Showing 1 - 25 of 324 results
Optoregulated Drug Release from an Engineered Living Material: Self-Replenishing Drug Depots for Long-Term, Light-Regulated Delivery.
On-demand and long-term delivery of drugs are common requirements in many therapeutic applications, not easy to be solved with available smart polymers for drug encapsulation. This work presents a fundamentally different concept to address such scenarios using a self-replenishing and optogenetically controlled living material. It consists of a hydrogel containing an active endotoxin-free Escherichia coli strain. The bacteria are metabolically and optogenetically engineered to secrete the antimicrobial and antitumoral drug deoxyviolacein in a light-regulated manner. The permeable hydrogel matrix sustains a viable and functional bacterial population and permits diffusion and delivery of the synthesized drug to the surrounding medium at quantities regulated by light dose. Using a focused light beam, the site for synthesis and delivery of the drug can be freely defined. The living material is shown to maintain considerable levels of drug production and release for at least 42 days. These results prove the potential and flexibility that living materials containing engineered bacteria can offer for advanced therapeutic applications.
Optogenetic Delineation of Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Subcircuits in PC12 Cell Differentiation.
Nerve growth factor elicits signaling outcomes by interacting with both its high-affinity receptor, TrkA, and its low-affinity receptor, p75NTR. Although these two receptors can regulate distinct cellular outcomes, they both activate the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway upon nerve growth factor stimulation. To delineate TrkA subcircuits in PC12 cell differentiation, we developed an optogenetic system whereby light was used to specifically activate TrkA signaling in the absence of nerve growth factor. By using tyrosine mutants of the optogenetic TrkA in combination with pathway-specific pharmacological inhibition, we find that Y490 and Y785 each contributes to PC12 cell differentiation through the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway in an additive manner. Optogenetic activation of TrkA eliminates the confounding effect of p75NTR and other potential off-target effects of the ligand. This approach can be generalized for the mechanistic study of other receptor-mediated signaling pathways.
Using Synthetic Biology to Engineer Spatial Patterns.
Synthetic biology has emerged as a multidisciplinary field that provides new tools and approaches to address longstanding problems in biology. It integrates knowledge from biology, engineering, mathematics, and biophysics to build—rather than to simply observe and perturb—biological systems that emulate natural counterparts or display novel properties. The interface between synthetic and developmental biology has greatly benefitted both fields and allowed to address questions that would remain challenging with classical approaches due to the intrinsic complexity and essentiality of developmental processes. This Progress Report provides an overview of how synthetic biology can help to understand a process that is crucial for the development of multicellular organisms: pattern formation. It reviews the major mechanisms of genetically encoded synthetic systems that have been engineered to establish spatial patterns at the population level. Limitations, challenges, applications, and potential opportunities of synthetic pattern formation are also discussed.
Perspectives of RAS and RHEB GTPase Signaling Pathways in Regenerating Brain Neurons.
Cellular activation of RAS GTPases into the GTP-binding "ON" state is a key switch for regulating brain functions. Molecular protein structural elements of rat sarcoma (RAS) and RAS homolog protein enriched in brain (RHEB) GTPases involved in this switch are discussed including their subcellular membrane localization for triggering specific signaling pathways resulting in regulation of synaptic connectivity, axonal growth, differentiation, migration, cytoskeletal dynamics, neural protection, and apoptosis. A beneficial role of neuronal H-RAS activity is suggested from cellular and animal models of neurodegenerative diseases. Recent experiments on optogenetic regulation offer insights into the spatiotemporal aspects controlling RAS/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) or phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) pathways. As optogenetic manipulation of cellular signaling in deep brain regions critically requires penetration of light through large distances of absorbing tissue, we discuss magnetic guidance of re-growing axons as a complementary approach. In Parkinson's disease, dopaminergic neuronal cell bodies degenerate in the substantia nigra. Current human trials of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons must take into account the inability of neuronal axons navigating over a large distance from the grafted site into striatal target regions. Grafting dopaminergic precursor neurons directly into the degenerating substantia nigra is discussed as a novel concept aiming to guide axonal growth by activating GTPase signaling through protein-functionalized intracellular magnetic nanoparticles responding to external magnets.
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.
A bright future: optogenetics to dissect the spatiotemporal control of cell behavior.
Cells sense, process, and respond to extracellular information using signaling networks: collections of proteins that act as precise biochemical sensors. These protein networks are characterized by both complex temporal organization, such as pulses of signaling activity, and by complex spatial organization, where proteins assemble structures at particular locations and times within the cell. Yet despite their ubiquity, studying these spatial and temporal properties has remained challenging because they emerge from the entire protein network rather than a single node, and cannot be easily tuned by drugs or mutations. These challenges are being met by a new generation of optogenetic tools capable of directly controlling the activity of individual signaling nodes over time and the assembly of protein complexes in space. Here, we outline how these recent innovations are being used in conjunction with engineering-influenced experimental design to address longstanding questions in signaling biology.
Liquid Nuclear Condensates Mechanically Sense and Restructure the Genome.
Phase transitions involving biomolecular liquids are a
fundamental mechanism underlying intracellular organization.
In the cell nucleus, liquid-liquid phase
separation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs)
is implicated in assembly of the nucleolus, as well
as transcriptional clusters, and other nuclear bodies.
However, it remains unclear whether and how physical
forces associated with nucleation, growth, and
wetting of liquid condensates can directly restructure
chromatin. Here, we use CasDrop, a novel
CRISPR-Cas9-based optogenetic technology, to
show that various IDPs phase separate into liquid
condensates that mechanically exclude chromatin
as they grow and preferentially form in low-density,
largely euchromatic regions. A minimal physical
model explains how this stiffness sensitivity arises
from lower mechanical energy associated with deforming
softer genomic regions. Targeted genomic
loci can nonetheless be mechanically pulled together
through surface tension-driven coalescence. Nuclear
condensates may thus function as mechanoactive
chromatin filters, physically pulling in targeted
genomic loci while pushing out non-targeted regions
of the neighboring genome.
Mechanobiology of Protein Droplets: Force Arises from Disorder.
The use of optogenetic approaches has revealed new roles for intracellular protein condensates
described in two papers in this issue of Cell (Bracha et. al., 2018; Shin et al., 2018). These results
show that growing condensates are able to exert mechanical forces resulting in chromatin
rearrangement, establishing a new role for liquid-liquid phase separation in the mechanobiology
of the cell.
Mapping Local and Global Liquid Phase Behavior in Living Cells Using Photo-Oligomerizable Seeds.
Liquid-liquid phase separation plays a key role in the
assembly of diverse intracellular structures. However,
the biophysical principles by which phase separation
can be precisely localized within subregions
of the cell are still largely unclear, particularly for
low-abundance proteins. Here, we introduce an oligomerizing
biomimetic system, ‘‘Corelets,’’ and utilize
its rapid and quantitative light-controlled
tunability to map full intracellular phase diagrams,
which dictate the concentrations at which phase
separation occurs and the transition mechanism, in
a protein sequence dependent manner. Surprisingly,
both experiments and simulations show that while
intracellular concentrations may be insufficient for
global phase separation, sequestering protein ligands
to slowly diffusing nucleation centers can
move the cell into a different region of the phase diagram,
resulting in localized phase separation. This
diffusive capture mechanism liberates the cell from
the constraints of global protein abundance and is
likely exploited to pattern condensates associated
with diverse biological processes.
Mitotic Spindle: Illuminating Spindle Positioning with a Biological Lightsaber.
In metazoans, positioning of the mitotic spindle is controlled by the microtubule-dependent motor protein dynein, which associates with the cell cortex. Using optogenetic tools, two new studies examine how the levels and activity of dynein are regulated at the cortex to ensure proper positioning of the mitotic spindle.
Guided by light: optogenetic control of microtubule gliding assays.
Force generation by molecular motors drives biological processes such as asymmetric cell division and cell migration. Microtubule gliding assays, in which surface-immobilized motor proteins drive microtubule propulsion, are widely used to study basic motor properties as well as the collective behavior of active self-organized systems. Additionally, these assays can be employed for nanotechnological applications such as analyte detection, bio-computation and mechanical sensing. While such assays allow tight control over the experimental conditions, spatiotemporal control of force generation has remained underdeveloped. Here we use light-inducible protein-protein interactions to recruit molecular motors to the surface to control microtubule gliding activity in vitro. We show that using these light-inducible interactions, proteins can be recruited to the surface in patterns, reaching a ~5-fold enrichment within 6 seconds upon illumination. Subsequently, proteins are released with a half-life of 13 seconds when the illumination is stopped. We furthermore demonstrate that light-controlled kinesin recruitment results in reversible activation of microtubule gliding along the surface, enabling efficient control over local microtubule motility. Our approach to locally control force generation offers a way to study the effects of non-uniform pulling forces on different microtubule arrays and also provides novel strategies for local control in nanotechnological applications.
Engineering Improved Photoswitches for the Control of Nucleocytoplasmic Distribution.
Optogenetic techniques use light-responsive proteins to study dynamic processes in living cells and organisms. These techniques typically rely on repurposed naturally occurring light-sensitive proteins to control sub-cellular localization and activity. We previously engineered two optogenetic systems, the Light Activated Nuclear Shuttle (LANS) and the Light-Inducible Nuclear eXporter (LINX), by embedding nuclear import or export sequence motifs into the C-terminal helix of the light-responsive LOV2 domain of Avena sativa phototropin 1, thus enabling light-dependent trafficking of a target protein into and out of the nucleus. While LANS and LINX are effective tools, we posited that mutations within the LOV2 hinge-loop, which connects the core PAS domain and the C-terminal helix, would further improve the functionality of these switches. Here, we identify hinge-loop mutations that favourably shift the dynamic range (the ratio of the on- to off-target subcellular accumulation) of the LANS and LINX photoswitches. We demonstrate the utility of these new optogenetic tools to control gene transcription and epigenetic modifications, thereby expanding the optogenetic 'tool kit' for the research community.
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.
Integrating chemical and mechanical signals through dynamic coupling between cellular protrusions and pulsed ERK activation.
The Ras-ERK signaling pathway regulates diverse cellular processes in response to environmental stimuli and contains important therapeutic targets for cancer. Recent single cell studies revealed stochastic pulses of ERK activation, the frequency of which determines functional outcomes such as cell proliferation. Here we show that ERK pulses are initiated by localized protrusive activities. Chemically and optogenetically induced protrusions trigger ERK activation through various entry points into the feedback loop involving Ras, PI3K, the cytoskeleton, and cellular adhesion. The excitability of the protrusive signaling network drives stochastic ERK activation in unstimulated cells and oscillations upon growth factor stimulation. Importantly, protrusions allow cells to sense combined signals from substrate stiffness and the growth factor. Thus, by uncovering the basis of ERK pulse generation we demonstrate how signals involved in cell growth and differentiation are regulated by dynamic protrusions that integrate chemical and mechanical inputs from the environment.
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.
Engineered anti-CRISPR proteins for optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9.
Anti-CRISPR proteins are powerful tools for CRISPR-Cas9 regulation; the ability to precisely modulate their activity could facilitate spatiotemporally confined genome perturbations and uncover fundamental aspects of CRISPR biology. We engineered optogenetic anti-CRISPR variants comprising hybrids of AcrIIA4, a potent Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 inhibitor, and the LOV2 photosensor from Avena sativa. Coexpression of these proteins with CRISPR-Cas9 effectors enabled light-mediated genome and epigenome editing, and revealed rapid Cas9 genome targeting in human cells.
High-resolution Patterned Biofilm Deposition Using pDawn-Ag43.
Spatial structure and patterning play an important role in bacterial biofilms. Here we demonstrate an accessible method for culturing E. coli biofilms into arbitrary spatial patterns at high spatial resolution. The technique uses a genetically encoded optogenetic construct-pDawn-Ag43-that couples biofilm formation in E. coli to optical stimulation by blue light. We detail the process for transforming E. coli with pDawn-Ag43, preparing the required optical set-up, and the protocol for culturing patterned biofilms using pDawn-Ag43 bacteria. Using this protocol, biofilms with a spatial resolution below 25 μm can be patterned on various surfaces and environments, including enclosed chambers, without requiring microfabrication, clean-room facilities, or surface pretreatment. The technique is convenient and appropriate for use in applications that investigate the effect of biofilm structure, providing tunable control over biofilm patterning. More broadly, it also has potential applications in biomaterials, education, and bio-art.
Light-Guided Motility of a Minimal Synthetic Cell.
Cell motility is an important but complex process; as cells move, new adhesions form at the front and adhesions disassemble at the back. To replicate this dynamic and spatiotemporally controlled asymmetry of adhesions and achieve motility in a minimal synthetic cell, we controlled the adhesion of a model giant unilamellar vesicle (GUV) to the substrate with light. For this purpose, we immobilized the proteins iLID and Micro, which interact under blue light and dissociate from each other in the dark, on a substrate and a GUV, respectively. Under blue light, the protein interaction leads to adhesion of the vesicle to the substrate, which is reversible in the dark. The high spatiotemporal control provided by light, allowed partly illuminating the GUV and generating an asymmetry in adhesions. Consequently, the GUV moves into the illuminated area, a process that can be repeated over multiple cycles. Thus, our system reproduces the dynamic spatiotemporal distribution of adhesions and establishes mimetic motility of a synthetic cell.
Cyclic Stiffness Modulation of Cell‐Laden Protein–Polymer Hydrogels in Response to User‐Specified Stimuli Including Light.
Although mechanical signals presented by the extracellular matrix are known to regulate many essential cell functions, the specific effects of these interactions, particularly in response to dynamic and heterogeneous cues, remain largely unknown. Here, a modular semisynthetic approach is introduced to create protein–polymer hydrogel biomaterials that undergo reversible stiffening in response to user‐specified inputs. Employing a novel dual‐chemoenzymatic modification strategy, fusion protein‐based gel crosslinkers are created that exhibit stimuli‐dependent intramolecular association. Linkers based on calmodulin yield calcium‐sensitive materials, while those containing the photosensitive light, oxygen, and voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) protein give phototunable constructs whose moduli can be cycled on demand with spatiotemporal control about living cells. These unique materials are exploited to demonstrate the significant role that cyclic mechanical loading plays on fibroblast‐to‐myofibroblast transdifferentiation in 3D space. The moduli‐switchable materials should prove useful for studies in mechanobiology, providing new avenues to probe and direct matrix‐driven changes in 4D cell physiology.
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.
Optogenetic Medicine: Synthetic Therapeutic Solutions Precision-Guided by Light.
Gene- and cell-based therapies are well recognized as central pillars of next-generation medicine, but controllability remains a critical issue for clinical applications. In this context, optogenetics is opening up exciting new opportunities for precision-guided medicine by using illumination with light of appropriate intensity and wavelength as a trigger signal to achieve pinpoint spatiotemporal control of cellular activities, such as transgene expression. In this review, we highlight recent advances in optogenetics, focusing on devices for biomedical applications. We introduce the construction and applications of optogenetic-based biomedical tools to treat neurological diseases, diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer, as well as bioelectronic implants that combine light-interfaced electronic devices and optogenetic systems into portable personalized precision bioelectronic medical tools. Optogenetics-based technology promises the capability to achieve traceless, remotely controlled precision dosing of an enormous range of therapeutic outputs. Finally, we discuss the prospects for optogenetic medicine, as well as some emerging challenges.
Light-based tuning of ligand half-life supports kinetic proofreading model of T cell activation.
T cells are thought to discriminate stimulatory versus non-stimulatory ligands by converting small changes in ligand binding half-life to large changes in cell activation. Such a kinetic proofreading model has been difficult to test directly, as existing methods of altering ligand binding half-life also change other potentially important biophysical parameters, most notably the stability of the receptor-ligand interaction under load. Here we develop an optogenetic approach to specifically tune the binding half-life of a light-responsive ligand to a chimeric antigen receptor without changing other binding parameters. By simultaneously manipulating binding half-life while controlling for receptor occupancy, we find that signaling is strongly gated by ligand binding half-life. Our results provide direct evidence of kinetic proofreading in ligand discrimination by T cells.
Adherens junction-associated pores mediate the intercellular transport of endosomes and cytoplasmic proteins.
Intercellular endosomes (IEs) are endocytosed vesicles shuttled through the adherens junctions (AJs) between two neighboring epidermal cells during Drosophila dorsal closure. The cell-to-cell transport of IEs requires DE-cadherin (DE-cad), microtubules (MTs) and kinesin. However, the mechanisms by which IEs can be transported through the AJs are unknown. Here, we demonstrate the presence of AJ-associated pores with MTs traversing through the pores. Live imaging allows direct visualization of IEs being transported through the AJ-associated pores. By using an optogenetic dimerization system, we observe that the dimerized IE-kinesin complexes move across AJs into the neighboring cell. The AJ-associated pores also allow intercellular movement of soluble proteins. Importantly, most epidermal cells form dorsoventral-oriented two-cell syncytia. Together, we present a model in which an AJ-associated pore mediates the intercellular transport of IEs and proteins between two cells in direct contact.
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.