Showing 1 - 25 of 50 results
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.
New Developments in CRISPR/Cas-based Functional Genomics and their Implications for Research using Zebrafish.
Genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 has advanced very rapidly in its scope, versatility and ease of use. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has been one of the vertebrate model species where CRISPR/Cas9 has been applied very extensively for many different purposes and with great success. In particular, disease modeling in zebrafish is useful for testing specific gene variants for pathogenicity in a preclinical setting. Here we describe multiple advances in diverse species and systems that can improve genome editing in zebrafish. To achieve temporal and spatial precision of genome editing, many new technologies can be applied in zebrafish such as artificial transcription factors, drug-inducible or optogenetically-driven expression of Cas9, or chemically-inducible activation of Cas9. Moreover, chemically- or optogenetically-inducible reconstitution of dead Cas9 (catalytically inactive, dCas9) can enable spatiotemporal control of gene regulation. In addition to controlling where and when genome editing occurs, using oligonucleotides allows for the introduction (knock-in) of precise modifications of the genome. We review recent trends to improve the precision and efficiency of oligo-based point mutation knock-ins and discuss how these improvements can apply to work in zebrafish. Similarly to how chemical mutagenesis enabled the first genetic screens in zebrafish, multiplexed sgRNA libraries and Cas9 can enable the next revolutionary transition in how genetic screens are performed in this species. We discuss the first examples and prospects of approaches using sgRNAs as specific and effective mutagens. Moreover, we have reviewed methods aimed at measuring the phenotypes of single cells after their mutagenic perturbation with vectors encoding individual sgRNAs. These methods can range from different cell-based reporters to single-cell RNA sequencing and can serve as great tools for high-throughput genetic screens.
Applications of optobiology in intact cells and multi-cellular organisms.
Temporal kinetics and spatial coordination of signal transduction in cells are vital for cell fate determination. Tools that allow for precise modulation of spatiotemporal regulation of intracellular signaling in intact cells and multicellular organisms remain limited. The emerging optobiological approaches use light to control protein-protein interaction in live cells and multicellular organisms. Optobiology empowers light-mediated control of diverse cellular and organismal functions such as neuronal activity, intracellular signaling, gene expression, cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. In this review, we highlight recent developments in optobiology, focusing on new features of second-generation optobiological tools. We cover applications of optobiological approaches in the study of cellular and organismal functions, discuss current challenges, and present our outlook. Taking advantage of the high spatial and temporal resolution of light control, optobiology promises to provide new insights into the coordination of signaling circuits in intact cells and multicellular organisms.
Synthetic biological approaches to optogenetically control cell signaling.
Precise spatial and temporal control of cellular processes is in life sciences a highly sought-after capability. In the recent years, this goal has become progressively achievable through the field of optogenetics, which utilizes light as a non-invasive means to control genetically encoded light-responsive proteins. The latest optogenetic systems, such as those for control of subcellular localization or cellular decision-making and tissue morphogenesis provide us with insights to gain a deeper understanding of the cellular inner workings. Besides, they hold a potential for further development into biomedical applications, from in vitro optogenetics-assisted drug candidate screenings to light-controlled gene therapy and tissue engineering.
A calcium- and light-gated switch to induce gene expression in activated neurons.
Despite recent advances in optogenetics, it remains challenging to manipulate gene expression in specific populations of neurons. We present a dual-protein switch system, Cal-Light, that translates neuronal-activity-mediated calcium signaling into gene expression in a light-dependent manner. In cultured neurons and brain slices, we show that Cal-Light drives expression of the reporter EGFP with high spatiotemporal resolution only in the presence of both blue light and calcium. Delivery of the Cal-Light components to the motor cortex of mice by viral vectors labels a subset of excitatory and inhibitory neurons related to learned lever-pressing behavior. By using Cal-Light to drive expression of the inhibitory receptor halorhodopsin (eNpHR), which responds to yellow light, we temporarily inhibit the lever-pressing behavior, confirming that the labeled neurons mediate the behavior. Thus, Cal-Light enables dissection of neural circuits underlying complex mammalian behaviors with high spatiotemporal precision.
At Light Speed: Advances in Optogenetic Systems for Regulating Cell Signaling and Behavior.
Cells are bombarded by extrinsic signals that dynamically change in time and space. Such dynamic variations can exert profound effects on behaviors, including cellular signaling, organismal development, stem cell differentiation, normal tissue function, and disease processes such as cancer. Although classical genetic tools are well suited to introduce binary perturbations, new approaches have been necessary to investigate how dynamic signal variation may regulate cell behavior. This fundamental question is increasingly being addressed with optogenetics, a field focused on engineering and harnessing light-sensitive proteins to interface with cellular signaling pathways. Channelrhodopsins initially defined optogenetics; however, through recent use of light-responsive proteins with myriad spectral and functional properties, practical applications of optogenetics currently encompass cell signaling, subcellular localization, and gene regulation. Now, important questions regarding signal integration within branch points of signaling networks, asymmetric cell responses to spatially restricted signals, and effects of signal dosage versus duration can be addressed. This review summarizes emerging technologies and applications within the expanding field of optogenetics.
Illuminating developmental biology through photochemistry.
Developmental biology has been continually shaped by technological advances, evolving from a descriptive science into one immersed in molecular and cellular mechanisms. Most recently, genome sequencing and 'omics' profiling have provided developmental biologists with a wealth of genetic and biochemical information; however, fully translating this knowledge into functional understanding will require new experimental capabilities. Photoactivatable probes have emerged as particularly valuable tools for investigating developmental mechanisms, as they can enable rapid, specific manipulations of DNA, RNA, proteins, and cells with spatiotemporal precision. In this Perspective, we describe optochemical and optogenetic systems that have been applied in multicellular organisms, insights gained through the use of these probes, and their current limitations. We also suggest how chemical biologists can expand the reach of photoactivatable technologies and bring new depth to our understanding of organismal development.
The rise of photoresponsive protein technologies applications in vivo: a spotlight on zebrafish developmental and cell biology.
The zebrafish ( Danio rerio) is a powerful vertebrate model to study cellular and developmental processes in vivo. The optical clarity and their amenability to genetic manipulation make zebrafish a model of choice when it comes to applying optical techniques involving genetically encoded photoresponsive protein technologies. In recent years, a number of fluorescent protein and optogenetic technologies have emerged that allow new ways to visualize, quantify, and perturb developmental dynamics. Here, we explain the principles of these new tools and describe some of their representative applications in zebrafish.
Optogenetic switches for light-controlled gene expression in yeast.
Light is increasingly recognized as an efficient means of controlling diverse biological processes with high spatiotemporal resolution. Optogenetic switches are molecular devices for regulating light-controlled gene expression, protein localization, signal transduction and protein-protein interactions. Such molecular components have been mainly developed through the use of photoreceptors, which upon light stimulation undergo conformational changes passing to an active state. The current repertoires of optogenetic switches include red, blue and UV-B light photoreceptors and have been implemented in a broad spectrum of biological platforms. In this review, we revisit different optogenetic switches that have been used in diverse biological platforms, with emphasis on those used for light-controlled gene expression in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The implementation of these switches overcomes the use of traditional chemical inducers, allowing precise control of gene expression at lower costs, without leaving chemical traces, and positively impacting the production of high-value metabolites and heterologous proteins. Additionally, we highlight the potential of utilizing this technology beyond laboratory strains, by optimizing it for use in yeasts tamed for industrial processes. Finally, we discuss how fungal photoreceptors could serve as a source of biological parts for the development of novel optogenetic switches with improved characteristics. Although optogenetic tools have had a strong impact on basic research, their use in applied sciences is still undervalued. Therefore, the invitation for the future is to utilize this technology in biotechnological and industrial settings.
TAEL: a zebrafish-optimized optogenetic gene expression system with fine spatial and temporal control.
Here, we describe an optogenetic gene expression system optimized for use in zebrafish. This system overcomes the limitations of current inducible expression systems by enabling robust spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression in living organisms. Because existing optogenetic systems show toxicity in zebrafish, we re-engineered the blue-light-activated EL222 system for minimal toxicity while exhibiting a large range of induction, fine spatial precision and rapid kinetics. We validate several strategies to spatially restrict illumination and thus gene induction with our new TAEL (TA4-EL222) system. As a functional example, we show that TAEL is able to induce ectopic endodermal cells in the presumptive ectoderm via targeted sox32 induction. We also demonstrate that TAEL can be used to resolve multiple roles of Nodal signaling at different stages of embryonic development. Finally, we show how inducible gene editing can be achieved by combining the TAEL and CRISPR/Cas9 systems. This toolkit should be a broadly useful resource for the fish community.
Strategies for development of optogenetic systems and their applications.
It has become clear that biological processes are highly dynamic and heterogeneous within and among cells. Conventional analytical tools and chemical or genetic manipulations are unsuitable for dissecting the role of their spatiotemporally dynamic nature. Recently, optical control of biomolecular signaling, a technology called “optogenetics,” has gained much attention. The technique has enabled spatial and temporal regulation of specific signaling pathways both in vitro and in vivo. This review presents strategies for optogenetic systems development and application for biological research. Combinations with other technologies and future perspectives are also discussed herein. Although many optogenetic approaches are designed to modulate ion channel conductivity, we mainly examine systems that target other biomolecular reactions such as gene expression, protein translocations, and kinase or receptor signaling pathways.