Showing 1 - 25 of 60 results
Light-mediated control of Gene expression in mammalian cells.
Taking advantage of the recent development of genetically-defined photo-activatable actuator molecules, cellular functions, including gene expression, can be controlled by exposure to light. Such optogenetic strategies enable precise temporal and spatial manipulation of targeted single cells or groups of cells at a level hitherto impossible. In this review, we introduce light-controllable gene expression systems exploiting blue or red/far-red wavelengths and discuss their inherent properties potentially affecting induced downstream gene expression patterns. We also discuss recent advances in optical devices that will extend the application of optical gene expression control technologies into many different areas of biology and medicine.
Structural Basis of Design and Engineering for Advanced Plant Optogenetics.
In optogenetics, light-sensitive proteins are specifically expressed in target cells and light is used to precisely control the activity of these proteins at high spatiotemporal resolution. Optogenetics initially used naturally occurring photoreceptors to control neural circuits, but has expanded to include carefully designed and engineered photoreceptors. Several optogenetic constructs are based on plant photoreceptors, but their application to plant systems has been limited. Here, we present perspectives on the development of plant optogenetics, considering different levels of design complexity. We discuss how general principles of light-driven signal transduction can be coupled with approaches for engineering protein folding to develop novel optogenetic tools. Finally, we explore how the use of computation, networks, circular permutation, and directed evolution could enrich optogenetics.
Principles and applications of optogenetics in developmental biology.
The development of multicellular organisms is controlled by highly dynamic molecular and cellular processes organized in spatially restricted patterns. Recent advances in optogenetics are allowing protein function to be controlled with the precision of a pulse of laser light in vivo, providing a powerful new tool to perturb developmental processes at a wide range of spatiotemporal scales. In this Primer, we describe the most commonly used optogenetic tools, their application in developmental biology and in the nascent field of synthetic morphogenesis.
Optogenetics sheds new light on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Optogenetics has demonstrated great potential in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, from basic research to clinical applications. Spatiotemporal encoding during individual development has been widely identified and is considered a novel strategy for regeneration. A as a noninvasive method with high spatiotemporal resolution, optogenetics are suitable for this strategy. In this review, we discuss roles of dynamic signal coding in cell physiology and embryonic development. Several optogenetic systems are introduced as ideal optogenetic tools, and their features are compared. In addition, potential applications of optogenetics for tissue engineering are discussed, including light-controlled genetic engineering and regulation of signaling pathways. Furthermore, we present how emerging biomaterials and photoelectric technologies have greatly promoted the clinical application of optogenetics and inspired new concepts for optically controlled therapies. Our summation of currently available data conclusively demonstrates that optogenetic tools are a promising method for elucidating and simulating developmental processes, thus providing vast prospects for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Emerging Species and Genome Editing Tools: Future Prospects in Cyanobacterial Synthetic Biology.
Recent advances in synthetic biology and an emerging algal biotechnology market have spurred a prolific increase in the availability of molecular tools for cyanobacterial research. Nevertheless, work to date has focused primarily on only a small subset of model species, which arguably limits fundamental discovery and applied research towards wider commercialisation. Here, we review the requirements for uptake of new strains, including several recently characterised fast-growing species and promising non-model species. Furthermore, we discuss the potential applications of new techniques available for transformation, genetic engineering and regulation, including an up-to-date appraisal of current Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR associated protein (CRISPR/Cas) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) research in cyanobacteria. We also provide an overview of several exciting molecular tools that could be ported to cyanobacteria for more advanced metabolic engineering approaches (e.g., genetic circuit design). Lastly, we introduce a forthcoming mutant library for the model species Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 that promises to provide a further powerful resource for the cyanobacterial research community.
Cell-in-the-loop pattern formation with optogenetically emulated cell-to-cell signaling.
Designing and implementing synthetic biological pattern formation remains a challenge due to underlying theoretical complexity as well as the difficulty of engineering multicellular networks bio-chemically. Here, we introduce a “cell-in-the-loop” approach where living cells interact through in silico signaling, establishing a new testbed to interrogate theoretical principles when internal cell dynamics are incorporated rather than modeled. We present a theory that offers an easy-to-use test to predict the emergence of contrasting patterns in gene expression among laterally inhibiting cells. Guided by the theory, we experimentally demonstrated spontaneous checkerboard patterning in an optogenetic setup where cell-to-cell signaling was emulated with light inputs calculated in silico from real-time gene expression measurements. The scheme successfully produced spontaneous, persistent checkerboard patterns for systems of sixteen patches, in quantitative agreement with theoretical predictions. Our research highlights how tools from dynamical systems theory may inform our understanding of patterning, and illustrates the potential of cell-in-the-loop for engineering synthetic multicellular systems.
Optical induction of autophagy via Transcription factor EB (TFEB) reduces pathological tau in neurons.
Aggregation and accumulation of microtubule associated protein tau in neurons is major neuropathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related tauopathies. Attempts have been made to promote clearance of pathological tau (p-Tau) from neurons via autophagy. Over expression of transcription factor EB (TFEB), has shown to clear pTau from neurons via autophagy. However, sustained TFEB activation and/or autophagy can create burden on cellular bioenergetics and can be deleterious. Thus, we engineered a minimally invasive optical system that could transiently alter autophagic flux. We optimized and testedan optogenetic gene expression system derived from apreviouslyengineered bacterial transcription factor, EL222. For the first time, our group utilized this system not only to spatial-temporally control nuclear TFEB expression, we also show light-induced TFEB has the capacity to reduce p-Tau burden in AD patient-derived human iPSC-neurons. Together, these results suggest that optically-regulatable gene expression of TFEB unlocks opto-therapeutics to treat AD and other dementias.
Biological signal generators: integrating synthetic biology tools and in silico control.
Biological networks sense extracellular stimuli and generate appropriate outputs within the cell that determine cellular response. Biological signal generators are becoming an important tool for understanding how information is transmitted in these networks and controlling network behavior. Signal generators produce well-defined, dynamic, intracellular signals of important network components, such as kinase activity or the concentration of a specific transcription factor. Synthetic biology tools coupled with in silico control have enabled the construction of these sophisticated biological signal generators. Here we review recent advances in biological signal generator construction and their use in systems biology studies. Challenges for constructing signal generators for a wider range of biological networks and generalizing their use are discussed.
Synthetic switches and regulatory circuits in plants.
Synthetic biology is an established but ever-growing interdisciplinary field of research currently revolutionizing biomedicine studies and the biotech industry. The engineering of synthetic circuitry in bacterial, yeast, and animal systems prompted considerable advances for the understanding and manipulation of genetic and metabolic networks; however, their implementation in the plant field lags behind. Here, we review theoretical-experimental approaches to the engineering of synthetic chemical- and light-regulated (optogenetic) switches for the targeted interrogation and control of cellular processes, including existing applications in the plant field. We highlight the strategies for the modular assembly of genetic parts into synthetic circuits of different complexity, ranging from Boolean logic gates and oscillatory devices up to semi- and fully synthetic open- and closed-loop molecular and cellular circuits. Finally, we explore potential applications of these approaches for the engineering of novel functionalities in plants, including understanding complex signaling networks, improving crop productivity, and the production of biopharmaceuticals.
Perspective Tools for Optogenetics and Photopharmacology: From Design to Implementation.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology are two perspective modern
methodologies for control and monitoring of biological processes from an isolated
cell to complex cell assemblies and organisms. Both methodologies use optically
active components that being introduced into the cells of interest allow for optical
control or monitoring of different cellular processes. In optogenetics, genetic
materials are introduced into the cells to express light-sensitive proteins or protein
constructs. In photopharmacology, photochromic compounds are delivered into a
cell directly but not produced inside the cell from a genetic material. The development
of both optogenetics and photopharmacology is inseparable from the design
of improved tools (protein constructs or organic molecules) optimized for specific
applications. Herein, we review the main tools that are used in modern optogenetics
and photopharmaclogy and describe the types of cellular processes that can be
controlled by these tools. Although a large number of different kinds of optogenetic
tools exist, their performance can be evaluated with a limited number of metrics that
have to be optimized for specific applications.We classify thesemetrics and describe
the ways of their improvement.
An Open-Source Plate Reader.
Microplate readers are foundational instruments in ex-perimental biology and bioengineering that enable mul-tiplexed spectrophotometric measurements. To enhance their accessibility, we here report the design, construc-tion, validation, and benchmarking of an open-source microplate reader. The system features full-spectrum absorbance and fluorescence emission detection, in situ optogenetic stimulation, and stand-alone touch screen programming of automated assay protocols. The total system costs <$3500, a fraction of the cost of commer-cial plate readers, and can detect the fluorescence of common dyes down to ~10 nanomolar concentration. Functional capabilities were demonstrated in context of synthetic biology, optoge¬netics, and photosensory biol-ogy: by steady-state measurements of ligand-induced reporter gene expression in a model of bacterial quorum sensing, and by flavin photocycling kinetic measure-ments of a LOV (light-oxygen-voltage) domain photo-receptor used for optogenetic transcriptional activation. Fully detailed guides for assembling the device and au-tomating it using the custom Python-based API (Appli-cation Program Interface) are provided. This work con-tributes a key technology to the growing community-wide infrastructure of open-source biology-focused hardware, whose creation is facilitated by rapid proto-typing capabilities and low-cost electronics, optoelec-tronics, and microcomputers.
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.
Programming the Dynamic Control of Bacterial Gene Expression with a Chimeric Ligand- and Light-Based Promoter System.
To program cells in a dynamic manner, synthetic biologists require precise control over the threshold levels and timing of gene expression. However, in practice, modulating gene expression is widely carried out using prototypical ligand-inducible promoters, which have limited tunability and spatiotemporal resolution. Here, we built two dual-input hybrid promoters, each retaining the function of the ligand-inducible promoter while being enhanced with a blue-light-switchable tuning knob. Using the new promoters, we show that both ligand and light inputs can be synchronously modulated to achieve desired amplitude or independently regulated to generate desired frequency at a specific amplitude. We exploit the versatile programmability and orthogonality of the two promoters to build the first reprogrammable logic gene circuit capable of reconfiguring into logic OR and N-IMPLY logic on the fly in both space and time without the need to modify the circuit. Overall, we demonstrate concentration- and time-based combinatorial regulation in live bacterial cells with potential applications in biotechnology and synthetic biology.
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.
Dual-controlled optogenetic system for the rapid down-regulation of protein levels in mammalian cells.
Optogenetic switches are emerging molecular tools for studying cellular processes as they offer higher spatiotemporal and quantitative precision than classical, chemical-based switches. Light-controllable gene expression systems designed to upregulate protein expression levels meanwhile show performances superior to their chemical-based counterparts. However, systems to reduce protein levels with similar efficiency are lagging behind. Here, we present a novel two-component, blue light-responsive optogenetic OFF switch (‘Blue-OFF’), which enables a rapid and quantitative down-regulation of a protein upon illumination. Blue-OFF combines the first light responsive repressor KRAB-EL222 with the protein degradation module B-LID (blue light-inducible degradation domain) to simultaneously control gene expression and protein stability with a single wavelength. Blue-OFF thus outperforms current optogenetic systems for controlling protein levels. The system is described by a mathematical model which aids in the choice of experimental conditions such as light intensity and illumination regime to obtain the desired outcome. This approach represents an advancement of dual-controlled optogenetic systems in which multiple photosensory modules operate synergistically. As exemplified here for the control of apoptosis in mammalian cell culture, the approach opens up novel perspectives in fundamental research and applications such as tissue engineering.
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.
Pulsatile inputs achieve tunable attenuation of gene expression variability and graded multi-gene regulation.
Many natural transcription factors are regulated in a pulsatile fashion, but it remains unknown whether synthetic gene expression systems can benefit from such dynamic regulation. Here we find, using a fast-acting, optogenetic transcription factor in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that dynamic pulsatile signals reduce cell-to-cell variability in gene expression. We then show that by encoding such signals into a single input, expression mean and variability can be independently tuned. Further, we construct a light-responsive promoter library and demonstrate how pulsatile signaling also enables graded multi-gene regulation at fixed expression ratios, despite differences in promoter dose-response characteristics. Pulsatile regulation can thus lead to beneficial functional behaviors in synthetic biological systems, which previously required laborious optimization of genetic parts or the construction of synthetic gene networks.
Blue-Light Receptors for Optogenetics.
Sensory photoreceptors underpin light-dependent adaptations of organismal physiology, development, and behavior in nature. Adapted for optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors become genetically encoded actuators and reporters to enable the noninvasive, spatiotemporally accurate and reversible control by light of cellular processes. Rooted in a mechanistic understanding of natural photoreceptors, artificial photoreceptors with customized light-gated function have been engineered that greatly expand the scope of optogenetics beyond the original application of light-controlled ion flow. As we survey presently, UV/blue-light-sensitive photoreceptors have particularly allowed optogenetics to transcend its initial neuroscience applications by unlocking numerous additional cellular processes and parameters for optogenetic intervention, including gene expression, DNA recombination, subcellular localization, cytoskeleton dynamics, intracellular protein stability, signal transduction cascades, apoptosis, and enzyme activity. The engineering of novel photoreceptors benefits from powerful and reusable design strategies, most importantly light-dependent protein association and (un)folding reactions. Additionally, modified versions of these same sensory photoreceptors serve as fluorescent proteins and generators of singlet oxygen, thereby further enriching the optogenetic toolkit. The available and upcoming UV/blue-light-sensitive actuators and reporters enable the detailed and quantitative interrogation of cellular signal networks and processes in increasingly more precise and illuminating manners.
Controlling Cells with Light and LOV.
Optogenetics is a powerful method for studying dynamic processes in living cells and has advanced cell biology research over the recent past. Key to the successful application of optogenetics is the careful design of the light‐sensing module, typically employing a natural or engineered photoreceptor that links the exogenous light input to the cellular process under investigation. Light–oxygen–voltage (LOV) domains, a highly diverse class of small blue light sensors, have proven to be particularly versatile for engineering optogenetic input modules. These can function via diverse modalities, including inducible allostery, protein recruitment, dimerization, or dissociation. This study reviews recent advances in the development of LOV domain‐based optogenetic tools and their application for studying and controlling selected cellular functions. Focusing on the widely employed LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin‐1, this review highlights the broad spectrum of engineering opportunities that can be explored to achieve customized optogenetic regulation. Finally, major bottlenecks in the development of optogenetic methods are discussed and strategies to overcome these with recent synthetic biology approaches are pointed out.
LOV Domains in the Design of Photoresponsive Enzymes.
In nature, a multitude of mechanisms have emerged for regulating biological processes and, specifically, protein activity. Light as a natural regulatory element is of outstanding interest for studying and modulating protein activity because it can be precisely applied with regard to a site of action, instant of time, or intensity. Naturally occuring photoresponsive proteins, predominantly those containing a light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain, have been characterized structurally and mechanistically and also conjugated to various proteins of interest. Immediate advantages of these new photoresponsive proteins such as genetic encoding, no requirement of chemical modification, and reversibility are paid by difficulties in predicting the envisaged activity or type and site of domain fusion. In this article, we summarize recent advances and give a survey on currently available design concepts for engineering photoswitchable proteins.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
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.
Cell-free optogenetic gene expression system.
Optogenetic tools provide a new and efficient way to dynamically program gene expression with unmatched spatiotemporal precision. To date, its vast potential remains untapped in the field of cell-free synthetic biology, largely due to the lack of simple and efficient light-switchable systems. Here, to bridge the gap between cell-free systems and optogenetics, we studied our previously engineered one component-based blue light-inducible Escherichia coli promoter in a cell-free environment through experimental characterization and mathematical modelling. We achieved >10-fold dynamic expression and demonstrated rapid and reversible activation of target gene to generate oscillatory waveform. Deterministic model developed was able to recapitulate the system behaviour and helped to provide quantitative insights to optimize dynamic response. This in vitro optogenetic approach could be a powerful new high-throughput screening technology for rapid prototyping of complex biological networks in both space and time without the need for chemical induction.
Optogenetic regulation of engineered cellular metabolism for microbial chemical production.
The optimization of engineered metabolic pathways requires careful control over the levels and timing of metabolic enzyme expression. Optogenetic tools are ideal for achieving such precise control, as light can be applied and removed instantly without complex media changes. Here we show that light-controlled transcription can be used to enhance the biosynthesis of valuable products in engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We introduce new optogenetic circuits to shift cells from a light-induced growth phase to a darkness-induced production phase, which allows us to control fermentation with only light. Furthermore, optogenetic control of engineered pathways enables a new mode of bioreactor operation using periodic light pulses to tune enzyme expression during the production phase of fermentation to increase yields. Using these advances, we control the mitochondrial isobutanol pathway to produce up to 8.49 ± 0.31 g l-1of isobutanol and 2.38 ± 0.06 g l-1of 2-methyl-1-butanol micro-aerobically from glucose. These results make a compelling case for the application of optogenetics to metabolic engineering for the production of valuable products.
Illuminating developmental biology with cellular optogenetics.
In developmental biology, localization is everything. The same stimulus-cell signaling event or expression of a gene-can have dramatically different effects depending on the time, spatial position, and cell types in which it is applied. Yet the field has long lacked the ability to deliver localized perturbations with high specificity in vivo. The advent of optogenetic tools, capable of delivering highly localized stimuli, is thus poised to profoundly expand our understanding of development. We describe the current state-of-the-art in cellular optogenetic tools, review the first wave of major studies showcasing their application in vivo, and discuss major obstacles that must be overcome if the promise of developmental optogenetics is to be fully realized.