Showing 1 - 25 of 632 results
Focal adhesion-derived liquid-liquid phase separations regulate mRNA translation.
Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) has emerged as a major organizing principle in cells.
Recent work showed that multiple components of integrin-mediated focal adhesions including
p130Cas can form LLPS, which govern adhesion dynamics and related cell behaviors. In this
study, we found that the focal adhesion protein p130Cas drives formation of structures with the
characteristics of LLPS that bud from focal adhesions into the cytoplasm. Condensing
concentrated cytoplasm around p130Cas-coated beads allowed their isolation, which were
enriched in a subset of focal adhesion proteins, mRNAs and RNA binding proteins, including
those implicated in inhibiting mRNA translation. Plating cells on very high concentrations of
fibronectin to induce large focal adhesions inhibited message translation which required
p130Cas and correlated with droplet formation. Photo-induction of p130Cas condensates using
the Cry2 system also reduced translation. These results identify a novel regulatory mechanism
in which high adhesion limits message translation via induction of p130Cas-dependent
cytoplasmic LLPS. This mechanism may contribute to the quiescent state of very strongly
adhesive myofibroblasts and senescent cells.
Optogenetic-mediated induction and monitoring of α-synuclein aggregation in cellular models of Parkinson's disease.
Studying Parkinson's disease (PD) is complex due to a lack of cellular models mimicking key aspects of protein pathology. Here, we present a protocol for inducing and monitoring α-synuclein aggregation in living cells using optogenetics. We describe steps for plasmid transduction, biochemical validation, immunocytochemistry, and live-cell confocal imaging. These induced aggregates fulfill the cardinal features of authentic protein inclusions observed in PD-diseased brains and offer a tool to study the role of protein aggregation in neurodegeneration. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Bérard et al.1.
A single-component, light-assisted uncaging switch for endoproteolytic release.
Proteases function as pivotal molecular switches, initiating numerous biological events. Notably, potyviral protease, derived from plant viruses, has emerged as a trusted proteolytic switch in synthetic biological circuits. To harness their capabilities, we have developed a single-component photocleavable switch, termed LAUNCHER (Light-Assisted UNcaging switCH for Endoproteolytic Release), by employing a circularly permutated tobacco etch virus protease and a blue-light-gated substrate, which are connected by fine-tuned intermodular linkers. As a single-component system, LAUNCHER exhibits a superior signal-to-noise ratio compared with multi-component systems, enabling precise and user-controllable release of payloads. This characteristic renders LAUNCHER highly suitable for diverse cellular applications, including transgene expression, tailored subcellular translocation and optochemogenetics. Additionally, the plug-and-play integration of LAUNCHER into existing synthetic circuits facilitates the enhancement of circuit performance. The demonstrated efficacy of LAUNCHER in improving existing circuitry underscores its significant potential for expanding its utilization in various applications.
Prior Fc Receptor activation primes macrophages for increased sensitivity to IgG via long term and short term mechanisms.
Macrophages measure the ‘eat-me’ signal IgG to identify targets for phagocytosis. We wondered if prior encounters with IgG influence macrophage appetite. IgG is recognized by the Fc Receptor. To temporally control Fc Receptor activation, we engineered an Fc Receptor that is activated by light-induced oligomerization of Cry2, triggering phagocytosis. Using this tool, we demonstrate that Fc Receptor activation primes macrophages to be more sensitive to IgG in future encounters. Macrophages that have previously experienced Fc Receptor activation eat more IgG-bound cancer cells. Increased phagocytosis occurs by two discrete mechanisms – a short- and long-term priming. Long term priming requires new protein synthesis and Erk activity. Short term priming does not require new protein synthesis and correlates with an increase in Fc Receptor mobility. Our work demonstrates that IgG primes macrophages for increased phagocytosis, suggesting that therapeutic antibodies may become more effective after 30 initial priming doses.
Emerging optogenetics technologies in biomedical applications.
Optogenetics is a cutting-edge technology that merges light control and genetics to achieve targeted control of tissue cells. Compared to traditional methods, optogenetics offers several advantages in terms of time and space precision, accuracy, and reduced damage to the research object. Currently, optogenetics is primarily used in pathway research, drug screening, gene expression regulation, and the stimulation of molecule release to treat various diseases. The selection of light-sensitive proteins is the most crucial aspect of optogenetic technology; structural changes occur or downstream channels are activated to achieve signal transmission or factor release, allowing efficient and controllable disease treatment. In this review, we examine the extensive research conducted in the field of biomedicine concerning optogenetics, including the selection of light-sensitive proteins, the study of carriers and delivery devices, and the application of disease treatment. Additionally, we offer critical insights and future implications of optogenetics in the realm of clinical medicine.
A programmable protease-based protein secretion platform for therapeutic applications.
Cell-based therapies represent potent enabling technologies in biomedical science. However, current genetic control systems for engineered-cell therapies are predominantly based on the transcription or translation of therapeutic outputs. Here we report a protease-based rapid protein secretion system (PASS) that regulates the secretion of pretranslated proteins retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) owing to an ER-retrieval signal. Upon cleavage by inducible proteases, these proteins are secreted. Three PASS variants (chemPASS, antigenPASS and optoPASS) are developed. With chemPASS, we demonstrate the reversal of hyperglycemia in diabetic mice within minutes via drug-induced insulin secretion. AntigenPASS-equipped cells recognize the tumor antigen and secrete granzyme B and perforin, inducing targeted cell apoptosis. Finally, results from mouse models of diabetes, hypertension and inflammatory pain demonstrate light-induced, optoPASS-mediated therapeutic peptide secretion within minutes, conferring anticipated therapeutic benefits. PASS is a flexible platform for rapid delivery of therapeutic proteins that can facilitate the development and adoption of cell-based precision therapies.
Optogenetic STING clustering system through nanobody-fused photoreceptor for innate immune regulation.
Stimulator of interferon gene (STING) serves as a key mediator for regulating innate immune response. Despite the dynamic process of STING activation, the role of STING clustering in the STING-mediated immune response remains unclear due to the lack of a suitable tool. We developed an innovative optogenetic STING clustering system, OptoSTING, that employs a nanobody-fused photoreceptor-driven technique to achieve light-responsive STING clustering. By optimizing the protein configuration, we identified an optimal OptoSTING system that induced efficient, robust, and reversible clustering of STING upon blue-light illumination. We confirmed that light-induced STING clustering required ER exit to trigger the stimulation of type I interferon response because only cytosolic fragment of OptoSTING (cyt-OptoSTING) enabled to initiate immune response, not full-length OptoSTING. The precise and temporally controlled clustering by cyt-OptoSTING revealed that STING clustering facilitated the STING signaling pathway through puncta formation of IRF3 as downstream effector protein.
Direct investigation of cell contraction signal networks by light-based perturbation methods.
Cell contraction plays an important role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. This includes functions in skeletal, heart, and smooth muscle cells, which lead to highly coordinated contractions of multicellular assemblies, and functions in non-muscle cells, which are often highly localized in subcellular regions and transient in time. While the regulatory processes that control cell contraction in muscle cells are well understood, much less is known about cell contraction in non-muscle cells. In this review, we focus on the mechanisms that control cell contraction in space and time in non-muscle cells, and how they can be investigated by light-based methods. The review particularly focusses on signal networks and cytoskeletal components that together control subcellular contraction patterns to perform functions on the level of cells and tissues, such as directional migration and multicellular rearrangements during development. Key features of light-based methods that enable highly local and fast perturbations are highlighted, and how experimental strategies can capitalize on these features to uncover causal relationships in the complex signal networks that control cell contraction.
AAV-compatible optogenetic tools for activating endogenous calcium channels in vivo.
Calcium ions (Ca2+) play pivotal roles in regulating diverse brain functions, including cognition, emotion, locomotion, and learning and memory. These functions are intricately regulated by a variety of Ca2+-dependent cellular processes, encompassing synaptic plasticity, neuro/gliotransmitter release, and gene expression. In our previous work, we developed 'monster OptoSTIM1' (monSTIM1), an improved OptoSTIM1 that selectively activates Ca2+-release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels in the plasma membrane through blue light, allowing precise control over intracellular Ca2+ signaling and specific brain functions. However, the large size of the coding sequence of monSTIM1 poses a limitation for its widespread use, as it exceeds the packaging capacity of adeno-associated virus (AAV). To address this constraint, we have introduced monSTIM1 variants with reduced coding sequence sizes and established AAV-based systems for expressing them in neurons and glial cells in the mouse brain. Upon expression by AAVs, these monSTIM1 variants significantly increased the expression levels of cFos in neurons and astrocytes in the hippocampal CA1 region following non-invasive light illumination. The use of monSTIM1 variants offers a promising avenue for investigating the spatiotemporal roles of Ca2+-mediated cellular activities in various brain functions. Furthermore, this toolkit holds potential as a therapeutic strategy for addressing brain disorders associated with aberrant Ca2+ signaling.
Engineering Material Properties of Transcription Factor Condensates to Control Gene Expression in Mammalian Cells and Mice.
Phase separation of biomolecules into condensates is a key mechanism in the spatiotemporal organization of biochemical processes in cells. However, the impact of the material properties of biomolecular condensates on important processes, such as the control of gene expression, remains largely elusive. Here, we systematically tune the material properties of optogenetically induced transcription factor condensates and probe their impact on the activation of target promoters. We demonstrate that rather liquid condensates correlate with increased gene expression levels, whereas a gradual transition to more stiff condensates converts otherwise activating transcription factors into dominant negative inhibitors. We demonstrate the general nature of these findings in mammalian cells and mice, as well as by using different synthetic and natural transcription factors. We observe these effects for both transgenic and cell-endogenous promoters. Our findings provide a novel materials-based layer in the control of gene expression, which opens novel opportunities in (opto-)genetic engineering and synthetic biology.
Optogenetics in Alzheimer's Disease: Focus on Astrocytes.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, resulting in disability and mortality. The global incidence of AD is consistently surging. Although numerous therapeutic agents with promising potential have been developed, none have successfully treated AD to date. Consequently, the pursuit of novel methodologies to address neurodegenerative processes in AD remains a paramount endeavor. A particularly promising avenue in this search is optogenetics, enabling the manipulation of neuronal activity. In recent years, research attention has pivoted from neurons to glial cells. This review aims to consider the potential of the optogenetic correction of astrocyte metabolism as a promising strategy for correcting AD-related disorders. The initial segment of the review centers on the role of astrocytes in the genesis of neurodegeneration. Astrocytes have been implicated in several pathological processes associated with AD, encompassing the clearance of β-amyloid, neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, and lipid metabolism (along with a critical role in apolipoprotein E function). The effect of astrocyte-neuronal interactions will also be scrutinized. Furthermore, the review delves into a number of studies indicating that changes in cellular calcium (Ca2+) signaling are one of the causes of neurodegeneration. The review's latter section presents insights into the application of various optogenetic tools to manipulate astrocytic function as a means to counteract neurodegenerative changes.
Visual quantification of prostaglandin E2 discharge from a single cell.
Calcium transients drive cells to discharge prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). We visualized PGE2-induced protein kinase A (PKA) activation and quantitated PGE2 secreted from a single cell by combining fluorescence microscopy and a simulation model. For this purpose, we first prepared PGE2-producer cells that express either an optogenetic or a chemogenetic calcium channel stimulator: OptoSTIM1 or Gq-DREADD, respectively. Second, we prepared reporter cells expressing the Gs-coupled PGE2 reporter EP2 and the PKA biosensor Booster-PKA, which is based on the principle of Förster resonance energy transfer. Upon the stimulation-induced triggering of calcium transients, a single producer cell discharges PGE2 to stimulate PKA in the surrounding reporter cells. Due to the flow of the medium, the PKA-activated area exhibited a comet-like smear when HeLa cells were used. In contrast, radial PKA activation was observed when confluent MDCK cells were used, indicating that PGE2 diffusion was restricted to the basolateral space. By fitting the radius of the PKA-activated area to a simulation model based on simple diffusion, we estimated that a single HeLa cell secretes 0.25 fmol PGE2 upon a single calcium transient to activate PKA in more than 1000 neighboring cells. This model also predicts that the PGE2 discharge rate is comparable to the diffusion rate. Thus, our method quantitatively envisions that a single calcium transient affects more than 1000 neighboring cells via PGE2.Keywords: prostaglandin E2, imaging, intercellular communication, biosensor, quantification.
OptoProfilin: A Single Component Biosensor of Applied Cellular Stress.
The actin cytoskeleton is a biosensor of cellular stress and a potential prognosticator of human disease. In particular, aberrant cytoskeletal structures such as cofilin-actin rods and stress granules formed in response to energetic and oxidative stress are closely linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Whether these cytoskeletal phenomena can be harnessed for the development of biosensors for cytoskeletal dysfunction and, by extension, neurodegenerative disease progression, remains an open question. In this work, we describe the design and development of an optogenetic iteration of profilin, an actin monomer binding protein with critical functions in cytoskeletal dynamics. We demonstrate that this optically activated profilin (‘OptoProfilin’) can act as an optically triggered biosensor of applied cellular stress in select immortalized cell lines. Notably, OptoProfilin is a single component biosensor, likely increasing its utility for experimentalists. While a large body of work closely links profilin activity with cellular stress and neurodegenerative disease, this, to our knowledge, is the first example of profilin as an optogenetic biosensor of stress-induced changes in the cytoskeleton.
Light-induced trapping of endogenous proteins reveals spatiotemporal roles of microtubule and kinesin-1 in dendrite patterning of Drosophila sensory neurons.
Animal development involves numerous molecular events, whose spatiotemporal properties largely determine the biological outcomes. Conventional methods for studying gene function lack the necessary spatiotemporal resolution for precise dissection of developmental mechanisms. Optogenetic approaches are powerful alternatives, but most existing tools rely on exogenous designer proteins that produce narrow outputs and cannot be applied to diverse or endogenous proteins. To address this limitation, we developed OptoTrap, a light-inducible protein trapping system that allows manipulation of endogenous proteins tagged with GFP or split GFP. This system turns on fast and is reversible in minutes or hours. We generated OptoTrap variants optimized for neurons and epithelial cells and demonstrate effective trapping of endogenous proteins of diverse sizes, subcellular locations, and functions. Furthermore, OptoTrap allowed us to instantly disrupt microtubules and inhibit the kinesin-1 motor in specific dendritic branches of Drosophila sensory neurons. Using OptoTrap, we obtained direct evidence that microtubules support the growth of highly dynamic dendrites. Similarly, targeted manipulation of Kinesin heavy chain revealed differential spatiotemporal requirements of kinesin-1 in the patterning of low- and high-order dendritic branches, suggesting that different cargos are needed for the growth of these branches. OptoTrap allows for precise manipulation of endogenous proteins in a spatiotemporal manner and thus holds great promise for studying developmental mechanisms in a wide range of cell types and developmental stages.
Current Trends of Bacterial and Fungal Optoproteins for Novel Optical Applications.
Photoproteins, luminescent proteins or optoproteins are a kind of light-response protein responsible for the conversion of light into biochemical energy that is used by some bacteria or fungi to regulate specific biological processes. Within these specific proteins, there are groups such as the photoreceptors that respond to a given light wavelength and generate reactions susceptible to being used for the development of high-novel applications, such as the optocontrol of metabolic pathways. Photoswitchable proteins play important roles during the development of new materials due to their capacity to change their conformational structure by providing/eliminating a specific light stimulus. Additionally, there are bioluminescent proteins that produce light during a heatless chemical reaction and are useful to be employed as biomarkers in several fields such as imaging, cell biology, disease tracking and pollutant detection. The classification of these optoproteins from bacteria and fungi as photoreceptors or photoresponse elements according to the excitation-emission spectrum (UV-Vis-IR), as well as their potential use in novel applications, is addressed in this article by providing a structured scheme for this broad area of knowledge.
Spatiotemporal, optogenetic control of gene expression in organoids.
Organoids derived from stem cells have become an increasingly important tool for studying human development and modeling disease. However, methods are still needed to control and study spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression in organoids. Here we combined optogenetics and gene perturbation technologies to activate or knock-down RNA of target genes in programmable spatiotemporal patterns. To illustrate the usefulness of our approach, we locally activated Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling in an organoid model for human neurodevelopment. Spatial and single-cell transcriptomic analyses showed that this local induction was sufficient to generate stereotypically patterned organoids and revealed new insights into SHH's contribution to gene regulation in neurodevelopment. With this study, we propose optogenetic perturbations in combination with spatial transcriptomics as a powerful technology to reprogram and study cell fates and tissue patterning in organoids.
Rapid optogenetic clustering of a cytoplasmic BcLOV4 variant.
Protein clustering is a powerful form of optogenetic control, yet there is currently only one protein, Cry2, whose light-induced clustering has been harnessed for these purposes. Recently, the photoreceptor BcLOV4 was found to form protein clusters in mammalian cells in response to blue light, although clustering coincided with its translocation to the plasma membrane, potentially constraining its application as an optogenetic clustering module. Herein we identify key amino acids that couple clustering to membrane binding, allowing us to engineer a variant of BcLOV4 that clusters in the cytoplasm and does not associate with the membrane in response to blue light. This variant, BcLOVclust, clustered over many cycles with dramatically faster clustering and de-clustering kinetics compared to Cry2. The magnitude of BcLOVclust clustering could be strengthened by appending an intrinsically disordered region from the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein, or by optimizing the fluorescent protein to which it was fused. BcLOVclust retained the temperature sensitivity of BcLOV4 such that light induced clustering was transient, and the rate of spontaneous declustering increased with temperature. At low temperatures, BcLOVclust and Cry2 could be multiplexed in the same cells, allowing light control of independent protein condensates. BcLOVclust could also be applied to control signaling proteins and stress granules in mammalian cells. Thus BcLOVclust provides an alternative to Cry2 for optogenetic clustering and a method for multiplexed clustering. While its usage is currently suited for organisms that can be cultured below ~30 C, a deeper understanding of BcLOVclust thermal response will further enable its use at physiological mammalian temperatures.
Photoactivatable base editors for spatiotemporally controlled genome editing in vivo.
CRISPR-based base editors (BEs) are powerful tools for precise nucleotide substitution in a wide range of organisms, but spatiotemporal control of base editing remains a daunting challenge. Herein, we develop a photoactivatable base editor (Mag-ABE) for spatiotemporally controlled genome editing in vivo for the first time. The base editing activity of Mag-ABE can be activated by blue light for spatiotemporal regulation of both EGFP reporter gene and various endogenous genes editing. Meanwhile, the Mag-ABE prefers to edit A4 and A5 positions rather than to edit A6 position, showing the potential to decrease bystander editing of traditional adenine base editors. After integration with upconversion nanoparticles as a light transducer, the Mag-ABE is further applied for near-infrared (NIR) light-activated base editing of liver in transgenic reporter mice successfully. This study opens a promising way to improve the operability, safety, and precision of base editing.
Diya – a universal light illumination platform for multiwell plate cultures.
Recent progress in protein engineering has established optogenetics as one of the leading external non-invasive stimulation strategies, with many optogenetic tools being designed for in vivo operation. Characterization and optimization of these tools require a high-throughput and versatile light delivery system targeting micro-titer culture volumes. Here, we present a universal light illumination platform – Diya, compatible with a wide range of cell culture plates and dishes. Diya hosts specially-designed features ensuring active thermal management, homogeneous illumination, and minimal light bleedthrough. It offers light induction programming via a user-friendly custom-designed GUI. Through extensive characterization experiments with multiple optogenetic tools in diverse model organisms (bacteria, yeast and human cell lines), we show that Diya maintains viable conditions for cell cultures undergoing light induction. Finally, we demonstrate an optogenetic strategy for in vivo biomolecular controller operation. With a custom-designed antithetic integral feedback circuit, we exhibit robust perfect adaptation and light-controlled set-point variation using Diya.
Quantitative insights in tissue growth and morphogenesis with optogenetics.
Cells communicate with each other to jointly regulate cellular processes during cellular differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. This multiscale coordination arises through spatiotemporal activity of morphogens to pattern cell signaling and transcriptional factor activity. This coded information controls cell mechanics, proliferation, and differentiation to shape the growth and morphogenesis of organs. While many of the molecular components and physical interactions have been identified in key model developmental systems, there are still many unresolved questions related to the dynamics involved due to challenges in precisely perturbing and quantitatively measuring signaling dynamics. Recently, a broad range of synthetic optogenetic tools have been developed and employed to quantitatively define relationships between signal transduction and downstream cellular responses. These optogenetic tools can control intracellular activities at the single cell or whole tissue scale to direct subsequent biological processes. In this brief review, we highlight a selected set of studies that develop and implement optogenetic tools to unravel quantitative biophysical mechanisms for tissue growth and morphogenesis across a broad range of biological systems through the manipulation of morphogens, signal transduction cascades, and cell mechanics. More generally, we discuss how optogenetic tools have emerged as a powerful platform for probing and controlling multicellular development.
Optogenetic engineering of STING signaling allows remote immunomodulation to enhance cancer immunotherapy.
The cGAS-STING signaling pathway has emerged as a promising target for immunotherapy development. Here, we introduce a light-sensitive optogenetic device for control of the cGAS/STING signaling to conditionally modulate innate immunity, called 'light-inducible SMOC-like repeats' (LiSmore). We demonstrate that photo-activated LiSmore boosts dendritic cell (DC) maturation and antigen presentation with high spatiotemporal precision. This non-invasive approach photo-sensitizes cytotoxic T lymphocytes to engage tumor antigens, leading to a sustained antitumor immune response. When combined with an immune checkpoint blocker (ICB), LiSmore improves antitumor efficacy in an immunosuppressive lung cancer model that is otherwise unresponsive to conventional ICB treatment. Additionally, LiSmore exhibits an abscopal effect by effectively suppressing tumor growth in a distal site in a bilateral mouse model of melanoma. Collectively, our findings establish the potential of targeted optogenetic activation of the STING signaling pathway for remote immunomodulation in mice.
Cell Cycle Control by Optogenetically Regulated Cell Cycle Inhibitor Protein p21.
The progression through the cell cycle phases is driven by cyclin-dependent kinases and cyclins as their regulatory subunits. As nuclear protein, the cell cycle inhibitor p21/CDKN1A arrests the cell cycle at the growth phase G1 by inhibiting the activity of cyclin-dependent kinases. The G1 phase correlates with increased cell size and cellular productivity. Here, we applied an optogenetic approach to control the subcellular localization of p21 and its nuclear functions. To generate light-controllable p21, appropriate fusions with the blue light switch cryptochrome 2/CIBN and the AsLOV-based light-inducible nuclear localization signal, LINuS, were used. Both systems, p21-CRY2/CIB1 and p21-LINuS, increased the amounts of cells arrested in the G1 phase correlating with the increased cell-specific productivity of the reporter-protein-secreted alkaline phosphatase. Varying the intervals of blue LED light exposure and the light dose enable the fine-tuning of the systems. Light-controllable p21 implemented in producer cell lines could be applied to steer the uncoupling of cell proliferation and cell cycle arrest at the G1 phase optimizing the production of biotherapeutic proteins.
An optogenetic approach to control and monitor inflammasome activation.
Inflammasomes are multiprotein platforms which control caspase-1 activation, leading to the processing of proinflammatory cytokines into mature and active cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, and to pyroptosis through the cleavage of gasdermin-D (GSDMD). Inflammasomes assemble upon activation of specific cytosolic pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) by damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) or pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). They converge to the nucleation of apoptosis-associated speck-like containing a caspase activation and recruitment domain (ASC) to form hetero-oligomers with caspase-1. Studying inflammasome encoding activities remains challenging because PAMPs and DAMPs are sensed by a large diversity of cytosolic and membranous PRRs. To bypass the different signals required to activate the inflammasome, we designed an optogenetic approach to temporally and quantitatively manipulate ASC assembly (i.e. in a PAMP- or DAMP-independent manner). We reveal that controlling light-sensitive oligomerization of ASC is sufficient to recapitulate the classical features of inflammasomes within minutes, and enabled us to decipher the complexity of volume regulation and pore opening during pyroptosis. Overall, this approach offers interesting perspective to decipher PRR signaling pathways in the field of innate immunity.
Selective induction of programmed cell death using synthetic biology tools.
Regulated cell death (RCD) controls the removal of dispensable, infected or malignant cells, and is thus essential for development, homeostasis and immunity of multicellular organisms. Over the last years different forms of RCD have been described (among them apoptosis, necroptosis, pyroptosis and ferroptosis), and the cellular signaling pathways that control their induction and execution have been characterized at the molecular level. It has also become apparent that different forms of RCD differ in their capacity to elicit inflammation or an immune response, and that RCD pathways show a remarkable plasticity. Biochemical and genetic studies revealed that inhibition of a given pathway often results in the activation of back-up cell death mechanisms, highlighting close interconnectivity based on shared signaling components and the assembly of multivalent signaling platforms that can initiate different forms of RCD. Due to this interconnectivity and the pleiotropic effects of 'classical' cell death inducers, it is challenging to study RCD pathways in isolation. This has led to the development of tools based on synthetic biology that allow the targeted induction of RCD using chemogenetic or optogenetic methods. Here we discuss recent advances in the development of such toolset, highlighting their advantages and limitations, and their application for the study of RCD in cells and animals.
Spatiotemporal optical control of Gαq-PLCβ interactions.
Cells experience time-varying and spatially heterogeneous chemokine signals in vivo, activating cell surface proteins, including G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The Gαq pathway activation by GPCRs is a major signaling axis with a broad physiological and pathological significance. Compared to other Gα members, GαqGTP activates many crucial effectors, including PLCβ (Phospholipase Cβ) and Rho GEFs (Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factors). PLCβ regulates many key processes, such as hematopoiesis, synaptogenesis, and cell cycle, and is therefore implicated in terminal - debilitating diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, Huntington’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. However, due to a lack of genetic and pharmacological tools, examining how the dynamic regulation of PLCβ signaling controls cellular physiology has been difficult. Since activated PLCβ induces several abrupt cellular changes, including cell morphology, examining how the other pathways downstream of Gq-GPCRs contribute to the overall signaling has also been difficult. Here we show the engineering, validation, and application of a highly selective and efficient optogenetic inhibitor (Opto-dHTH) to completely disrupt GαqGTP-PLCβ interactions reversibly in user-defined cellular-subcellular regions on optical command. Using this newly gained PLCβ signaling control, our data indicate that the molecular competition between RhoGEFs and PLCβ for GαqGTP determines the potency of Gq-GPCR-governed directional cell migration.