Showing 1 - 19 of 19 results
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.
Light-regulated gene expression in Bacteria: Fundamentals, advances, and perspectives.
Numerous photoreceptors and genetic circuits emerged over the past two decades and now enable the light-dependent i.e., optogenetic, regulation of gene expression in bacteria. Prompted by light cues in the near-ultraviolet to near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, gene expression can be up- or downregulated stringently, reversibly, non-invasively, and with precision in space and time. Here, we survey the underlying principles, available options, and prominent examples of optogenetically regulated gene expression in bacteria. While transcription initiation and elongation remain most important for optogenetic intervention, other processes e.g., translation and downstream events, were also rendered light-dependent. The optogenetic control of bacterial expression predominantly employs but three fundamental strategies: light-sensitive two-component systems, oligomerization reactions, and second-messenger signaling. Certain optogenetic circuits moved beyond the proof-of-principle and stood the test of practice. They enable unprecedented applications in three major areas. First, light-dependent expression underpins novel concepts and strategies for enhanced yields in microbial production processes. Second, light-responsive bacteria can be optogenetically stimulated while residing within the bodies of animals, thus prompting the secretion of compounds that grant health benefits to the animal host. Third, optogenetics allows the generation of precisely structured, novel biomaterials. These applications jointly testify to the maturity of the optogenetic approach and serve as blueprints bound to inspire and template innovative use cases of light-regulated gene expression in bacteria. Researchers pursuing these lines can choose from an ever-growing, versatile, and efficient toolkit of optogenetic circuits.
Emerging molecular technologies for light-mediated modulation of pancreatic beta-cell function.
Optogenetic modalities as well as optochemical and photopharmacological strategies, collectively termed optical methods, have revolutionized the control of cellular functions via light with great spatiotemporal precision. In comparison to the major advances in the photomodulation of signaling activities noted in neuroscience, similar applications to endocrine cells of the pancreas, particularly insulin-producing β-cells, have been limited. The availability of tools allowing light-mediated changes in the trafficking of ions such as K+ and Ca2+ and signaling intermediates such as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), renders β-cells and their glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) amenable to optoengineering for drug-free control of blood sugar.
Nanobody-directed targeting of optogenetic tools to study signaling in the primary cilium.
Compartmentalization of cellular signaling forms the molecular basis of cellular behavior. The primary cilium constitutes a subcellular compartment that orchestrates signal transduction independent from the cell body. Ciliary dysfunction causes severe diseases, termed ciliopathies. Analyzing ciliary signaling has been challenging due to the lack of tools investigate ciliary signaling. Here, we describe a nanobody-based targeting approach for optogenetic tools in mammalian cells and in vivo in zebrafish to specifically analyze ciliary signaling and function. Thereby, we overcome the loss of protein function observed after fusion to ciliary targeting sequences. We functionally localized modifiers of cAMP signaling, the photo-activated adenylate cyclase bPAC and the light-activated phosphodiesterase LAPD, and the cAMP biosensor mlCNBD-FRET to the cilium. Using this approach, we studied the contribution of spatial cAMP signaling in controlling cilia length. Combining optogenetics with nanobody-based targeting will pave the way to the molecular understanding of ciliary function in health and disease.
Recent advances in the use of genetically encodable optical tools to elicit and monitor signaling events.
Cells rely on a complex network of spatiotemporally regulated signaling activities to effectively transduce information from extracellular cues to intracellular machinery. To probe this activity architecture, researchers have developed an extensive molecular tool kit of fluorescent biosensors and optogenetic actuators capable of monitoring and manipulating various signaling activities with high spatiotemporal precision. The goal of this review is to provide readers with an overview of basic concepts and recent advances in the development and application of genetically encodable biosensors and optogenetic tools for understanding signaling activity.
Role of cyclic nucleotides and their downstream signaling cascades in memory function: being at the right time at the right spot.
A plethora of studies indicate the important role of cAMP and cGMP cascades in neuronal plasticity and memory function. As a result, altered cyclic nucleotide signaling has been implicated in the pathophysiology of mnemonic dysfunction encountered in several diseases. In the present review we provide a wide overview of studies regarding the involvement of cyclic nucleotides, as well as their upstream and downstream molecules, in physiological and pathological mnemonic processes. Next, we discuss the regulation of the intracellular concentration of cyclic nucleotides via phosphodiesterases, the enzymes that degrade cAMP and/or cGMP, and via A-kinase-anchoring proteins that refine signal compartmentalization of cAMP signaling. We also provide an overview of the available data pointing to the existence of specific time windows in cyclic nucleotide signaling during neuroplasticity and memory formation and the significance to target these specific time phases for improving memory formation. Finally, we highlight the importance of emerging imaging tools like Förster resonance energy transfer imaging and optogenetics in detecting, measuring and manipulating the action of cyclic nucleotide signaling cascades.
Elucidating cyclic AMP signaling in subcellular domains with optogenetic tools and fluorescent biosensors.
The second messenger 3',5'-cyclic nucleoside adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) plays a key role in signal transduction across prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Cyclic AMP signaling is compartmentalized into microdomains to fulfil specific functions. To define the function of cAMP within these microdomains, signaling needs to be analyzed with spatio-temporal precision. To this end, optogenetic approaches and genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors are particularly well suited. Synthesis and hydrolysis of cAMP can be directly manipulated by photoactivated adenylyl cyclases (PACs) and light-regulated phosphodiesterases (PDEs), respectively. In addition, many biosensors have been designed to spatially and temporarily resolve cAMP dynamics in the cell. This review provides an overview about optogenetic tools and biosensors to shed light on the subcellular organization of cAMP signaling.
Revisiting and Redesigning Light-Activated Cyclic-Mononucleotide Phosphodiesterases.
As diffusible second messengers, cyclic nucleoside monophosphates (cNMPs) relay and amplify molecular signals in myriad cellular pathways. The triggering of downstream physiological responses often requires defined cNMP gradients in time and space, generated through the concerted action of nucleotidyl cyclases and phosphodiesterases (PDEs). In an approach denoted optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors serve as genetically encoded, light-responsive actuators to enable the noninvasive, reversible, and spatiotemporally precise control of manifold cellular processes, including cNMP metabolism. Although nature provides efficient photoactivated nucleotidyl cyclases, light-responsive PDEs are scarce. Through modular recombination of a bacteriophytochrome photosensor and the effector of human PDE2A, we previously generated the light-activated, cNMP-specific PDE LAPD. By pursuing parallel design strategies, we here report a suite of derivative PDEs with enhanced amplitude and reversibility of photoactivation. Opposite to LAPD, far-red light completely reverts prior activation by red light in several PDEs. These improved PDEs thus complement photoactivated nucleotidyl cyclases and extend the sensitivity of optogenetics to red and far-red light. More generally, our study informs future efforts directed at designing bacteriophytochrome photoreceptors.
Cyclic Nucleotide-Specific Optogenetics Highlights Compartmentalization of the Sperm Flagellum into cAMP Microdomains.
Inside the female genital tract, mammalian sperm undergo a maturation process called capacitation, which primes the sperm to navigate across the oviduct and fertilize the egg. Sperm capacitation and motility are controlled by 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Here, we show that optogenetics, the control of cellular signaling by genetically encoded light-activated proteins, allows to manipulate cAMP dynamics in sperm flagella and, thereby, sperm capacitation and motility by light. To this end, we used sperm that express the light-activated phosphodiesterase LAPD or the photo-activated adenylate cyclase bPAC. The control of cAMP by LAPD or bPAC combined with pharmacological interventions provides spatiotemporal precision and allows to probe the physiological function of cAMP compartmentalization in mammalian sperm.
Bacteriophytochromes - from informative model systems of phytochrome function to powerful tools in cell biology.
Bacteriophytochromes are a subfamily of the diverse light responsive phytochrome photoreceptors. Considering their preferential interaction with biliverdin IXα as endogenous cofactor, they have recently been used for creating optogenetic tools and engineering fluorescent probes. Ideal absorption characteristics for the activation of bacteriophytochrome-based systems in the therapeutic near-infrared window as well the availability of biliverdin in mammalian tissues have resulted in tremendous progress in re-engineering bacteriophytochromes for diverse applications. At the same time, both the structural analysis and the functional characterization of diverse naturally occurring bacteriophytochrome systems have unraveled remarkable differences in signaling mechanisms and have so far only touched the surface of the evolutionary diversity within the family of bacteriophytochromes. This review highlights recent findings and future challenges.
Perspective Tools for Optogenetics and Photopharmacology: From Design to Implementation.
Optogenetics and photopharmacology are two perspective modern
methodologies for control and monitoring of biological processes from an isolated
cell to complex cell assemblies and organisms. Both methodologies use optically
active components that being introduced into the cells of interest allow for optical
control or monitoring of different cellular processes. In optogenetics, genetic
materials are introduced into the cells to express light-sensitive proteins or protein
constructs. In photopharmacology, photochromic compounds are delivered into a
cell directly but not produced inside the cell from a genetic material. The development
of both optogenetics and photopharmacology is inseparable from the design
of improved tools (protein constructs or organic molecules) optimized for specific
applications. Herein, we review the main tools that are used in modern optogenetics
and photopharmaclogy and describe the types of cellular processes that can be
controlled by these tools. Although a large number of different kinds of optogenetic
tools exist, their performance can be evaluated with a limited number of metrics that
have to be optimized for specific applications.We classify thesemetrics and describe
the ways of their improvement.
Illuminating pathogen-host intimacy through optogenetics.
The birth and subsequent evolution of optogenetics has resulted in an unprecedented advancement in our understanding of the brain. Its outstanding success does usher wider applications; however, the tool remains still largely relegated to neuroscience. Here, we introduce selected aspects of optogenetics with potential applications in infection biology that will not only answer long-standing questions about intracellular pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) but also broaden the dimension of current research in entwined models. In this essay, we illustrate how a judicious integration of optogenetics with routine methods can illuminate the host-pathogen interactions in a way that has not been feasible otherwise.
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.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
Shedding light on the role of cAMP in mammalian sperm physiology.
Mammalian fertilization relies on sperm finding the egg and penetrating the egg vestments. All steps in a sperm's lifetime crucially rely on changes in the second messenger cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate). In recent years, it has become clear that signal transduction in sperm is not a continuum, but rather organized in subcellular domains, e.g. the sperm head and the sperm flagellum, with the latter being further separated into the midpiece, principal piece, and endpiece. To understand the underlying signaling pathways controlling sperm function in more detail, experimental approaches are needed that allow to study sperm signaling with spatial and temporal precision. Here, we will give a comprehensive overview on cAMP signaling in mammalian sperm, describing the molecular players involved in these pathways and the sperm functions that are controlled by cAMP. Furthermore, we will highlight recent advances in analyzing and manipulating sperm signaling with spatio-temporal precision using light.
Optogenetic Tools for Subcellular Applications in Neuroscience.
The ability to study cellular physiology using photosensitive, genetically encoded molecules has profoundly transformed neuroscience. The modern optogenetic toolbox includes fluorescent sensors to visualize signaling events in living cells and optogenetic actuators enabling manipulation of numerous cellular activities. Most optogenetic tools are not targeted to specific subcellular compartments but are localized with limited discrimination throughout the cell. Therefore, optogenetic activation often does not reflect context-dependent effects of highly localized intracellular signaling events. Subcellular targeting is required to achieve more specific optogenetic readouts and photomanipulation. Here we first provide a detailed overview of the available optogenetic tools with a focus on optogenetic actuators. Second, we review established strategies for targeting these tools to specific subcellular compartments. Finally, we discuss useful tools and targeting strategies that are currently missing from the optogenetics repertoire and provide suggestions for novel subcellular optogenetic applications.
How to control cyclic nucleotide signaling by light.
Optogenetics allows to non-invasively manipulate cellular functions with spatio-temporal precision by combining genetic engineering with the control of protein function by light. Since the discovery of channelrhodopsin has pioneered the field, the optogenetic toolkit has been ever expanding and allows now not only to control neuronal activity by light, but rather a multitude of other cellular functions. One important application that has been established in recent years is the light-dependent control of second messenger signaling. The optogenetic toolkit now allows to control cyclic nucleotide-dependent signaling by light in vitro and in vivo.
Engineering of a red-light-activated human cAMP/cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase.
Sensory photoreceptors elicit vital physiological adaptations in response to incident light. As light-regulated actuators, photoreceptors underpin optogenetics, which denotes the noninvasive, reversible, and spatiotemporally precise perturbation by light of living cells and organisms. Of particular versatility, naturally occurring photoactivated adenylate cyclases promote the synthesis of the second messenger cAMP under blue light. Here, we have engineered a light-activated phosphodiesterase (LAPD) with complementary light sensitivity and catalytic activity by recombining the photosensor module of Deinococcus radiodurans bacterial phytochrome with the effector module of Homo sapiens phosphodiesterase 2A. Upon red-light absorption, LAPD up-regulates hydrolysis of cAMP and cGMP by up to sixfold, whereas far-red light can be used to down-regulate activity. LAPD also mediates light-activated cAMP and cGMP hydrolysis in eukaryotic cell cultures and in zebrafish embryos; crucially, the biliverdin chromophore of LAPD is available endogenously and does not need to be provided exogenously. LAPD thus establishes a new optogenetic modality that permits light control over diverse cAMP/cGMP-mediated physiological processes. Because red light penetrates tissue more deeply than light of shorter wavelengths, LAPD appears particularly attractive for studies in living organisms.
Diverse two-cysteine photocycles in phytochromes and cyanobacteriochromes.
Phytochromes are well-known as photoactive red- and near IR-absorbing chromoproteins with cysteine-linked linear tetrapyrrole (bilin) prosthetic groups. Phytochrome photoswitching regulates adaptive responses to light in both photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic organisms. Exclusively found in cyanobacteria, the related cyanobacteriochrome (CBCR) sensors extend the photosensory range of the phytochrome superfamily to shorter wavelengths of visible light. Blue/green light sensing by a well-studied subfamily of CBCRs proceeds via a photolabile thioether linkage to a second cysteine fully conserved in this subfamily. In the present study, we show that dual-cysteine photosensors have repeatedly evolved in cyanobacteria via insertion of a second cysteine at different positions within the bilin-binding GAF domain (cGMP-specific phosphodiesterases, cyanobacterial adenylate cyclases, and formate hydrogen lyase transcription activator FhlA) shared by CBCRs and phytochromes. Such sensors exhibit a diverse range of photocycles, yet all share ground-state absorbance of near-UV to blue light and a common mechanism of light perception: reversible photoisomerization of the bilin 15,16 double bond. Using site-directed mutagenesis, chemical modification and spectroscopy to characterize novel dual-cysteine photosensors from the cyanobacterium Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133, we establish that this spectral diversity can be tuned by varying the light-dependent stability of the second thioether linkage. We also show that such behavior can be engineered into the conventional phytochrome Cph1 from Synechocystis sp. PCC6803. Dual-cysteine photosensors thus allow the phytochrome superfamily in cyanobacteria to sense the full solar spectrum at the earth surface from near infrared to near ultraviolet.