Showing 1 - 17 of 17 results
Orthogonal Blue and Red Light Controlled Cell-Cell Adhesions Enable Sorting-out in Multicellular Structures.
The self-assembly of different cell types into multicellular structures and their organization into spatiotemporally controlled patterns are both challenging and extremely powerful to understand how cells function within tissues and for bottom-up tissue engineering. Here, we not only independently control the self-assembly of two cell types into multicellular architectures with blue and red light, but also achieve their self-sorting into distinct assemblies. This required developing two cell types that form selective and homophilic cell-cell interactions either under blue or red light using photoswitchable proteins as artificial adhesion molecules. The interactions were individually triggerable with different colors of light, reversible in the dark, and provide noninvasive and temporal control over the cell-cell adhesions. In mixtures of the two cells, each cell type self-assembled independently upon orthogonal photoactivation, and cells sorted out into separate assemblies based on specific self-recognition. These self-sorted multicellular architectures provide us with a powerful tool for producing tissue-like structures from multiple cell types and investigate principles that govern them.
Synthesis of a Light-Controlled Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Adjustable Mechanical Properties.
Synthetic extracellular matrices with reversibly adjustable mechanical properties are essential for the investigation of how cells respond to dynamic mechanical cues as occurring in living organisms. One interesting approach to engineer dynamic biomaterials is the incorporation of photoreceptors from cyanobacteria or plants into polymer materials. Here, we give an overview of existing photoreceptor-based biomaterials and describe a detailed protocol for the synthesis of a phytochrome-based extracellular matrix (CyPhyGel). Using cell-compatible light in the red and far-red spectrum, the mechanical properties of this matrix can be adjusted in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose-dependent manner with high spatiotemporal control.
Design and Application of Light-Regulated Receptor Tyrosine Kinases.
Understanding how the activity of membrane receptors and cellular signaling pathways shapes cell behavior is of fundamental interest in basic and applied research. Reengineering receptors to react to light instead of their cognate ligands allows for generating defined signaling inputs with high spatial and temporal precision and facilitates the dissection of complex signaling networks. Here, we describe fundamental considerations in the design of light-regulated receptor tyrosine kinases (Opto-RTKs) and appropriate control experiments. We also introduce methods for transient receptor expression in HEK293 cells, quantitative assessment of signaling activity in reporter gene assays, semiquantitative assessment of (in)activation time courses through Western blot (WB) analysis, and easy to implement light stimulation hardware.
Production of Phytochromes by High-Cell-Density E. coli Fermentation.
Phytochromes are important photoreceptors of plants, bacteria, and fungi responsive to light in the red and far-red spectrum. For increasing applications in basic research, synthetic biology, and materials sciences, it is required to recombinantly produce and purify phytochromes in high amounts. An ideal host organism for this purpose is E. coli due to its widespread use, fast growth, and ability for high-cell-density fermentation. Here, we describe the development of a generic platform for the production of phytochromes in E. coli that is compatible with high-cell-density fermentation. We exemplify our approach by the production of the photosensory domains of phytochrome B (PhyB) from A. thaliana and of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 (Cph1) from Synechocystis PCC 6803 in the multigram scale per 10 L fermentation run.
Independent Blue and Red Light Triggered Narcissistic Self-Sorting Self-Assembly of Colloidal Particles.
The ability of living systems to self-sort different cells into separate assemblies and the ability to independently regulate different structures are one ingredient that gives rise to their spatiotemporal complexity. Here, this self-sorting behavior is replicated in a synthetic system with two types of colloidal particles; where each particle type independently self-assembles either under blue or red light into distinct clusters, known as narcissistic self-sorting. For this purpose, each particle type is functionalized either with the light-switchable protein VVDHigh or Cph1, which homodimerize under blue and red light, respectively. The response to different wavelengths of light and the high specificity of the protein interactions allows for the independent self-assembly of each particle type with blue or red light and narcissistic self-sorting. Moreover, as both of the photoswitchable protein interactions are reversible in the dark; also, the self-sorting is reversible and dynamic. Overall, the independent blue and red light controlled self-sorting in a synthetic system opens new possibilities to assemble adaptable, smart, and advanced materials similar to the complexity observed in tissues.
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.
Phytochrome-Based Extracellular Matrix with Reversibly Tunable Mechanical Properties.
Interrogation and control of cellular fate and function using optogenetics is providing revolutionary insights into biology. Optogenetic control of cells is achieved by coupling genetically encoded photoreceptors to cellular effectors and enables unprecedented spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Here, a fast and reversibly switchable photoreceptor is used to tune the mechanical properties of polymer materials in a fully reversible, wavelength-specific, and dose- and space-controlled manner. By integrating engineered cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 into a poly(ethylene glycol) matrix, hydrogel materials responsive to light in the cell-compatible red/far-red spectrum are synthesized. These materials are applied to study in human mesenchymal stem cells how different mechanosignaling pathways respond to changing mechanical environments and to control the migration of primary immune cells in 3D. This optogenetics-inspired matrix allows fundamental questions of how cells react to dynamic mechanical environments to be addressed. Further, remote control of such matrices can create new opportunities for tissue engineering or provide a basis for optically stimulated drug depots.
Re-engineering the two-component systems as light-regulated in Escherichia coli.
Bacteria live in environments with dynamic changes. To sense and respond to different external stimuli, bacteria make use of various sensor-response circuits, called two-component systems (TCSs). A TCS comprises a histidine protein kinase (HK) sensing environmental stimuli and a response regulator protein (RR) regulating downstream genes. The two components are coupled via a phosphorylation control mechanism. In a recent study, we adopted an optogenetics approach to re-engineer the sensor HKs in Escherichia coli as a light-sensing fusion protein. We constructed a light-controllable HK by replacing the original signal-specific sensing domain of HK with the light-sensing domain of Cph1 from Cyanobacteria Synechocystis, so that HK can be investigated by red light. Here, we extended the study to other 16 HK-RR TCSs and constructed a library of light-responsible HK-Cph1 chimeras. By taking the NarX-NarL system as an example, we demonstrated the light responsiveness of the constructed chimera and investigated the frequency response of the NarXNarL system. The constructed library serves as a toolkit for future TCS study using optogenetics approach.
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.
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.
A Phytochrome Sensory Domain Permits Receptor Activation by Red Light.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology enable the spatio-temporal control of cell and animal behavior by light. Although red light offers deep-tissue penetration and minimal phototoxicity, very few red-light-sensitive optogenetic methods are currently available. We have now developed a red-light-induced homodimerization domain. We first showed that an optimized sensory domain of the cyanobacterial phytochrome 1 can be expressed robustly and without cytotoxicity in human cells. We then applied this domain to induce the dimerization of two receptor tyrosine kinases-the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 and the neurotrophin receptor trkB. This new optogenetic method was then used to activate the MAPK/ERK pathway non-invasively in mammalian tissue and in multicolor cell-signaling experiments. The light-controlled dimerizer and red-light-activated receptor tyrosine kinases will prove useful to regulate a variety of cellular processes with light.
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.
Characterizing bacterial gene circuit dynamics with optically programmed gene expression signals.
Gene circuits are dynamical systems that regulate cellular behaviors, often using protein signals as inputs and outputs. Here we have developed an optogenetic 'function generator' method for programming tailor-made gene expression signals in live bacterial cells. We designed precomputed light sequences based on experimentally calibrated mathematical models of light-switchable two-component systems and used them to drive intracellular protein levels to match user-defined reference time courses. We used this approach to generate accelerated and linearized dynamics, sinusoidal oscillations with desired amplitudes and periods, and a complex waveform, all with unprecedented accuracy and precision. We also combined the function generator with a dual fluorescent protein reporter system, analogous to a dual-channel oscilloscope, to reveal that a synthetic repressible promoter linearly transforms repressor signals with an approximate 7-min delay. Our approach will enable a new generation of dynamical analyses of synthetic and natural gene circuits, providing an essential step toward the predictive design and rigorous understanding of biological systems.
Plate-based assays for light-regulated gene expression systems.
Light sensing proteins can be used to control living cells with exquisite precision. We have recently constructed a set of bacterial light sensors and used them to pattern gene expression across lawns of Escherichia coli with images of green and red light. The sensors can be expressed in a single cell and controlled independently by applying different light wavelengths. Both sensors also demonstrate continuous input-output behavior, where the magnitude of gene expression is proportional to the intensity of light applied. This combination of features allows complex patterns of gene expression to be programmed across an otherwise homogeneous cell population. The red light sensor has also been connected to a cell-cell communication system and several genetic logic circuits in order to program the bacterial lawn to behave as a distributed computer that performs the image-processing task of edge detection. Here, we will describe protocols for working with these systems in the laboratory.
Multichromatic control of gene expression in Escherichia coli.
Light is a powerful tool for manipulating living cells because it can be applied with high resolution across space and over time. We previously constructed a red light-sensitive Escherichia coli transcription system based on a chimera between the red/far-red switchable cyanobacterial phytochrome Cph1 and the E. coli EnvZ/OmpR two-component signaling pathway. Here, we report the development of a green light-inducible transcription system in E. coli based on a recently discovered green/red photoswitchable two-component system from cyanobacteria. We demonstrate that the transcriptional output is proportional to the intensity of green light applied and that the green sensor is orthogonal to the red sensor at intensities of 532-nm light less than 0.01 W/m(2). Expression of both sensors in a single cell allows two-color optical control of transcription both in batch culture and in patterns across a lawn of engineered cells. Because each sensor functions as a photoreversible switch, this system should allow the spatial and temporal control of the expression of multiple genes through different combinations of light wavelengths. This feature aids precision single-cell and population-level studies in systems and synthetic biology.
A synthetic genetic edge detection program.
Edge detection is a signal processing algorithm common in artificial intelligence and image recognition programs. We have constructed a genetically encoded edge detection algorithm that programs an isogenic community of E. coli to sense an image of light, communicate to identify the light-dark edges, and visually present the result of the computation. The algorithm is implemented using multiple genetic circuits. An engineered light sensor enables cells to distinguish between light and dark regions. In the dark, cells produce a diffusible chemical signal that diffuses into light regions. Genetic logic gates are used so that only cells that sense light and the diffusible signal produce a positive output. A mathematical model constructed from first principles and parameterized with experimental measurements of the component circuits predicts the performance of the complete program. Quantitatively accurate models will facilitate the engineering of more complex biological behaviors and inform bottom-up studies of natural genetic regulatory networks.
Synthetic biology: engineering Escherichia coli to see light.
We have designed a bacterial system that is switched between different states by red light. The system consists of a synthetic sensor kinase that allows a lawn of bacteria to function as a biological film, such that the projection of a pattern of light on to the bacteria produces a high-definition (about 100 megapixels per square inch), two-dimensional chemical image. This spatial control of bacterial gene expression could be used to 'print' complex biological materials, for example, and to investigate signalling pathways through precise spatial and temporal control of their phosphorylation steps.