Showing 1 - 6 of 6 results
Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals selection of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
How protein signaling networks respond to different input strengths is an important but poorly understood problem in cell biology. For example, the small GTPase RhoA regulates both focal adhesion (FA) growth or disassembly, but whether RhoA serves as a switch selecting between cellular outcomes, or if outcomes are simply modulated by additional factors in the cell, is not clear. Here, we develop a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor, psRhoGEF, to precisely control endogenous RhoA activity. We also develop a FRET-based biosensor to allow visualization of RhoA activity together with psRhoGEF control. Using these new optical tools, we discover that low levels of RhoA activation preferentially induce FA disassembly in a Src-dependent manner, while high levels induce both FA growth and disassembly in a ROCK-dependent manner. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation with photoswitchable RhoGEF reveals that cells can use signal amplitude to produce multiple responses to a single biochemical signal.
A yeast system for discovering optogenetic inhibitors of eukaryotic translation initiation.
The precise spatiotemporal regulation of protein synthesis is essential for many complex biological processes such as memory formation, embryonic development and tumor formation. Current methods used to study protein synthesis offer only a limited degree of spatiotemporal control. Optogenetic methods, in contrast, offer the prospect of controlling protein synthesis non-invasively within minutes and with a spatial scale as small as a single synapse. Here, we present a hybrid yeast system where growth depends on the activity of human eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) that is suitable for screening optogenetic designs for the down-regulation of protein synthesis. We used this system to screen a diverse initial panel of 15 constructs designed to couple a light switchable domain (PYP, RsLOV, LOV, Dronpa) to 4EBP2 (eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein 2), a native inhibitor of translation initiation. We identified cLIPS1 (circularly permuted LOV inhibitor of protein synthesis 1), a fusion of a segment of 4EBP2 and a circularly permuted version of the LOV2 domain from Avena sativa, as a photo-activated inhibitor of translation. Adapting the screen for higher throughput, we tested small libraries of cLIPS1 variants and found cLIPS2, a construct with an improved degree of optical control. We show that these constructs can both inhibit translation in yeast harboring a human eIF4E in vivo, and bind human eIF4E in vitro in a light-dependent manner. This hybrid yeast system thus provides a convenient way for discovering optogenetic constructs that can regulate of human eIF4E-depednednt translation initiation in a mechanistically defined manner.
Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration.
Synthetic hydrogels are widely used as biomimetic in vitro model systems to understand how cells respond to complex microenvironments. The mechanical properties of hydrogels are deterministic for many cellular behaviors, including cell migration, spreading, and differentiation. However, it remains a major challenge to engineer hydrogels that recapture the dynamic mechanical properties of native extracellular matrices. Here, we provide a new hydrogel platform with spatiotemporally tunable mechanical properties to assay and define cellular behaviors under light. The change in the mechanical properties of the hydrogel is effected by a photo-induced switch of the cross-linker fluorescent protein, Dronpa145N, between the tetrameric and monomeric states, which causes minimal changes to the chemical properties of the hydrogel. The mechanical properties can be rapidly and reversibly tuned for multiple cycles using visible light, as confirmed by rheological measurements and atomic force microscopybased nano-indentation. We further demonstrated real-time and reversible modulation of cell migration behaviors on the hydrogels through photo-induced stiffness switching, with minimal invasion to the cultured cells. Hydrogels with a programmable mechanical history and a spatially defined mechanical hierarchy might serve as an ideal model system to better understand complex cellular functions.
Optically controlled reversible protein hydrogels based on photoswitchable fluorescent protein Dronpa.
Exploiting the optically controlled association and dissociation behavior of a photoswitchable fluorescent protein, Dronpa145N, here we demonstrate the engineering of an optically switchable reversible protein hydrogel using Dronpa145N-based protein building blocks. Our results open the possibility to optically tune the mechanical, chemical and structural properties of protein hydrogels.
Optical control of cell signaling by single-chain photoswitchable kinases.
Protein kinases transduce signals to regulate a wide array of cellular functions in eukaryotes. A generalizable method for optical control of kinases would enable fine spatiotemporal interrogation or manipulation of these various functions. We report the design and application of single-chain cofactor-free kinases with photoswitchable activity. We engineered a dimeric protein, pdDronpa, that dissociates in cyan light and reassociates in violet light. Attaching two pdDronpa domains at rationally selected locations in the kinase domain, we created the photoswitchable kinases psRaf1, psMEK1, psMEK2, and psCDK5. Using these photoswitchable kinases, we established an all-optical cell-based assay for screening inhibitors, uncovered a direct and rapid inhibitory feedback loop from ERK to MEK1, and mediated developmental changes and synaptic vesicle transport in vivo using light.
Optical control of protein activity by fluorescent protein domains.
Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are widely used as optical sensors, whereas other light-absorbing domains have been used for optical control of protein localization or activity. Here, we describe light-dependent dissociation and association in a mutant of the photochromic FP Dronpa, and we used it to control protein activities with light. We created a fluorescent light-inducible protein design in which Dronpa domains are fused to both termini of an enzyme domain. In the dark, the Dronpa domains associate and cage the protein, but light induces Dronpa dissociation and activates the protein. This method enabled optical control over guanine nucleotide exchange factor and protease domains without extensive screening. Our findings extend the applications of FPs from exclusively sensing functions to also encompass optogenetic control.