Showing 1 - 25 of 147 results
A single-component, light-assisted uncaging switch for endoproteolytic release.
Proteases function as pivotal molecular switches, initiating numerous biological events. Notably, potyviral protease, derived from plant viruses, has emerged as a trusted proteolytic switch in synthetic biological circuits. To harness their capabilities, we have developed a single-component photocleavable switch, termed LAUNCHER (Light-Assisted UNcaging switCH for Endoproteolytic Release), by employing a circularly permutated tobacco etch virus protease and a blue-light-gated substrate, which are connected by fine-tuned intermodular linkers. As a single-component system, LAUNCHER exhibits a superior signal-to-noise ratio compared with multi-component systems, enabling precise and user-controllable release of payloads. This characteristic renders LAUNCHER highly suitable for diverse cellular applications, including transgene expression, tailored subcellular translocation and optochemogenetics. Additionally, the plug-and-play integration of LAUNCHER into existing synthetic circuits facilitates the enhancement of circuit performance. The demonstrated efficacy of LAUNCHER in improving existing circuitry underscores its significant potential for expanding its utilization in various applications.
Direct investigation of cell contraction signal networks by light-based perturbation methods.
Cell contraction plays an important role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. This includes functions in skeletal, heart, and smooth muscle cells, which lead to highly coordinated contractions of multicellular assemblies, and functions in non-muscle cells, which are often highly localized in subcellular regions and transient in time. While the regulatory processes that control cell contraction in muscle cells are well understood, much less is known about cell contraction in non-muscle cells. In this review, we focus on the mechanisms that control cell contraction in space and time in non-muscle cells, and how they can be investigated by light-based methods. The review particularly focusses on signal networks and cytoskeletal components that together control subcellular contraction patterns to perform functions on the level of cells and tissues, such as directional migration and multicellular rearrangements during development. Key features of light-based methods that enable highly local and fast perturbations are highlighted, and how experimental strategies can capitalize on these features to uncover causal relationships in the complex signal networks that control cell contraction.
Optogenetics in Alzheimer's Disease: Focus on Astrocytes.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, resulting in disability and mortality. The global incidence of AD is consistently surging. Although numerous therapeutic agents with promising potential have been developed, none have successfully treated AD to date. Consequently, the pursuit of novel methodologies to address neurodegenerative processes in AD remains a paramount endeavor. A particularly promising avenue in this search is optogenetics, enabling the manipulation of neuronal activity. In recent years, research attention has pivoted from neurons to glial cells. This review aims to consider the potential of the optogenetic correction of astrocyte metabolism as a promising strategy for correcting AD-related disorders. The initial segment of the review centers on the role of astrocytes in the genesis of neurodegeneration. Astrocytes have been implicated in several pathological processes associated with AD, encompassing the clearance of β-amyloid, neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, and lipid metabolism (along with a critical role in apolipoprotein E function). The effect of astrocyte-neuronal interactions will also be scrutinized. Furthermore, the review delves into a number of studies indicating that changes in cellular calcium (Ca2+) signaling are one of the causes of neurodegeneration. The review's latter section presents insights into the application of various optogenetic tools to manipulate astrocytic function as a means to counteract neurodegenerative changes.
Current Trends of Bacterial and Fungal Optoproteins for Novel Optical Applications.
Photoproteins, luminescent proteins or optoproteins are a kind of light-response protein responsible for the conversion of light into biochemical energy that is used by some bacteria or fungi to regulate specific biological processes. Within these specific proteins, there are groups such as the photoreceptors that respond to a given light wavelength and generate reactions susceptible to being used for the development of high-novel applications, such as the optocontrol of metabolic pathways. Photoswitchable proteins play important roles during the development of new materials due to their capacity to change their conformational structure by providing/eliminating a specific light stimulus. Additionally, there are bioluminescent proteins that produce light during a heatless chemical reaction and are useful to be employed as biomarkers in several fields such as imaging, cell biology, disease tracking and pollutant detection. The classification of these optoproteins from bacteria and fungi as photoreceptors or photoresponse elements according to the excitation-emission spectrum (UV-Vis-IR), as well as their potential use in novel applications, is addressed in this article by providing a structured scheme for this broad area of knowledge.
Allosteric regulation of kinase activity in living cells.
The dysregulation of protein kinases is associated with multiple diseases due to the kinases’ involvement in a variety of cell signaling pathways. Manipulating protein kinase function, by controlling the active site, is a promising therapeutic and investigative strategy to mitigate and study diseases. Kinase active sites share structural similarities making it difficult to specifically target one kinase, allosteric control allows specific regulation and study of kinase function without directly targeting the active site. Allosteric sites are distal to the active site but coupled via a dynamic network of inter-atomic interactions between residues in the protein. Establishing an allosteric control over a kinase requires understanding the allosteric wiring of the protein. Computational techniques offer effective and inexpensive mapping of the allosteric sites on a protein. Here, we discuss methods to map and regulate allosteric communications in proteins, and strategies to establish control over kinase functions in live cells and organisms. Protein molecules, or “sensors” are engineered to function as tools to control allosteric activity of the protein as these sensors have high spatiotemporal resolution and help in understanding cell phenotypes after immediate activation or inactivation of a kinase. Traditional methods used to study protein functions, such as knockout, knockdown, or mutation, cannot offer a sufficiently high spatiotemporal resolution. We discuss the modern repertoire of tools to regulate protein kinases as we enter a new era in deciphering cellular signaling and developing novel approaches to treat diseases associated with signal dysregulation.
An optogenetic method for the controlled release of single molecules.
We developed a system for optogenetic release of single molecules in live cells. We confined soluble and transmembrane proteins to the Golgi apparatus via a photocleavable protein and released them by short pulses of light. Our method allows for the controlled delivery of functional proteins to cytosol and plasma membrane in amounts compatible with single molecule imaging, greatly simplifying access to single molecule microscopy of any protein in live cells. Furthermore, we could reconstitute cellular functions such as ion conductance by delivering BK and VRAC ion channels to the plasma membrane. Finally, we could induce NF-kB signaling in T-Lymphoblasts stimulated by IL-1 by controlled release of a signaling protein that had been knocked-out in the same cells. We observed light induced formation of functional inflammatory signaling complexes that could trigger IKK phosphorylation in single cells. We thus developed an optogenetic method for the reconstitution and investigation of cellular function at the single molecule level.
Photoswitchable binders enable temporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
General methods for spatiotemporal control of specific endogenous proteins would be broadly useful for probing protein function in living cells. Synthetic protein binders that bind and inhibit endogenous protein targets can be obtained from nanobodies, designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins), and other small protein scaffolds, but generalizable methods to control their binding activity are lacking. Here, we report robust single-chain photoswitchable DARPins (psDARPins) for bidirectional optical control of endogenous proteins. We created topological variants of the DARPin scaffold by computer-aided design so fusion of photodissociable dimeric Dronpa (pdDronpa) results in occlusion of target binding at baseline. Cyan light induces pdDronpa dissociation to expose the binding surface (paratope), while violet light restores pdDronpa dimerization and paratope caging. Since the DARPin redesign leaves the paratope intact, the approach was easily applied to existing DARPins for GFP, ERK, and Ras, as demonstrated by relocalizing GFP-family proteins and inhibiting endogenous ERK and Ras with optical control. Finally, a Ras-targeted psDARPin was used to determine that, following EGF-activation of EGFR, Ras is required for sustained EGFR to ERK signaling. In summary, psDARPins provide a generalizable strategy for precise spatiotemporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
Quantitative insights in tissue growth and morphogenesis with optogenetics.
Cells communicate with each other to jointly regulate cellular processes during cellular differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. This multiscale coordination arises through spatiotemporal activity of morphogens to pattern cell signaling and transcriptional factor activity. This coded information controls cell mechanics, proliferation, and differentiation to shape the growth and morphogenesis of organs. While many of the molecular components and physical interactions have been identified in key model developmental systems, there are still many unresolved questions related to the dynamics involved due to challenges in precisely perturbing and quantitatively measuring signaling dynamics. Recently, a broad range of synthetic optogenetic tools have been developed and employed to quantitatively define relationships between signal transduction and downstream cellular responses. These optogenetic tools can control intracellular activities at the single cell or whole tissue scale to direct subsequent biological processes. In this brief review, we highlight a selected set of studies that develop and implement optogenetic tools to unravel quantitative biophysical mechanisms for tissue growth and morphogenesis across a broad range of biological systems through the manipulation of morphogens, signal transduction cascades, and cell mechanics. More generally, we discuss how optogenetic tools have emerged as a powerful platform for probing and controlling multicellular development.
Selective induction of programmed cell death using synthetic biology tools.
Regulated cell death (RCD) controls the removal of dispensable, infected or malignant cells, and is thus essential for development, homeostasis and immunity of multicellular organisms. Over the last years different forms of RCD have been described (among them apoptosis, necroptosis, pyroptosis and ferroptosis), and the cellular signaling pathways that control their induction and execution have been characterized at the molecular level. It has also become apparent that different forms of RCD differ in their capacity to elicit inflammation or an immune response, and that RCD pathways show a remarkable plasticity. Biochemical and genetic studies revealed that inhibition of a given pathway often results in the activation of back-up cell death mechanisms, highlighting close interconnectivity based on shared signaling components and the assembly of multivalent signaling platforms that can initiate different forms of RCD. Due to this interconnectivity and the pleiotropic effects of 'classical' cell death inducers, it is challenging to study RCD pathways in isolation. This has led to the development of tools based on synthetic biology that allow the targeted induction of RCD using chemogenetic or optogenetic methods. Here we discuss recent advances in the development of such toolset, highlighting their advantages and limitations, and their application for the study of RCD in cells and animals.
Fluorogenesis: Inducing Fluorescence in a Non-Fluorescent Protein Through Photoinduced Chromophore Transfer of a Genetically Encoded Chromophore.
Fluorescent proteins, while essential for bioimaging, are limited to visualizing cellular localization without offering additional functionality. We report for the first time a strategy to expand the chemical, structural, and functional diversity of fluorescent proteins by harnessing light to induce red fluorescence in a previously non-fluorescent protein. We accomplish this by inducing the transfer of the genetically encoded chromophore from a photocleavable protein (PhoCl1) to a non-fluorescent kinase (MjRibK) inducing red fluorescence in the latter. We have employed analytical and spectroscopic techniques to validate the presence of red fluorescence in MjRibK. Furthermore, molecular dynamics simulations were carried out to investigate the amino acid residues of MjRibK involved in the generation of red fluorescence. Finally, we demonstrate the ability of the red fluorescent MjRibK to operate as a cyclable high-temperature sensor. We anticipate that this light-induced chromophore transfer strategy will open new possibilities for developing multifunctional genetically encoded fluorescent sensors.
The clinical potential of optogenetic interrogation of pathogenesis.
Opsin-based optogenetics has emerged as a powerful biomedical tool using light to control protein conformation. Such capacity has been initially demonstrated to control ion flow across the cell membrane, enabling precise control of action potential in excitable cells such as neurons or muscle cells. Further advancement in optogenetics incorporates a greater variety of photoactivatable proteins and results in flexible control of biological processes, such as gene expression and signal transduction, with commonly employed light sources such as LEDs or lasers in optical microscopy. Blessed by the precise genetic targeting specificity and superior spatiotemporal resolution, optogenetics offers new biological insights into physiological and pathological mechanisms underlying health and diseases. Recently, its clinical potential has started to be capitalized, particularly for blindness treatment, due to the convenient light delivery into the eye.
Live Imaging with Genetically Encoded Physiologic Sensors and Optogenetic Tools.
Barrier tissues such as the epidermis employ complex signal transduction systems to execute morphogenetic programs and to rapidly respond to environmental cues to promote homeostasis. Recent advances in live-imaging techniques and tools allow precise spatial and temporal monitoring and manipulation of intracellular signaling cascades. Leveraging the chemistry of naturally occurring light-sensitive proteins, genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors have emerged as robust tools for visualizing dynamic signaling events. In contrast, optogenetic protein constructs permit laser-mediated control of signal receptors and effectors within live cells, organoids, and even model organisms. In this paper, we review the basic principles underlying novel biosensors and optogenetic tools and highlight how recent studies in cutaneous biology have leveraged these imaging strategies to illuminate the spatiotemporal signals regulating epidermal development, barrier formation, and tissue homeostasis.
RhoA regulation in space and time.
RhoGTPases are well known for being controllers of cell cytoskeleton and share common features in the way they act and are controlled. These include their switch from GDP to GTP states, their regulations by different guanine exchange factors (GEFs), GTPase-activating proteins and guanosine dissociation inhibitors (GDIs), and their similar structure of active sites/membrane anchors. These very similar features often lead to the common consideration that the differences in their biological effects mainly arise from the different types of regulators and specific effectors associated with each GTPase. Focusing on data obtained through biosensors, live cell microscopy and recent optogenetic approaches, we highlight in this review that the regulation of RhoA appears to depart from Cdc42 and Rac1 modes of regulation through its enhanced lability at the plasma membrane. RhoA presents a high dynamic turnover at the membrane that is regulated not only by GDIs but also by GEFs, effectors and a possible soluble conformational state. This peculiarity of RhoA regulation may be important for the specificities of its functions, such as the existence of activity waves or its putative dual role in the initiation of protrusions and contractions.
Pyroptosis Induction and Visualization at the Single-Cell Level Using Optogenetics.
Pyroptosis has been identified as a pro-inflammatory form of programmed cell death. It can be triggered by different stimuli including pathogen invasion or cell stress/danger signals releasing hundreds of proteins upon lysis that cause complex responses in neighboring cells. Pyroptosis is executed by the gasdermin (GSDM) family of proteins which, upon cleavage by caspases, form transmembrane pores that release cytokines to induce inflammation. However, despite the importance of gasdermins in the development of inflammatory diseases and cancer, a lot is still to be understood in the downstream consequences of this cell death pathway. Currently, conventional methods, such as drug treatments or chemically forced oligomerization, are limited in the spatiotemporal analysis of pyroptosis signaling in the cellular population, since all cells are primed for undergoing pyroptosis. Here, we provide a protocol for the application of a novel optogenetics tool called NLS_PhoCl_N-GSDMD_mCherry that enables precise temporal and spatial pyroptosis induction in a confocal microscopy setup, followed by imaging of the cell death process and subsequent quantitative analysis of the experiment. This tool opens new opportunities for the study of pyroptosis activation and of its effects on the bystander cell responses.
Precise modulation of embryonic development through optogenetics.
The past decade has witnessed enormous progress in optogenetics, which uses photo-sensitive proteins to control signal transduction in live cells and animals. The ever-increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, could overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. In this work, we summarize recent progress in this emerging field and highlight the application of opsin-free optogenetics in studying embryonic development, focusing on new insights gained into optical induction of morphogenesis, cell polarity, cell fate determination, tissue differentiation, neuronal regeneration, synaptic plasticity, and removal of cells during development.
A doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase mouse model for optogenetic genome editing.
The experimental need to engineer the genome both in time and space, has led to the development of several photoactivatable Cre recombinase systems. However, the combination of inefficient and non-intentional background recombination has prevented thus far the wide application of these systems in biological and biomedical research. Here, we engineer an optimized photoactivatable Cre recombinase system that we refer to as doxycycline- and light-inducible Cre recombinase (DiLiCre). Following extensive characterization in cancer cell and organoid systems, we generate a DiLiCre mouse line, and illustrated the biological applicability of DiLiCre for light-induced mutagenesis in vivo and positional cell-tracing by intravital microscopy. These experiments illustrate how newly formed HrasV12 mutant cells follow an unnatural movement towards the interfollicular dermis. Together, we develop an efficient photoactivatable Cre recombinase mouse model and illustrate how this model is a powerful genome-editing tool for biological and biomedical research.
Optogenetic Protein Cleavage in Zebrafish Embryos.
A wide array of optogenetic tools is available that allow for precise spatiotemporal control over many cellular processes. These tools have been especially popular among zebrafish researchers who take advantage of the embryo's transparency. However, photocleavable optogenetic proteins have not been utilized in zebrafish. We demonstrate successful optical control of protein cleavage in embryos using PhoCl, a photocleavable fluorescent protein. This optogenetic tool offers temporal and spatial control over protein cleavage events, which we demonstrate in light-triggered protein translocation and apoptosis.
Shedding light on current trends in molecular optogenetics.
Molecular optogenetics is a highly dynamic research field. In the past two years, the field was characterized by the development of new allosteric switches as well as the forward integration of optogenetics research towards application. Further, two areas of research have significantly gathered momentum, the use of optogenetics to control liquid-liquid phase separation as well as the application of optogenetic tools in the extracellular space. Here, we review these areas and discuss future directions.
Recent advances in cellular optogenetics for photomedicine.
Since the successful introduction of exogenous photosensitive proteins, channelrhodopsin, to neurons, optogenetics has enabled substantial understanding of profound brain function by selectively manipulating neural circuits. In an optogenetic system, optical stimulation can be precisely delivered to brain tissue to achieve regulation of cellular electrical activity with unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution in living organisms. In recent years, the development of various optical actuators and novel light-delivery techniques has greatly expanded the scope of optogenetics, enabling the control of other signal pathways in non-neuronal cells for different biomedical applications, such as phototherapy and immunotherapy. This review focuses on the recent advances in optogenetic regulation of cellular activities for photomedicine. We discuss emerging optogenetic tools and light-delivery platforms, along with a survey of optogenetic execution in mammalian and microbial cells.
Engineering of optogenetic devices for biomedical applications in mammalian synthetic biology.
Gene- and cell-based therapies are the next frontiers in the field of medicine. Both are transformative and innovative therapies; however, a lack of safety data limits the translation of such promising technologies to the clinic. Improving the safety and promoting the clinical translation of these therapies can be achieved by tightly regulating the release and delivery of therapeutic outputs. In recent years, the rapid development of optogenetic technology has provided opportunities to develop precision-controlled gene- and cell-based therapies, in which light is introduced to precisely and spatiotemporally manipulate the behaviour of genes and cells. This review focuses on the development of optogenetic tools and their applications in biomedicine, including photoactivated genome engineering and phototherapy for diabetes and tumours. The prospects and challenges of optogenetic tools for future clinical applications are also discussed.
Plant optogenetics: Applications and perspectives.
To understand cell biological processes, like signalling pathways, protein movements, or metabolic processes, precise tools for manipulation are desired. Optogenetics allows to control cellular processes by light and can be applied at a high temporal and spatial resolution. In the last three decades, various optogenetic applications have been developed for animal, fungal, and prokaryotic cells. However, using optogenetics in plants has been difficult due to biological and technical issues, like missing cofactors, the presence of endogenous photoreceptors, or the necessity of light for photosynthesis, which potentially activates optogenetic tools constitutively. Recently developed tools overcome these limitations, making the application of optogenetics feasible also in plants. Here, we highlight the most useful recent applications in plants and give a perspective for future optogenetic approaches in plants science.
Optogenetics for transcriptional programming and genetic engineering.
Optogenetics combines genetics and biophotonics to enable noninvasive control of biological processes with high spatiotemporal precision. When engineered into protein machineries that govern the cellular information flow as depicted in the central dogma, multiple genetically encoded non-opsin photosensory modules have been harnessed to modulate gene transcription, DNA or RNA modifications, DNA recombination, and genome engineering by utilizing photons emitting in the wide range of 200-1000 nm. We present herein generally applicable modular strategies for optogenetic engineering and highlight latest advances in the broad applications of opsin-free optogenetics to program transcriptional outputs and precisely manipulate the mammalian genome, epigenome, and epitranscriptome. We also discuss current challenges and future trends in opsin-free optogenetics, which has been rapidly evolving to meet the growing needs in synthetic biology and genetics research.
Extracellular Optogenetics at the Interface of Synthetic Biology and Materials Science.
We review fundamental mechanisms and applications of OptoGels: hydrogels with light-programmable properties endowed by photoswitchable proteins ("optoproteins") found in nature. Light, as the primary source of energy on earth, has driven evolution to develop highly-tuned functionalities, such as phototropism and circadian entrainment. These functions are mediated through a growing family of optoproteins that respond to the entire visible spectrum ranging from ultraviolet to infrared by changing their structure to transmit signals inside of cells. In a recent series of articles, engineers and biochemists have incorporated optoproteins into a variety of extracellular systems, endowing them with photocontrollability. While other routes exist for dynamically controlling material properties, light-sensitive proteins have several distinct advantages, including precise spatiotemporal control, reversibility, substrate selectivity, as well as biodegradability and biocompatibility. Available conjugation chemistries endow OptoGels with a combinatorially large design space determined by the set of optoproteins and polymer networks. These combinations result in a variety of tunable material properties. Despite their potential, relatively little of the OptoGel design space has been explored. Here, we aim to summarize innovations in this emerging field and highlight potential future applications of these next generation materials. OptoGels show great promise in applications ranging from mechanobiology, to 3D cell and organoid engineering, and programmable cell eluting materials.
Optogenetic technologies in translational cancer research.
Gene and cell therapies are widely recognized as future cancer therapeutics but poor controllability limits their clinical applications. Optogenetics, the use of light-controlled proteins to precisely spatiotemporally regulate the activity of genes and cells, opens up new possibilities for cancer treatment. Light of specific wavelength can activate the immune response, oncolytic activity and modulate cell signaling in tumor cells non-invasively, in dosed manner, with tissue confined action and without side effects of conventional therapies. Here, we review optogenetic approaches in cancer research, their clinical potential and challenges of incorporating optogenetics in cancer therapy. We critically discuss beneficial combinations of optogenetic technologies with therapeutic nanobodies, T-cell activation and CAR-T cell approaches, genome editors and oncolytic viruses. We consider viral vectors and nanoparticles for delivering optogenetic payloads and activating light to tumors. Finally, we highlight herein the prospects for integrating optogenetics into immunotherapy as a novel, fast, reversible and safe approach to cancer treatment.
The expanding role of split protein complementation in opsin-free optogenetics.
A comprehensive understanding of signaling mechanisms helps interpret fundamental biological processes and restore cell behavior from pathological conditions. Signaling outcome depends not only on the activity of each signaling component but also on their dynamic interaction in time and space, which remains challenging to probe by biochemical and cell-based assays. Opsin-based optogenetics has transformed neural science research with its spatiotemporal modulation of the activity of excitable cells. Motivated by this advantage, opsin-free optogenetics extends the power of light to a larger spectrum of signaling molecules. This review summarizes commonly used opsin-free optogenetic strategies, presents a historical overview of split protein complementation, and highlights the adaptation of split protein recombination as optogenetic sensors and actuators.