such as kinase activity or the concentration of a specific transcription factor. Synthetic biology tools coupled with in silico control have enabled the construction of these sophisticated biological signal generators. Here we review recent advances in biological signal generator construction and their use in systems biology studies. Challenges for constructing signal generators for a wider range of biological networks and generalizing their use are discussed.
Cell-machine interfaces for characterizing gene regulatory network dynamics.
Gene regulatory networks and the dynamic responses they produce offer a wealth of information about how biological systems process information about their environment. Recently, researchers interested in dissecting these networks have been outsourcing various parts of their experimental workflow to computers. Here we review how, using microfluidic or optogenetic tools coupled with fluorescence imaging, it is now possible to interface cells and computers. These platforms enable scientists to perform informative dynamic stimulations of genetic pathways and monitor their reaction. It is also possible to close the loop and regulate genes in real time, providing an unprecedented view of how signals propagate through the network. Finally, we outline new tools that can be used within the framework of cell-machine interfaces.
Using Synthetic Biology to Engineer Spatial Patterns.
Synthetic biology has emerged as a multidisciplinary field that provides new tools and approaches to address longstanding problems in biology. It integrates knowledge from biology, engineering, mathematics, and biophysics to build—rather than to simply observe and perturb—biological systems that emulate natural counterparts or display novel properties. The interface between synthetic and developmental biology has greatly benefitted both fields and allowed to address questions that would remain challenging with classical approaches due to the intrinsic complexity and essentiality of developmental processes. This Progress Report provides an overview of how synthetic biology can help to understand a process that is crucial for the development of multicellular organisms: pattern formation. It reviews the major mechanisms of genetically encoded synthetic systems that have been engineered to establish spatial patterns at the population level. Limitations, challenges, applications, and potential opportunities of synthetic pattern formation are also discussed.
Diverse light responses of cyanobacteria mediated by phytochrome superfamily photoreceptors.
Cyanobacteria are an evolutionarily and ecologically important group of prokaryotes. They exist in diverse habitats, ranging from hot springs and deserts to glaciers and the open ocean. The range of environments that they inhabit can be attributed in part to their ability to sense and respond to changing environmental conditions. As photosynthetic organisms, one of the most crucial parameters for cyanobacteria to monitor is light. Cyanobacteria can sense various wavelengths of light and many possess a range of bilin-binding photoreceptors belonging to the phytochrome superfamily. Vital cellular processes including growth, phototaxis, cell aggregation and photosynthesis are tuned to environmental light conditions by these photoreceptors. In this Review, we examine the physiological responses that are controlled by members of this diverse family of photoreceptors and discuss the signal transduction pathways through which these photoreceptors operate. We highlight specific examples where the activities of multiple photoreceptors function together to fine-tune light responses. We also discuss the potential application of these photosensing systems in optogenetics and synthetic biology.
Programming Bacteria With Light—Sensors and Applications in Synthetic Biology
Photo-receptors are widely present in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, which serves as the foundation of tuning cell behaviors with light. While practices in eukaryotic cells have been relatively established, trials in bacterial cells have only been emerging in the past few years. A number of light sensors have been engineered in bacteria cells and most of them fall into the categories of two-component and one-component systems. Such a sensor toolbox has enabled practices in controlling synthetic circuits at the level of transcription and protein activity which is a major topic in synthetic biology, according to the central dogma. Additionally, engineered light sensors and practices of tuning synthetic circuits have served as a foundation for achieving light based real-time feedback control. Here, we review programming bacteria cells with light, introducing engineered light sensors in bacteria and their applications, including tuning synthetic circuits and achieving feedback controls over microbial cell culture.
A compendium of chemical and genetic approaches to light-regulated gene transcription.
On-cue regulation of gene transcription is an invaluable tool for the study of biological processes and the development and integration of next-generation therapeutics. Ideal reagents for the precise regulation of gene transcription should be nontoxic to the host system, highly tunable, and provide a high level of spatial and temporal control. Light, when coupled with protein or small molecule-linked photoresponsive elements, presents an attractive means of meeting the demands of an ideal system for regulating gene transcription. In this review, we cover recent developments in the burgeoning field of light-regulated gene transcription, covering both genetically encoded and small-molecule based strategies for optical regulation of transcription during the period 2012 till present.
Optogenetic regulation of transcription.
Optogenetics has become widely recognized for its success in real-time control of brain neurons by utilizing nonmammalian photosensitive proteins to open or close membrane channels. Here we review a less well known type of optogenetic constructs that employs photosensitive proteins to transduce the signal to regulate gene transcription, and its possible use in medicine. One of the problems with existing gene therapies is that they could remain active indefnitely while not allowing regulated transgene production on demand. Optogenetic regulation of transcription (ORT) could potentially be used to regulate the production of a biological drug in situ, by repeatedly applying light to the tissue, and inducing expression of therapeutic transgenes when needed. Red and near infrared wavelengths, which are capable of penetration into tissues, have potential for therapeutic applications. Existing ORT systems are reviewed herein with these considerations in mind.
A miniaturized E. coli green light sensor with high dynamic range.
Genetically-engineered photoreceptors enable unrivaled control over gene expression. Previously, we ported the Synechocystis PCC 6803 CcaSR two-component system, which is activated by green light and de-activated by red, into E. coli, resulting in a sensor with 6-fold dynamic range. Later, we optimized pathway protein expression levels and the output promoter sequence to decrease transcriptional leakiness and increase the dynamic range to approximately 120-fold. These CcaSR v1.0 and 2.0 systems have been used for precise quantitative, temporal, and spatial control of gene expression for a variety of applications. Recently, others have deleted two PAS domains of unknown function from the CcaS sensor histidine kinase in a CcaSR v1.0-like system. Here, we apply these deletions to CcaSR v2.0, resulting in a v3.0 light sensor with 4-fold lower leaky output and nearly 600-fold dynamic range. We demonstrate that the PAS domain deletions have no deleterious effect on CcaSR green light sensitivity or response dynamics. CcaSR v3.0 is the best performing engineered bacterial green light sensor available, and should have broad applications in fundamental and synthetic biology studies.
A novel optogenetically tunable frequency modulating oscillator.
Synthetic biology has enabled the creation of biological reconfigurable circuits, which perform multiple functions monopolizing a single biological machine; Such a system can switch between different behaviours in response to environmental cues. Previous work has demonstrated switchable dynamical behaviour employing reconfigurable logic gate genetic networks. Here we describe a computational framework for reconfigurable circuits in E.coli using combinations of logic gates, and also propose the biological implementation. The proposed system is an oscillator that can exhibit tunability of frequency and amplitude of oscillations. Further, the frequency of operation can be changed optogenetically. Insilico analysis revealed that two-component light systems, in response to light within a frequency range, can be used for modulating the frequency of the oscillator or stopping the oscillations altogether. Computational modelling reveals that mixing two colonies of E.coli oscillating at different frequencies generates spatial beat patterns. Further, we show that these oscillations more robustly respond to input perturbations compared to the base oscillator, to which the proposed oscillator is a modification. Compared to the base oscillator, the proposed system shows faster synchronization in a colony of cells for a larger region of the parameter space. Additionally, the proposed oscillator also exhibits lesser synchronization error in the transient period after input perturbations. This provides a strong basis for the construction of synthetic reconfigurable circuits in bacteria and other organisms, which can be scaled up to perform functions in the field of time dependent drug delivery with tunable dosages, and sets the stage for further development of circuits with synchronized population level behaviour.
Shaping bacterial population behavior through computer-interfaced control of individual cells.
Bacteria in groups vary individually, and interact with other bacteria and the environment to produce population-level patterns of gene expression. Investigating such behavior in detail requires measuring and controlling populations at the single-cell level alongside precisely specified interactions and environmental characteristics. Here we present an automated, programmable platform that combines image-based gene expression and growth measurements with on-line optogenetic expression control for hundreds of individual Escherichia coli cells over days, in a dynamically adjustable environment. This integrated platform broadly enables experiments that bridge individual and population behaviors. We demonstrate: (i) population structuring by independent closed-loop control of gene expression in many individual cells, (ii) cell-cell variation control during antibiotic perturbation, (iii) hybrid bio-digital circuits in single cells, and freely specifiable digital communication between individual bacteria. These examples showcase the potential for real-time integration of theoretical models with measurement and control of many individual cells to investigate and engineer microbial population behavior.
Mini Photobioreactors for in Vivo Real-Time Characterization and Evolutionary Tuning of Bacterial Optogenetic Circuit.
The current standard protocols for characterizing the optogenetic circuit of bacterial cells using flow cytometry in light tubes and light exposure of culture plates are tedious, labor-intensive, and cumbersome. In this work, we engineer a bioreactor with working volume of ∼10 mL for in vivo real-time optogenetic characterization of E. coli with a CcaS-CcaR light-sensing system. In the bioreactor, optical density measurements, reporter protein fluorescence detection, and light input stimuli are provided by four light-emitting diode sources and two photodetectors. Once calibrated, the device can cultivate microbial cells and record their growth and gene expression without human intervention. We measure gene expression during cell growth with different organic substrates (glucose, succinate, acetate, pyruvate) as carbon sources in minimal medium and demonstrate evolutionary tuning of the optogenetic circuit by serial dilution passages.
Engineering RGB color vision into Escherichia coli.
Optogenetic tools use colored light to rapidly control gene expression in space and time. We designed a genetically encoded system that gives Escherichia coli the ability to distinguish between red, green, and blue (RGB) light and respond by changing gene expression. We use this system to produce 'color photographs' on bacterial culture plates by controlling pigment production and to redirect metabolic flux by expressing CRISPRi guide RNAs.
Distinctive Properties of Dark Reversion Kinetics between Two Red/Green-Type Cyanobacteriochromes and their Application in the Photoregulation of cAMP Synthesis.
Cyanobacteriochromes (CBCRs) are photoreceptors that bind to a linear tetrapyrrole within a conserved cGMP-phosphodiesterase/adenylate cyclase/FhlA (GAF) domain and exhibit reversible photoconversion. Red/green-type CBCR GAF domains that photoconvert between red- (Pr) and green-absorbing (Pg) forms occur widely in various cyanobacteria. A putative phototaxis regulator, AnPixJ, contains multiple red/green-type CBCR GAF domains. We previously reported that AnPixJ's second domain (AnPixJg2) but not its fourth domain (AnPixJg4) shows red/green reversible photoconversion. Herein, we found that AnPixJg4 showed Pr-to-Pg photoconversion and rapid Pg-to-Pr dark reversion, whereas AnPixJg2 showed a barely detectable dark reversion. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed the involvement of six residues in Pg stability. Replacement at the Leu294/Ile660 positions of AnPixJg2/AnPixJg4 showed the highest influence on dark reversion kinetics. AnPixJg2_DR6, wherein the six residues of AnPixJg2 were entirely replaced with those of AnPixJg4, showed a 300-fold faster dark reversion than that of the wild type. We constructed chimeric proteins by fusing the GAF domains with adenylate cyclase catalytic regions, such as AnPixJg2-AC, AnPixJg4-AC and AnPixJg2_DR6-AC. We detected successful enzymatic activation under red light for both AnPixJg2-AC and AnPixJg2_DR6-AC, and repression under green light for AnPixJg2-AC and under dark incubation for AnPixJg2_DR6-AC. These results provide platforms to develop cAMP synthetic optogenetic tools.
A photoconversion model for full spectral programming and multiplexing of optogenetic systems.
Optogenetics combines externally applied light signals and genetically engineered photoreceptors to control cellular processes with unmatched precision. Here, we develop a mathematical model of wavelength- and intensity-dependent photoconversion, signaling, and output gene expression for our two previously engineered light-sensing Escherichia coli two-component systems. To parameterize the model, we develop a simple set of spectral and dynamical calibration experiments using our recent open-source "Light Plate Apparatus" device. In principle, the parameterized model should predict the gene expression response to any time-varying signal from any mixture of light sources with known spectra. We validate this capability experimentally using a suite of challenging light sources and signals very different from those used during the parameterization process. Furthermore, we use the model to compensate for significant spectral cross-reactivity inherent to the two sensors in order to develop a new method for programming two simultaneous and independent gene expression signals within the same cell. Our optogenetic multiplexing method will enable powerful new interrogations of how metabolic, signaling, and decision-making pathways integrate multiple input signals.
An open-hardware platform for optogenetics and photobiology.
In optogenetics, researchers use light and genetically encoded photoreceptors to control biological processes with unmatched precision. However, outside of neuroscience, the impact of optogenetics has been limited by a lack of user-friendly, flexible, accessible hardware. Here, we engineer the Light Plate Apparatus (LPA), a device that can deliver two independent 310 to 1550 nm light signals to each well of a 24-well plate with intensity control over three orders of magnitude and millisecond resolution. Signals are programmed using an intuitive web tool named Iris. All components can be purchased for under $400 and the device can be assembled and calibrated by a non-expert in one day. We use the LPA to precisely control gene expression from blue, green, and red light responsive optogenetic tools in bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells and simplify the entrainment of cyanobacterial circadian rhythm. The LPA dramatically reduces the entry barrier to optogenetics and photobiology experiments.
Automated optogenetic feedback control for precise and robust regulation of gene expression and cell growth.
Dynamic control of gene expression can have far-reaching implications for biotechnological applications and biological discovery. Thanks to the advantages of light, optogenetics has emerged as an ideal technology for this task. Current state-of-the-art methods for optical expression control fail to combine precision with repeatability and cannot withstand changing operating culture conditions. Here, we present a novel fully automatic experimental platform for the robust and precise long-term optogenetic regulation of protein production in liquid Escherichia coli cultures. Using a computer-controlled light-responsive two-component system, we accurately track prescribed dynamic green fluorescent protein expression profiles through the application of feedback control, and show that the system adapts to global perturbations such as nutrient and temperature changes. We demonstrate the efficacy and potential utility of our approach by placing a key metabolic enzyme under optogenetic control, thus enabling dynamic regulation of the culture growth rate with potential applications in bacterial physiology studies and biotechnology.
Development of a light-regulated cell-recovery system for non-photosynthetic bacteria.
Recent advances in the understanding of photosensing in biological systems have enabled the use of photoreceptors as novel genetic tools. Exploiting various photoreceptors that cyanobacteria possess, a green light-inducible gene expression system was previously developed for the regulation of gene expression in cyanobacteria. However, the applications of cyanobacterial photoreceptors are not limited to these bacteria but are also available for non-photosynthetic microorganisms by the coexpression of a cyanobacterial chromophore with a cyanobacteria-derived photosensing system. An Escherichia coli-derived self-aggregation system based on Antigen 43 (Ag43) has been shown to induce cell self-aggregation of various bacteria by exogenous introduction of the Ag43 gene.
Refactoring and optimization of light-switchable Escherichia coli two-component systems.
Light-switchable proteins enable unparalleled control of molecular biological processes in live organisms. Previously, we have engineered red/far-red and green/red photoreversible two-component signal transduction systems (TCSs) with transcriptional outputs in E. coli and used them to characterize and control synthetic gene circuits with exceptional quantitative, temporal, and spatial precision. However, the broad utility of these light sensors is limited by bulky DNA encoding, incompatibility with commonly used ligand-responsive transcription factors, leaky output in deactivating light, and less than 10-fold dynamic range. Here, we compress the four genes required for each TCS onto two streamlined plasmids and replace all chemically inducible and evolved promoters with constitutive, engineered versions. Additionally, we systematically optimize the expression of each sensor histidine kinase and response regulator, and redesign both pathway output promoters, resulting in low leakiness and 72- and 117-fold dynamic range, respectively. These second-generation light sensors can be used to program the expression of more genes over a wider range and can be more easily combined with additional plasmids or moved to different host strains. This work demonstrates that bacterial TCSs can be optimized to function as high-performance sensors for scientific and engineering applications.
A green-light inducible lytic system for cyanobacterial cells.
Cyanobacteria are an attractive candidate for the production of biofuel because of their ability to capture carbon dioxide by photosynthesis and grow on non-arable land. However, because huge quantities of water are required for cultivation, strict water management is one of the greatest issues in algae- and cyanobacteria-based biofuel production. In this study, we aim to construct a lytic cyanobacterium that can be regulated by a physical signal (green-light illumination) for future use in the recovery of biofuel related compounds.