Showing 1 - 25 of 213 results
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.
Perspectives of RAS and RHEB GTPase Signaling Pathways in Regenerating Brain Neurons.
Cellular activation of RAS GTPases into the GTP-binding "ON" state is a key switch for regulating brain functions. Molecular protein structural elements of rat sarcoma (RAS) and RAS homolog protein enriched in brain (RHEB) GTPases involved in this switch are discussed including their subcellular membrane localization for triggering specific signaling pathways resulting in regulation of synaptic connectivity, axonal growth, differentiation, migration, cytoskeletal dynamics, neural protection, and apoptosis. A beneficial role of neuronal H-RAS activity is suggested from cellular and animal models of neurodegenerative diseases. Recent experiments on optogenetic regulation offer insights into the spatiotemporal aspects controlling RAS/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) or phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) pathways. As optogenetic manipulation of cellular signaling in deep brain regions critically requires penetration of light through large distances of absorbing tissue, we discuss magnetic guidance of re-growing axons as a complementary approach. In Parkinson's disease, dopaminergic neuronal cell bodies degenerate in the substantia nigra. Current human trials of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons must take into account the inability of neuronal axons navigating over a large distance from the grafted site into striatal target regions. Grafting dopaminergic precursor neurons directly into the degenerating substantia nigra is discussed as a novel concept aiming to guide axonal growth by activating GTPase signaling through protein-functionalized intracellular magnetic nanoparticles responding to external magnets.
Enhanced intrinsic CYP3A4 activity in human hepatic C3A cells with optically controlled CRISPR/dCas9 activator complex.
Human hepatic C3A cells have been applied in bioartificial liver development, although these cells display low intrinsic cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) enzyme activity. We aimed to enhance CYP3A4 enzyme activity of C3A cells utilizing CRISPR gene editing technology. We designed two CYP3A4 expression enhanced systems applying clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) gene technology: a CRISPR-on activation system including dCas9-VP64-GFP and two U6-sgRNA-mCherry elements, and a light-controlled CRISPR-on activation system combining our CRISPR-on activation system with an optical control system to facilitate regulation of CYP3A4 expression for various applications. Results of enzymatic activity assays displayed increased CYP3A4 activity in C3A cells expressing the CRISPR-on activation system compared with C3A cells. In addition, CYP3A4 activity increased in C3A cells expressing the light-controlled CRISPR-on activation system under blue light radiation compared with C3A cells. Notably, there was no statistical difference in the increase of CYP3A4 protein amounts induced by these two methods. After expansion in culture, C3A cells with the light-controlled CRISPR-on activation system exhibited no statistical difference in CYP3A4 mRNA levels between generations. Our findings provide a method to stably enhance functional gene expression in bioartificial liver cells with the potential for large-scale cell expansion.
Development of a Wireless-Controlled LED Array for the Tunable Optogenetic Control of Cellular Activities.
Prohibitins (PHBs) are a highly conserved class of proteins first discovered as inhibitors of cellular proliferation. Since then PHBs have been found to have a significant role in transcription, nuclear signaling, mitochondrial structural integrity, cell division, and cellular membrane metabolism, placing these proteins among the key regulators of pathologies such as cancer, neuromuscular degeneration, and other metabolic diseases. The human genome encodes two PHB proteins, prohibitin 1 (PHB1) and prohibitin 2 (PHB2), which function not only as a heterodimeric complex, but also independently. While many previous reviews have focused on the better characterized prohibitin, PHB1, this review focuses on PHB2 and new data concerning its cellular functions both in complex with PHB1 and independent of PHB1.
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.
Liquid Nuclear Condensates Mechanically Sense and Restructure the Genome.
Phase transitions involving biomolecular liquids are a
fundamental mechanism underlying intracellular organization.
In the cell nucleus, liquid-liquid phase
separation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs)
is implicated in assembly of the nucleolus, as well
as transcriptional clusters, and other nuclear bodies.
However, it remains unclear whether and how physical
forces associated with nucleation, growth, and
wetting of liquid condensates can directly restructure
chromatin. Here, we use CasDrop, a novel
CRISPR-Cas9-based optogenetic technology, to
show that various IDPs phase separate into liquid
condensates that mechanically exclude chromatin
as they grow and preferentially form in low-density,
largely euchromatic regions. A minimal physical
model explains how this stiffness sensitivity arises
from lower mechanical energy associated with deforming
softer genomic regions. Targeted genomic
loci can nonetheless be mechanically pulled together
through surface tension-driven coalescence. Nuclear
condensates may thus function as mechanoactive
chromatin filters, physically pulling in targeted
genomic loci while pushing out non-targeted regions
of the neighboring genome.
Optogenetic control of morphogenesis goes 3D.
The generation of form in living embryos, a process termed “morphogenesis” from the Greek word lοqφοcέmerg, is one of the most fascinating unsolved problems in biology. In embryonic epithelia, most attention has been paid to events occurring at the apical surface of epithelia, particularly the regulation of actomyosin contractility during morphogenetic change. In a new report, De Renzis and colleagues demonstrate a key role for regulated actomyosin contractility at the basal surface of the epithelium during formation of the first epithelial fold in Drosophila (the “ventral furrow”) (Krueger et al, 2018).
Optogenetic dissection of Rac1 and Cdc42 gradient shaping.
During cell migration, Rho GTPases spontaneously form spatial gradients that define the front and back of cells. At the front, active Cdc42 forms a steep gradient whereas active Rac1 forms a more extended pattern peaking a few microns away. What are the mechanisms shaping these gradients, and what is the functional role of the shape of these gradients? Here we report, using a combination of optogenetics and micropatterning, that Cdc42 and Rac1 gradients are set by spatial patterns of activators and deactivators and not directly by transport mechanisms. Cdc42 simply follows the distribution of Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors, whereas Rac1 shaping requires the activity of a GTPase-Activating Protein, β2-chimaerin, which is sharply localized at the tip of the cell through feedbacks from Cdc42 and Rac1. Functionally, the spatial extent of Rho GTPases gradients governs cell migration, a sharp Cdc42 gradient maximizes directionality while an extended Rac1 gradient controls the speed.
Downregulation of basal myosin-II is required for cell shape changes and tissue invagination.
Tissue invagination drives embryo remodeling and assembly of internal organs during animal development. While the role of actomyosin-mediated apical constriction in initiating inward folding is well established, computational models suggest relaxation of the basal surface as an additional requirement. However, the lack of genetic mutations interfering specifically with basal relaxation has made it difficult to test its requirement during invagination so far. Here we use optogenetics to quantitatively control myosin-II levels at the basal surface of invaginating cells during Drosophila gastrulation. We show that while basal myosin-II is lost progressively during ventral furrow formation, optogenetics allows the maintenance of pre-invagination levels over time. Quantitative imaging demonstrates that optogenetic activation prior to tissue bending slows down cell elongation and blocks invagination. Activation after cell elongation and tissue bending has initiated inhibits cell shortening and folding of the furrow into a tube-like structure. Collectively, these data demonstrate the requirement of myosin-II polarization and basal relaxation throughout the entire invagination process.
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.
Membrane dynamics induced by a PIP3 optogenetic tool.
Membrane dynamic structures such as filopodia, lamellipodia, and ruffles have important cellular functions in phagocytosis and cell motility, and in pathological states such as cancer metastasis. Phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) is a crucial lipid that regulates PIP3 dynamics. Investigations of how PIP3 is involved in these functions have mainly relied on pharmacological interventions, and therefore have not generated detailed spatiotemporal information of membrane dynamics upon PIP3 production. In the present study, we applied an optogenetic approach using the CRY2–CIBN system. Using this system, we revealed that local PIP3 generation induced directional cell motility and membrane ruffles in COS7 cells. Furthermore, combined with structured illumination microscopy (SIM), membrane dynamics were investigated with high spatial resolution. We observed PIP3-induced apical ruffles and unique actin fiber behavior in that a single actin fiber protruded from the plasma membrane was taken up into the plasma membrane without depolymerization. This system has the potential to investigate other high-level cell motility and dynamic behaviors such as cancer cell invasion and wound healing with high spatiotemporal resolution, and could provide new insights of biological sciences for membrane dynamics.
Bringing Light to Transcription: The Optogenetics Repertoire.
The ability to manipulate expression of exogenous genes in particular regions of living organisms has profoundly transformed the way we study biomolecular processes involved in both normal development and disease. Unfortunately, most of the classical inducible systems lack fine spatial and temporal accuracy, thereby limiting the study of molecular events that strongly depend on time, duration of activation, or cellular localization. By exploiting genetically engineered photo sensing proteins that respond to specific wavelengths, we can now provide acute control of numerous molecular activities with unprecedented precision. In this review, we present a comprehensive breakdown of all of the current optogenetic systems adapted to regulate gene expression in both unicellular and multicellular organisms. We focus on the advantages and disadvantages of these different tools and discuss current and future challenges in the successful translation to more complex organisms.
Real-Time Genetic Compensation Defines the Dynamic Demands of Feedback Control.
Biological signaling networks use feedback control to dynamically adjust their operation in real time. Traditional static genetic methods such as gene knockouts or rescue experiments can often identify the existence of feedback interactions but are unable to determine what feedback dynamics are required. Here, we implement a new strategy, closed-loop optogenetic compensation (CLOC), to address this problem. Using a custom-built hardware and software infrastructure, CLOC monitors, in real time, the output of a pathway deleted for a feedback regulator. A minimal model uses these measurements to calculate and deliver-on the fly-an optogenetically enabled transcriptional input designed to compensate for the effects of the feedback deletion. Application of CLOC to the yeast pheromone response pathway revealed surprisingly distinct dynamic requirements for three well-studied feedback regulators. CLOC, a marriage of control theory and traditional genetics, presents a broadly applicable methodology for defining the dynamic function of biological feedback regulators.
RalB directly triggers invasion downstream Ras by mobilizing the Wave complex.
The two Ral GTPases, RalA and RalB, have crucial roles downstream Ras oncoproteins in human cancers; in particular, RalB is involved in invasion and metastasis. However, therapies targeting Ral signalling are not available yet. By a novel optogenetic approach, we found that light-controlled activation of Ral at plasma-membrane promotes the recruitment of the Wave Regulatory Complex (WRC) via its effector exocyst, with consequent induction of protrusions and invasion. We show that active Ras signals to RalB via two RalGEFs (Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors), RGL1 and RGL2, to foster invasiveness; RalB contribution appears to be more important than that of MAPK and PI3K pathways. Moreover, on the clinical side, we uncovered a potential role of RalB in human breast cancers by determining that RalB expression at protein level increases in a manner consistent with progression toward metastasis. This work highlights the Ras-RGL1/2-RalB-exocyst-WRC axis as appealing target for novel anti-cancer strategies.
Light Control of the Tet Gene Expression System in Mammalian Cells.
Gene expression and its network structure are dynamically altered in multicellular systems during morphological, functional, and pathological changes. To precisely analyze the functional roles of dynamic gene expression changes, tools that manipulate gene expression at fine spatiotemporal resolution are needed. The tetracycline (Tet)-controlled gene expression system is a reliable drug-inducible method, and it is used widely in many mammalian cultured cells and model organisms. Here, we develop a photoactivatable (PA)-Tet-OFF/ON system for precise temporal control of gene expression at single-cell resolution. By integrating the cryptochrome 2-cryptochrome-interacting basic helix-loop-helix 1 (Cry2-CIB1) light-inducible binding switch, expression of the gene of interest is tightly regulated under the control of light illumination and drug application in our PA-Tet-OFF/ON system. This system has a large dynamic range of downstream gene expression and rapid activation/deactivation kinetics. We also demonstrate the optogenetic regulation of exogenous gene expression in vivo, such as in developing and adult mouse brains.
Optogenetic Medicine: Synthetic Therapeutic Solutions Precision-Guided by Light.
Gene- and cell-based therapies are well recognized as central pillars of next-generation medicine, but controllability remains a critical issue for clinical applications. In this context, optogenetics is opening up exciting new opportunities for precision-guided medicine by using illumination with light of appropriate intensity and wavelength as a trigger signal to achieve pinpoint spatiotemporal control of cellular activities, such as transgene expression. In this review, we highlight recent advances in optogenetics, focusing on devices for biomedical applications. We introduce the construction and applications of optogenetic-based biomedical tools to treat neurological diseases, diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer, as well as bioelectronic implants that combine light-interfaced electronic devices and optogenetic systems into portable personalized precision bioelectronic medical tools. Optogenetics-based technology promises the capability to achieve traceless, remotely controlled precision dosing of an enormous range of therapeutic outputs. Finally, we discuss the prospects for optogenetic medicine, as well as some emerging challenges.
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.
Optogenetic control of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer cells.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is one of the most important mechanisms in the initiation and promotion of cancer cell metastasis. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway has been demonstrated to be involved in TGF-β induced EMT, but the complicated TGF-β signaling network makes it challenging to dissect the important role of PI3K on regulation of EMT process. Here, we applied optogenetic controlled PI3K module (named 'Opto-PI3K'), which based on CRY2 and the N-terminal of CIB1 (CIBN), to rapidly and reversibly control the endogenous PI3K activity in cancer cells with light. By precisely modulating the kinetics of PI3K activation, we found that E-cadherin is an important downstream target of PI3K signaling. Compared with TGF-β treatment, Opto-PI3K had more potent effect in down-regulation of E-cadherin expression, which was demonstrated to be regulated in a light dose-dependent manner. Surprisingly, sustained PI3K activation induced partial EMT state in A549 cells that is highly reversible. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Opto-PI3K only partially mimicked TGF-β effects on promotion of cell migration in vitro. These results reveal the importance of PI3K signaling in TGF-β induced EMT, suggesting other TGF-β regulated signaling pathways are necessary for the full and irreversible promotion of EMT in cancer cells. In addition, our study implicates the great promise of optogenetics in cancer research for mapping input-output relationships in oncogenic pathways.
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.
A Single-Component Optogenetic System Allows Stringent Switch of Gene Expression in Yeast Cells.
Light is a highly attractive actuator that allows spatiotemporal control of diverse cellular activities. In this study, we developed a single-component light-switchable gene expression system for yeast cells, termed yLightOn system. The yLightOn system is independent of exogenous cofactors, and exhibits more than a 500-fold ON/OFF ratio, extremely low leakage, fast expression kinetics, and high spatial resolution. We demonstrated the usefulness of the yLightOn system in regulating cell growth and cell cycle by stringently controlling the expression of His3 and ΔN Sic1 genes, respectively. Furthermore, we engineered a bidirectional expression module that allows the simultaneous control of the expression of two genes by light. With ClpX and ClpP as the reporters, the fast, quantitative, and spatially specific degradation of ssrA-tagged protein was observed. We suggest that this single-component optogenetic system will be immensely helpful in understanding cellular gene regulatory networks and in the design of robust genetic circuits for synthetic biology.
CRAC channel-based optogenetics.
Store-operated Ca²+ entry (SOCE) constitutes a major Ca2+ influx pathway in mammals to regulate a myriad of physiological processes, including muscle contraction, synaptic transmission, gene expression, and metabolism. In non-excitable cells, the Ca²+ release-activated Ca²+ (CRAC) channel, composed of ORAI and stromal interaction molecules (STIM), constitutes a prototypical example of SOCE to mediate Ca2+ entry at specialized membrane contact sites (MCSs) between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane (PM). The key steps of SOCE activation include the oligomerization of the luminal domain of the ER-resident Ca2+ sensor STIM1 upon Ca²+ store depletion, subsequent signal propagation toward the cytoplasmic domain to trigger a conformational switch and overcome the intramolecular autoinhibition, and ultimate exposure of the minimal ORAI-activating domain to directly engage and gate ORAI channels in the plasma membrane. This exquisitely coordinated cellular event is also facilitated by the C-terminal polybasic domain of STIM1, which physically associates with negatively charged phosphoinositides embedded in the inner leaflet of the PM to enable efficient translocation of STIM1 into ER-PM MCSs. Here, we present recent progress in recapitulating STIM1-mediated SOCE activation by engineering CRAC channels with optogenetic approaches. These STIM1-based optogenetic tools make it possible to not only mechanistically recapture the key molecular steps of SOCE activation, but also remotely and reversibly control Ca²+-dependent cellular processes, inter-organellar tethering at MCSs, and transcriptional reprogramming when combined with CRISPR/Cas9-based genome-editing tools.
Synergistic Ensemble of Optogenetic Actuators and Dynamic Indicators in Cell Biology.
Discovery of the naturally evolved fluorescent proteins and their genetically engineered biosensors have enormously contributed to current bio-imaging techniques. These reporters to trace dynamic changes of intracellular protein activities have continuously transformed according to the various demands in biological studies. Along with that, light-inducible optogenetic technologies have offered scientists to perturb, control and analyze the function of intracellular machineries in spatiotemporal manner. In this review, we present an overview of the molecular strategies that have been exploited for producing genetically encoded protein reporters and various optogenetic modules. Finally, in particular, we discuss the current efforts for combined use of these reporters and optogenetic modules as a powerful tactic for the control and imaging of signaling events in cells and tissues.
Spatiotemporal control of zebrafish (Danio rerio) gene expression using a light-activated CRISPR activation system.
CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) system is the convenient tool for targeted-gene activation, it has been developed and combined with a lighting-based system that can control transcription initiation spatially and temporally by utilizing photoreceptor derived from plant Arabidopsis thaliana. A blue light photoreceptor the Cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), and its binding partner CIB1 will dimerize by exposure to the blue light and it has been applied to human cells. However, the application of a combination of these two systems to zebrafish cell is still not explored. We performed zebrafish gene activation using p65 and VP64 activators in the zebrafish cells (ZF4). Our study demonstrated that we have successfully controlled the transcription level of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes using blue light-activated CRISPR activation system. The result showed that using this system, mRNA level expression of ASCL1a, BCL6a, and HSP70 genes increased after irradiated under blue light for several hours and significantly different to those which treated in the dark.
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.