Showing 1 - 25 of 90 results
Lighting the way: Recent insights into the structure and regulation of phototropin blue light receptors.
The phototropins (phots) are light-activated kinases that are critical for plant physiology and the many diverse optogenetic tools that they have inspired. Phototropins combine two blue light sensing Light-Oxygen-Voltage (LOV) domains (LOV1 and LOV2) and a C-terminal serine/threonine kinase domain, using the LOV domains to control the catalytic activity of the kinase. While much is known about the structure and photochemistry of the light-perceiving LOV domains, particularly in how activation of the LOV2 domain triggers the unfolding of alpha helices that communicate the light signal to the kinase domain, many questions about phot structure and mechanism remain. Recent studies have made progress addressing these questions by utilizing small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and other biophysical approaches to study multidomain phots from Chlamydomonas and Arabidopsis, leading to models where the domains have an extended linear arrangement, with the activating LOV2 domain contacting the kinase domain N-lobe. We discuss this and other advances which have improved structural and mechanistic understanding of phot regulation in this review, along with the challenges that will have to be overcome to obtain high-resolution structural information on these exciting photoreceptors. Such information will be essential to advancing fundamental understanding of plant physiology while enabling engineering efforts at both the whole plant and molecular levels.
Strategies for site-specific recombination with high efficiency and precise spatiotemporal resolution.
Site-specific recombinases (SSRs) are invaluable genome engineering tools that have enormously boosted our understanding of gene functions and cell lineage relationships in developmental biology, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and multiple diseases. However, the ever-increasing complexity of biomedical research requires the development of novel site-specific genetic recombination technologies that can manipulate genomic DNA with high efficiency and fine spatiotemporal control. Here, we review the latest innovative strategies of the commonly used Cre-loxP recombination system and its combinatorial strategies with other SSR systems. We also highlight recent progress with a focus on the new generation of chemical- and light-inducible genetic systems and discuss the merits and limitations of each new and established system. Finally, we provide the future perspectives of combining various recombination systems or improving well-established site-specific genetic tools to achieve more efficient and precise spatiotemporal genetic manipulation.
Blue Light‐Operated CRISPR/Cas13b‐Mediated mRNA Knockdown (Lockdown).
The introduction of optogenetics into cell biology has furnished systems to control gene expression at the transcriptional and protein stability level, with a high degree of spatial, temporal, and dynamic light‐regulation capabilities. Strategies to downregulate RNA currently rely on RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas‐related methods. However, these approaches lack the key characteristics and advantages provided by optical control. “Lockdown” introduces optical control of RNA levels utilizing a blue light‐dependent switch to induce expression of CRISPR/Cas13b, which mediates sequence‐specific mRNA knockdown. Combining Lockdown with optogenetic tools to repress gene‐expression and induce protein destabilization with blue light yields efficient triple‐controlled downregulation of target proteins. Implementing Lockdown to degrade endogenous mRNA levels of the cyclin‐dependent kinase 1 (hCdk1) leads to blue light‐induced G2/M cell cycle arrest and inhibition of cell growth in mammalian cells.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
TAEL 2.0: An Improved Optogenetic Expression System for Zebrafish.
Inducible gene expression systems are valuable tools for studying biological processes. We previously developed an optogenetic gene expression system called TAEL that is optimized for use in zebrafish. When illuminated with blue light, TAEL transcription factors dimerize and activate gene expression downstream of the TAEL-responsive C120 promoter. By using light as the inducing agent, the TAEL/C120 system overcomes limitations of traditional inducible expression systems by enabling fine spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression. In this study, we describe ongoing efforts to improve the TAEL/C120 system. We made modifications to both the TAEL transcriptional activator and the C120 regulatory element, collectively referred to as TAEL 2.0. We demonstrate that TAEL 2.0 consistently induces higher levels of reporter gene expression and at a faster rate, but with comparable background and toxicity as the original TAEL system. With these improvements, we were able to create functional stable transgenic lines to express the TAEL 2.0 transcription factor either ubiquitously or with a tissue-specific promoter. We demonstrate that the ubiquitous line in particular can be used to induce expression at late embryonic and larval stages, addressing a major deficiency of the original TAEL system. This improved optogenetic expression system will be a broadly useful resource for the zebrafish community.
Dynamical Modeling of Optogenetic Circuits in Yeast for Metabolic Engineering Applications.
Dynamic control of engineered microbes using light via optogenetics has been demonstrated as an effective strategy for improving the yield of biofuels, chemicals, and other products. An advantage of using light to manipulate microbial metabolism is the relative simplicity of interfacing biological and computer systems, thereby enabling in silico control of the microbe. Using this strategy for control and optimization of product yield requires an understanding of how the microbe responds in real-time to the light inputs. Toward this end, we present mechanistic models of a set of yeast optogenetic circuits. We show how these models can predict short- and long-time response to varying light inputs and how they are amenable to use with model predictive control (the industry standard among advanced control algorithms). These models reveal dynamics characterized by time-scale separation of different circuit components that affect the steady and transient levels of the protein under control of the circuit. Ultimately, this work will help enable real-time control and optimization tools for improving yield and consistency in the production of biofuels and chemicals using microbial fermentations.
Optogenetics in Sinorhizobium meliloti Enables Spatial Control of Exopolysaccharide Production and Biofilm Structure.
Microorganisms play a vital role in shaping the soil environment and enhancing plant growth by interacting with plant root systems. Because of the vast diversity of cell types involved, combined with dynamic and spatial heterogeneity, identifying the causal contribution of a defined factor, such as a microbial exopolysaccharide (EPS), remains elusive. Synthetic approaches that enable orthogonal control of microbial pathways are a promising means to dissect such complexity. Here we report the implementation of a synthetic, light-activated, transcriptional control platform using the blue-light responsive DNA binding protein EL222 in the nitrogen fixing soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. By fine-tuning the system, we successfully achieved optical control of an EPS production pathway without significant basal expression under noninducing (dark) conditions. Optical control of EPS recapitulated important behaviors such as a mucoid plate phenotype and formation of structured biofilms, enabling spatial control of biofilm structures in S. meliloti. The successful implementation of optically controlled gene expression in S. meliloti enables systematic investigation of how genotype and microenvironmental factors together shape phenotype in situ.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
Synthetic gene networks recapitulate dynamic signal decoding and differential gene expression.
Cells live in constantly changing environments and employ dynamic signaling pathways to transduce information about the signals they encounter. However, the mechanisms by which dynamic signals are decoded into appropriate gene expression patterns remain poorly understood. Here, we devise networked optogenetic pathways that achieve novel dynamic signal processing functions that recapitulate cellular information processing. Exploiting light-responsive transcriptional regulators with differing response kinetics, we build a falling-edge pulse-detector and show that this circuit can be employed to demultiplex dynamically encoded signals. We combine this demultiplexer with dCas9-based gene networks to construct pulsatile-signal filters and decoders. Applying information theory, we show that dynamic multiplexing significantly increases the information transmission capacity from signal to gene expression state. Finally, we use dynamic multiplexing for precise multidimensional regulation of a heterologous metabolic pathway. Our results elucidate design principles of dynamic information processing and provide original synthetic systems capable of decoding complex signals for biotechnological applications.
Engineering an Optogenetic CRISPRi Platform for Improved Chemical Production.
Microbial synthesis of chemicals typically requires the redistribution of metabolic flux toward the synthesis of targeted products. Dynamic control is emerging as an effective approach for solving the hurdles mentioned above. As light could control the cell behavior in a spatial and temporal manner, the optogenetic-CRISPR interference (opto-CRISPRi) technique that allocates the metabolic resources according to different optical signal frequencies will enable bacteria to be controlled between the growth phase and the production stage. In this study, we applied a blue light-sensitive protein EL222 to regulate the expression of the dCpf1-mediated CRISPRi system that turns off the competitive pathways and redirects the metabolic flux toward the heterologous muconic acid synthesis in Escherichia coli. We found that the opto-CRISPRi system dynamically regulating the suppression of the central metabolism and competitive pathways could increase the muconic acid production by 130%. These results demonstrated that the opto-CRISPRi platform is an effective method for enhancing chemical synthesis with broad utilities.
Design and Characterization of Rapid Optogenetic Circuits for Dynamic Control in Yeast Metabolic Engineering.
The use of optogenetics in metabolic engineering for light-controlled microbial chemical production raises the prospect of utilizing control and optimization techniques routinely deployed in traditional chemical manufacturing. However, such mechanisms require well-characterized, customizable tools that respond fast enough to be used as real-time inputs during fermentations. Here, we present OptoINVRT7, a new rapid optogenetic inverter circuit to control gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The circuit induces gene expression in only 0.6 h after switching cells from light to darkness, which is at least 6 times faster than previous OptoINVRT optogenetic circuits used for chemical production. In addition, we introduce an engineered inducible GAL1 promoter (PGAL1-S), which is stronger than any constitutive or inducible promoter commonly used in yeast. Combining OptoINVRT7 with PGAL1-S achieves strong and light-tunable levels of gene expression with as much as 132.9 ± 22.6-fold induction in darkness. The high performance of this new optogenetic circuit in controlling metabolic enzymes boosts production of lactic acid and isobutanol by more than 50% and 15%, respectively. The strength and controllability of OptoINVRT7 and PGAL1-S open the door to applying process control tools to engineered metabolisms to improve robustness and yields in microbial fermentations for chemical production.
The Promise of Optogenetics for Bioproduction: Dynamic Control Strategies and Scale-Up Instruments.
Progress in metabolic engineering and synthetic and systems biology has made bioproduction an increasingly attractive and competitive strategy for synthesizing biomolecules, recombinant proteins and biofuels from renewable feedstocks. Yet, due to poor productivity, it remains difficult to make a bioproduction process economically viable at large scale. Achieving dynamic control of cellular processes could lead to even better yields by balancing the two characteristic phases of bioproduction, namely, growth versus production, which lie at the heart of a trade-off that substantially impacts productivity. The versatility and controllability offered by light will be a key element in attaining the level of control desired. The popularity of light-mediated control is increasing, with an expanding repertoire of optogenetic systems for novel applications, and many optogenetic devices have been designed to test optogenetic strains at various culture scales for bioproduction objectives. In this review, we aim to highlight the most important advances in this direction. We discuss how optogenetics is currently applied to control metabolism in the context of bioproduction, describe the optogenetic instruments and devices used at the laboratory scale for strain development, and explore how current industrial-scale bioproduction processes could be adapted for optogenetics or could benefit from existing photobioreactor designs. We then draw attention to the steps that must be undertaken to further optimize the control of biological systems in order to take full advantage of the potential offered by microbial factories.
The rise and shine of yeast optogenetics.
Optogenetics refers to the control of biological processes with light. The activation of cellular phenomena by defined wavelengths has several advantages compared to traditional chemically-inducible systems, such as spatiotemporal resolution, dose-response regulation, low cost and moderate toxic effects. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in yeast, a remarkable biological platform that is not only a model organism for cellular and molecular biology studies, but also a microorganism with diverse biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the main optogenetic systems implemented in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which allow orthogonal control (by light) of gene expression, protein subcellular localization, reconstitution of protein activity, or protein sequestration by oligomerization. Furthermore, we review the application of optogenetic systems in the control of metabolic pathways, heterologous protein production and flocculation. We then revise an example of a previously described yeast optogenetic switch, named FUN-LOV, which allows precise and strong activation of the target gene. Finally, we describe optogenetic systems that have not yet been implemented in yeast, which could therefore be used to expand the panel of available tools in this biological chassis. In conclusion, a wide repertoire of optogenetic systems can be used to address fundamental biological questions and broaden the biotechnological toolkit in yeast.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Optogenetic interrogation and control of cell signaling.
Signaling networks control the flow of information through biological systems and coordinate the chemical processes that constitute cellular life. Optogenetic actuators - genetically encoded proteins that undergo light-induced changes in activity or conformation - are useful tools for probing signaling networks over time and space. They have permitted detailed dissections of cellular proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death, and enabled the assembly of synthetic systems with applications in areas as diverse as photography, chemical synthesis, and medicine. In this review, we provide a brief introduction to optogenetic systems and describe their application to molecular-level analyses of cell signaling. Our discussion highlights important research achievements and speculates on future opportunities to exploit optogenetic systems in the study and assembly of complex biochemical networks.
Optogenetics and biosensors set the stage for metabolic cybergenetics.
Cybergenetic systems use computer interfaces to enable feed-back controls over biological processes in real time. The complex and dynamic nature of cellular metabolism makes cybergenetics attractive for controlling engineered metabolic pathways in microbial fermentations. Cybergenetics would not only create new avenues of research into cellular metabolism, it would also enable unprecedented strategies for pathway optimization and bioreactor operation and automation. Implementation of metabolic cybergenetics, however, will require new capabilities from actuators, biosensors, and control algorithms. The recent application of optogenetics in metabolic engineering, the expanding role of genetically encoded biosensors in strain development, and continued progress in control algorithms for biological processes suggest that this technology will become available in the not so distant future.
Lights up on organelles: Optogenetic tools to control subcellular structure and organization.
Since the neurobiological inception of optogenetics, light-controlled molecular perturbations have been applied in many scientific disciplines to both manipulate and observe cellular function. Proteins exhibiting light-sensitive conformational changes provide researchers with avenues for spatiotemporal control over the cellular environment and serve as valuable alternatives to chemically inducible systems. Optogenetic approaches have been developed to target proteins to specific subcellular compartments, allowing for the manipulation of nuclear translocation and plasma membrane morphology. Additionally, these tools have been harnessed for molecular interrogation of organelle function, location, and dynamics. Optogenetic approaches offer novel ways to answer fundamental biological questions and to improve the efficiency of bioengineered cell factories by controlling the assembly of synthetic organelles. This review first provides a summary of available optogenetic systems with an emphasis on their organelle-specific utility. It then explores the strategies employed for organelle targeting and concludes by discussing our perspective on the future of optogenetics to control subcellular structure and organization. This article is categorized under: Laboratory Methods and Technologies > Genetic/Genomic Methods Physiology > Physiology of Model Organisms Biological Mechanisms > Regulatory Biology Models of Systems Properties and Processes > Cellular Models.
Optogenetic Downregulation of Protein Levels to Control Programmed Cell Death in Mammalian Cells with a Dual Blue-Light Switch.
Optogenetic approaches facilitate the study of signaling and metabolic pathways in animal cell systems. In the past 10 years, a plethora of light-regulated switches for the targeted control over the induction of gene expression, subcellular localization of proteins, membrane receptor activity, and other cellular processes have been developed and successfully implemented. However, only a few tools have been engineered toward the quantitative and spatiotemporally resolved downregulation of proteins. Here we present a protocol for reversible and rapid blue light-induced reduction of protein levels in mammalian cells. By implementing a dual-regulated optogenetic switch (Blue-OFF), both repression of gene expression and degradation of the target protein are triggered simultaneously. We apply this system for the blue light-mediated control of programmed cell death. HEK293T cells are transfected with the proapoptotic proteins PUMA and BID integrated into the Blue-OFF system. Overexpression of these proteins leads to programmed cell death, which can be prevented by irradiation with blue light. This experimental approach is very straightforward, requires just simple hardware, and therefore can be easily implemented in state-of-the-art equipped mammalian cell culture labs. The system can be used for targeted cell signaling studies and biotechnological applications.
Requirement of Irf6 and Esrp1/2 in frontonasal and palatal epithelium to regulate craniofacial and palate morphogenesis in mouse and zebrafish.
Orofacial clefts are among the most common human congenital malformations. Irf6 and Esrp1 are two key genes important for palate development, conserved across vertebrates. In the zebrafish, we found that irf6 regulates the expression of esrp1. Using RNAscope, we detailed overlapping Irf6 and Esrp1/2 gene expression in mouse and zebrafish embryonic oral epithelium and periderm. Genetic disruption of irf6 and esrp1/2 in the zebrafish resulted in cleft of the anterior neurocranium (ANC). In the esrp1/2 zebrafish mutant, cleft of the lip formed and appeared to tether into the ANC cleft. Lineage tracing of the anterior cranial neural crest cells revealed that cleft of the ANC resulted not from migration defect, but from impaired chondrogenesis. Molecular analysis of the aberrant cells interrupting ANC fusion revealed that this cell population espresses sox10 and irf6 and is adjacent to cells expressing epithelial krt4 and mesenchymal col1a1 genes. Detailed morphogenetic analysis of mouse Irf6 mutant revealed mesenchymal defects not observed in the Esrp1/2 mutant. Analysis of breeding compound Irf6;Esrp1;Esrp2 mutant suggests that these genes interact where the triple mutant is not observed. Taken together, these studies highlight the complementary analysis of Irf6 and Esrp1/2 in mouse and zebrafish models and captured an unique aberrant embryonic cell population that contributes to cleft pathogenesis. Future work characterizing this unqiue sox10+, irf6+ cell population will yield additional insight into cleft pathogenesis.
Optogenetic control of gene expression in plants in the presence of ambient white light.
Optogenetics is the genetic approach for controlling cellular processes with light. It provides spatiotemporal, quantitative and reversible control over biological signaling and metabolic processes, overcoming limitations of chemically inducible systems. However, optogenetics lags in plant research because ambient light required for growth leads to undesired system activation. We solved this issue by developing plant usable light-switch elements (PULSE), an optogenetic tool for reversibly controlling gene expression in plants under ambient light. PULSE combines a blue-light-regulated repressor with a red-light-inducible switch. Gene expression is only activated under red light and remains inactive under white light or in darkness. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we characterized PULSE in protoplasts and achieved high induction rates, and we combined it with CRISPR-Cas9-based technologies to target synthetic signaling and developmental pathways. We applied PULSE to control immune responses in plant leaves and generated Arabidopsis transgenic plants. PULSE opens broad experimental avenues in plant research and biotechnology.
Non-neuromodulatory Optogenetic Tools in Zebrafish.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a popular vertebrate model organism to investigate molecular mechanisms driving development and disease. Due to its transparency at embryonic and larval stages, investigations in the living organism are possible with subcellular resolution using intravital microscopy. The beneficial optical characteristics of zebrafish not only allow for passive observation, but also active manipulation of proteins and cells by light using optogenetic tools. Initially, photosensitive ion channels have been applied for neurobiological studies in zebrafish to dissect complex behaviors on a cellular level. More recently, exciting non-neural optogenetic tools have been established to control gene expression or protein localization and activity, allowing for unprecedented non-invasive and precise manipulation of various aspects of cellular physiology. Zebrafish will likely be a vertebrate model organism at the forefront of in vivo application of non-neural optogenetic tools and pioneering work has already been performed. In this review, we provide an overview of non-neuromodulatory optogenetic tools successfully applied in zebrafish to control gene expression, protein localization, cell signaling, migration and cell ablation.
Flux controlling technology for central carbon metabolism for efficient microbial bio-production.
Syntheses of many commodities that are produced using microorganisms require cofactors such as ATP and NAD(P)H. Thus, optimization of the flux distribution in central carbon metabolism, which plays a key role in cofactor regeneration, is critical for enhancing the production of the target compounds. Since the intracellular and extracellular conditions change over time in the fermentation process, dynamic control of the metabolic system for maintaining the cellular state appropriately is necessary. Here, we review techniques for detecting the intracellular metabolic state with fluorescent sensors and controlling the flux of central carbon metabolism with optogenetic tools, as well as present a prospect of bio-production processes for fine-tuning the flux distribution.
Using optogenetics to tackle systems-level questions of multicellular morphogenesis.
Morphogenesis of multicellular systems is governed by precise spatiotemporal regulation of biochemical reactions and mechanical forces which together with environmental conditions determine the development of complex organisms. Current efforts in the field aim at decoding the system-level principles underlying the regulation of developmental processes. Toward this goal, optogenetics, the science of regulation of protein function with light, is emerging as a powerful new tool to quantitatively perturb protein function in vivo with unprecedented precision in space and time. In this review, we provide an overview of how optogenetics is helping to address system-level questions of multicellular morphogenesis and discuss future directions.
Light-powered Escherichia coli cell division for chemical production.
Cell division can perturb the metabolic performance of industrial microbes. The C period of cell division starts from the initiation to the termination of DNA replication, whereas the D period is the bacterial division process. Here, we first shorten the C and D periods of E. coli by controlling the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdAB and division proteins FtsZA through blue light and near-infrared light activation, respectively. It increases the specific surface area to 3.7 μm-1 and acetoin titer to 67.2 g·L-1. Next, we prolong the C and D periods of E. coli by regulating the expression of the ribonucleotide reductase NrdA and division protein inhibitor SulA through blue light activation-repression and near-infrared (NIR) light activation, respectively. It improves the cell volume to 52.6 μm3 and poly(lactate-co-3-hydroxybutyrate) titer to 14.31 g·L-1. Thus, the optogenetic-based cell division regulation strategy can improve the efficiency of microbial cell factories.
Blue Light-Directed Cell Migration, Aggregation, and Patterning.
Bacterial motility is related to many cellular activities, such as cell migration, aggregation, and biofilm formations. The ability to control motility and direct the bacteria to certain location could be used to guide the bacteria in applications such as seeking for and killing pathogen, forming various population-level patterns, and delivering of drugs and vaccines. Currently, bacteria motility is mainly controlled by chemotaxis (prescribed chemical stimuli), which needs physical contact with the chemical inducer. This lacks the flexibility for pattern formation as it has limited spatial control. To overcome the limitations, we developed blue light-regulated synthetic genetic circuit to control bacterial directional motility, by taking the advantage that light stimulus can be delivered to cells in different patterns with precise spatial control. The circuit developed enables programmed Escherichia coli cells to increase directional motility and move away from the blue light, i.e., that negative phototaxis is utilized. This further allows the control of the cells to form aggregation with different patterns. Further, we showed that the circuit can be used to separate two different strains. The demonstrated ability of blue light-controllable gene circuits to regulate a CheZ expression could give researchers more means to control bacterial motility and pattern formation.