Showing 1 - 25 of 31 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.
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.
Cyanobacteriochrome-based photoswitchable adenylyl cyclases (cPACs) for broad spectrum light regulation of cAMP levels in cells.
Class III adenylyl cyclases generate the ubiquitous second messenger cAMP from ATP often in response to environmental or cellular cues. During evolution, soluble adenylyl-cyclase catalytic domains have been repeatedly juxtaposed with signal-input domains to place cAMP synthesis under the control of a wide variety of these environmental and endogenous signals. Adenylyl cyclases with light-sensing domains have proliferated in photosynthetic species depending on light as an energy source, yet are also widespread in non-photosynthetic species. Among such naturally occurring light sensors, several flavin-based photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) have been adopted as optogenetic tools to manipulate cellular processes with blue light. In this report, we report the discovery of a cyanobacteriochrome-based photoswitchable adenylyl cyclase (cPAC) from the cyanobacterium Microcoleussp. PCC 7113. Unlike flavin-dependent PACs, which must thermally decay to be deactivated, cPAC exhibited a bistable photocycle whose adenylyl cyclase could be reversibly activated and inactivated by blue and green light, respectively. Through domain exchange experiments, we also document the ability to extend the wavelength-sensing specificity of cPAC into the near IR. In summary, our work has uncovered a cyanobacteriochrome-based adenylyl cyclase that holds great potential for design of bistable photoswitchable adenylyl cyclases to fine-tune cAMP-regulated processes in cells. tissues, and whole organisms with light across the visible spectrum and into near IR.
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.
Repurposing Synechocystis PCC6803 UirS-UirR as a UV-Violet/Green Photoreversible Transcriptional Regulatory Tool in E. coli.
We have previously engineered green/red and red/far red photoreversible E. coli phytochrome and cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) two-component systems (TCSs) and utilized them to program tailor-made gene expression signals for gene circuit characterization. Here, we transport the UV-violet/green photoreversible CBCR TCS UirS-UirR from Synechocystis PCC6803 to E. coli. We demonstrate that the promoter of the small RNA csiR1, previously shown to be activated by inorganic carbon stress, is a UirS-UirR output. Additionally, in contrast to a recently proposed sequestration model, we show that the sensor histidine kinase UirS phosphorylates the response regulator UirR to activate PcsiR1 transcription in response to UV-violet light. Finally, we measure changes in UirS-UirR output minutes after a change in light input and exploit these rapid dynamics to program a challenging gene expression signal with high predictability. UirS-UirR is the first engineered transcriptional regulatory tool activated exclusively by UV-violet light, and the most blue shifted photoreversible transcriptional regulatory tool.
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.
Engineering of a green-light inducible gene expression system in Synechocystis sp. PCC6803.
In order to construct a green-light-regulated gene expression system for cyanobacteria, we characterized a green-light sensing system derived from Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, consisting of the green-light sensing histidine kinase CcaS, the cognate response regulator CcaR, and the promoter of cpcG2 (PcpcG 2 ). CcaS and CcaR act as a genetic controller and activate gene expression from PcpcG 2 with green-light illumination. The green-light induction level of the native PcpcG 2 was investigated using GFPuv as a reporter gene inserted in a broad-host-range vector. A clear induction of protein expression from native PcpcG 2 under green-light illumination was observed; however, the expression level was very low compared with Ptrc , which was reported to act as a constitutive promoter in cyanobacteria. Therefore, a Shine-Dalgarno-like sequence derived from the cpcB gene was inserted in the 5' untranslated region of the cpcG2 gene, and the expression level of CcaR was increased. Thus, constructed engineered green-light sensing system resulted in about 40-fold higher protein expression than with the wild-type promoter with a high ON/OFF ratio under green-light illumination. The engineered green-light gene expression system would be a useful genetic tool for controlling gene expression in the emergent cyanobacterial bioprocesses.
Red/green cyanobacteriochromes: sensors of color and power.
Phytochromes are red/far-red photoreceptors using cysteine-linked linear tetrapyrrole (bilin) chromophores to regulate biological responses to light. Light absorption triggers photoisomerization of the bilin between the 15Z and 15E photostates. The related cyanobacteriochromes (CBCRs) extend the photosensory range of the phytochrome superfamily to shorter wavelengths of visible light. Several subfamilies of CBCRs have been described. Representatives of one such subfamily, including AnPixJ and NpR6012g4, exhibit red/green photocycles in which the 15Z photostate is red-absorbing like that of phytochrome but the 15E photoproduct is instead green-absorbing. Using recombinant expression of individual CBCR domains in Escherichia coli, we fully survey the red/green subfamily from the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme. In addition to 14 new photoswitching CBCRs, one apparently photochemically inactive protein exhibiting intense red fluorescence was observed. We describe a novel orange/green photocycle in one of these CBCRs, NpF2164g7. Dark reversion varied in this panel of CBCRs; some examples were stable as the 15E photoproduct for days, while others reverted to the 15Z dark state in minutes or even seconds. In the case of NpF2164g7, dark reversion was so rapid that reverse photoconversion of the green-absorbing photoproduct was not significant in restoring the dark state, resulting in a broadband response to light. Our results demonstrate that red/green CBCRs can thus act as sensors for the color or intensity of the ambient light environment.
Light-controlled synthetic gene circuits.
Highly complex synthetic gene circuits have been engineered in living organisms to develop systems with new biological properties. A precise trigger to activate or deactivate these complex systems is desired in order to tightly control different parts of a synthetic or natural network. Light represents an excellent tool to achieve this goal as it can be regulated in timing, location, intensity, and wavelength, which allows for precise spatiotemporal control over genetic circuits. Recently, light has been used as a trigger to control the biological function of small molecules, oligonucleotides, and proteins involved as parts in gene circuits. Light activation has enabled the construction of unique systems in living organisms such as band-pass filters and edge-detectors in bacterial cells. Additionally, light also allows for the regulation of intermediate steps of complex dynamic pathways in mammalian cells such as those involved in kinase networks. Herein we describe recent advancements in the area of light-controlled synthetic networks.
Phycoviolobilin formation and spectral tuning in the DXCF cyanobacteriochrome subfamily.
Phytochromes are red/far-red photosensory proteins that regulate adaptive responses to light via photoswitching of cysteine-linked linear tetrapyrrole (bilin) chromophores. The related cyanobacteriochromes (CBCRs) extend the photosensory range of the phytochrome superfamily to shorter wavelengths of visible light. CBCRs and phytochromes share a conserved Cys residue required for bilin attachment. In one CBCR subfamily, often associated with a blue/green photocycle, a second Cys lies within a conserved Asp-Xaa-Cys-Phe (DXCF) motif and is essential for the blue/green photocycle. Such DXCF CBCRs use isomerization of the phycocyanobilin (PCB) chromophore into the related phycoviolobilin (PVB) to shorten the conjugated system for sensing green light. We here use recombinant expression of individual CBCR domains in Escherichia coli to survey the DXCF subfamily from the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme. We describe ten new photoreceptors with well-resolved photocycles and three additional photoproteins with overlapping dark-adapted and photoproduct states. We show that the ability of this subfamily to form PVB or retain PCB provides a powerful mechanism for tuning the photoproduct absorbance, with blue-absorbing dark states leading to a broad range of photoproducts absorbing teal, green, yellow, or orange light. Moreover, we use a novel green/teal CBCR that lacks the blue-absorbing dark state to demonstrate that PVB formation requires the DXCF Cys residue. Our results demonstrate that this subfamily exhibits much more spectral diversity than had been previously appreciated.
The use of light for engineered control and reprogramming of cellular functions.
Could combating incurable diseases lie in something as simple as light? This scenario might not be too farfetched due to groundbreaking research in optogenetics. This novel scientific area, where genetically encoded photosensors transform light energy into specifically engineered biological processes, has shown enormous potential. Cell morphology can be changed, signaling pathways can be reprogrammed, and gene expression can be regulated all by the control of light. In biomedical applications where precise cell targeting is essential, non-invasive light has shown great promise. This article provides a summary of the recent advances that utilize light in genetic programming and precise control of engineered biological functions.
Photophysical diversity of two novel cyanobacteriochromes with phycocyanobilin chromophores: photochemistry and dark reversion kinetics.
Cyanobacteriochromes are phytochrome homologues in cyanobacteria that act as sensory photoreceptors. We compare two cyanobacteriochromes, RGS (coded by slr1393) from Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and AphC (coded by all2699) from Nostoc sp. PCC 7120. Both contain three GAF (cGMP phosphodiesterase, adenylyl cyclase and FhlA protein) domains (GAF1, GAF2 and GAF3). The respective full-length, truncated and cysteine point-mutated genes were expressed in Escherichia coli together with genes for chromophore biosynthesis. The resulting chromoproteins were analyzed by UV-visible absorption, fluorescence and circular dichroism spectroscopy as well as by mass spectrometry. RGS shows a red-green photochromism (λ(max) = 650 and 535 nm) that is assigned to the reversible 15Z/E isomerization of a single phycocyanobilin-chromophore (PCB) binding to Cys528 of GAF3. Of the three GAF domains, only GAF3 binds a chromophore and the binding is autocatalytic. RGS autophosphorylates in vitro; this reaction is photoregulated: the 535 nm state containing E-PCB was more active than the 650 nm state containing Z-PCB. AphC from Nostoc could be chromophorylated at two GAF domains, namely GAF1 and GAF3. PCB-GAF1 is photochromic, with the proposed 15E state (λ(max) = 685 nm) reverting slowly thermally to the thermostable 15Z state (λ(max) = 635 nm). PCB-GAF3 showed a novel red-orange photochromism; the unstable state (putative 15E, λ(max) = 595 nm) reverts very rapidly (τ ~ 20 s) back to the thermostable Z state (λ(max) = 645 nm). The photochemistry of doubly chromophorylated AphC is accordingly complex, as is the autophosphorylation: E-GAF1/E-GAF3 shows the highest rate of autophosphorylation activity, while E-GAF1/Z-GAF3 has intermediate activity, and Z-GAF1/Z-GAF3 is the least active state.