Showing 1 - 25 of 44 results
Optogenetic strategies for optimizing the performance of biosensors of membrane phospholipids in live cells.
High-performance biosensors are crucial for elucidating the spatiotemporal regulatory roles and dynamics of membrane lipids, but there is a lack of improvement strategies for biosensors with low sensitivity and low-content substrates detection. Here we developed universal optogenetic strategies to improve a set of membrane biosensors by trapping them into specific region and further reducing the background signal, or by optically-controlled phase separation for membrane lipids detection and tracking. These improved biosensors were superior to typical tools and light simulation would enhance their detection performance and resolution, which might contribute to the design and optimization of other biosensors.
Optogenetic control of kinesins -1, -2, -3 and dynein reveals their specific roles in vesicular transport.
Each cargo in a cell employs a unique set of motor proteins for its transport. Often multiple types of kinesins are bound to the same cargo. It is puzzling why several types of motors are required for robust transport. To dissect the roles of each type of motor, we developed optogenetic inhibitors of kinesin-1, -2, -3 and dynein. This system allows us to control the activity of the endogenous set of motor proteins that are bound to intracellular cargoes. We examined the effect of optogenetic inhibition of kinesins-1, -2, and -3 and dynein on the transport of early endosomes, late endosomes, and lysosomes. While kinesin-1, kinesin-3, and dynein transport vesicles at all stages of endocytosis, kinesin-2 primarily drives late endosomes and lysosomes. In agreement with previous studies, sustained inhibition of either kinesins or dynein results in reduced motility in both directions. However, transient, optogenetic inhibition of kinesin-1 or dynein causes both early and late endosomes to move more processively by relieving competition with opposing motors. In contrast, optogenetic inhibition of kinesin-2 reduces the motility of late endosomes and lysosomes, and inhibition of kinesin-3 reduces the motility of endosomes and lysosomes. These results suggest that the directionality of transport is likely controlled through regulating kinesin-1 and dynein activity. On vesicles transported by several kinesin and dynein motors, motility can be directed by modulating the activity of a single type of motor on the cargo.
Transcription factor localization dynamics and DNA binding drive distinct promoter interpretations.
Environmental information may be encoded in the temporal dynamics of transcription factor (TF) activation and subsequently decoded by gene promoters to enact stimulus-specific gene expression programs. Previous studies of this behavior focused on the encoding and decoding of information in TF nuclear localization dynamics, yet cells control the activity of TFs in myriad ways, including by regulating their ability to bind DNA. Here, we use light-controlled mutants of the yeast TF Msn2 as a model system to investigate how promoter decoding of TF localization dynamics is affected by changes in the ability of the TF to bind DNA. We find that yeast promoters directly decode the light-controlled localization dynamics of Msn2 and that the effects of changing Msn2 affinity on that decoding behavior are highly promoter dependent, illustrating how cells could regulate TF localization dynamics and DNA binding in concert for improved control of gene expression.
Optogenetic Miro cleavage reveals direct consequences of real-time loss of function in Drosophila.
Miro GTPases control mitochondrial morphology, calcium homeostasis and regulate mitochondrial distribution by mediating their attachment to the kinesin and dynein motor complex. It is not clear, however, how Miro proteins spatially and temporally integrate their function as acute disruption of protein function has not been performed. To address this issue, we have developed an optogenetic loss of function 'Split-Miro' allele for precise control of Miro-dependent mitochondrial functions in Drosophila. Rapid optogenetic cleavage of Split-Miro leads to a striking rearrangement of the mitochondrial network, which is mediated by mitochondrial interaction with the microtubules. Unexpectedly, this treatment did not impact the ability of mitochondria to buffer calcium. While Split-Miro overexpression is sufficient to augment mitochondrial motility, sustained photocleavage shows Split-Miro is surprisingly dispensable to maintain elevated mitochondrial processivity. Furthermore, functional replacement of endogenous Miro with Split-Miro identifies its essential role in the regulation of locomotor activity in adult flies, demonstrating the feasibility of tuning animal behaviour by real-time loss of protein function.
Progressive enhancement of kinetic proofreading in T cell antigen discrimination from receptor activation to DAG generation.
T cells use kinetic proofreading to discriminate antigens by converting small changes in antigen binding lifetime into large differences in cell activation, but where in the signaling cascade this computation is performed is unknown. Previously, we developed a light-gated immune receptor to probe the role of ligand kinetics in T cell antigen signaling. We found significant kinetic proofreading at the level of the signaling lipid diacylglycerol (DAG) but lacked the ability to determine where the multiple signaling steps required for kinetic discrimination originate in the upstream signaling cascade (Tischer and Weiner, 2019). Here we uncover where kinetic proofreading is executed by adapting our optogenetic system for robust activation of early signaling events. We find the strength of kinetic proofreading progressively increases from Zap70 recruitment to LAT clustering to downstream DAG generation. Leveraging the ability of our system to rapidly disengage ligand binding, we also measure slower reset rates for downstream signaling events. These data suggest a distributed kinetic proofreading mechanism, with proofreading steps both at the receptor and at slower resetting downstream signaling complexes that could help balance antigen sensitivity and discrimination.
Optogenetic control of RelA reveals effect of transcription factor dynamics on downstream gene expression.
Many transcription factors (TFs) translocate to the nucleus with varied dynamic patterns in response to different inputs. A notable example of such behavior is RelA, a subunit of NF-κB, which translocates to the nucleus with either pulsed or sustained dynamics, depending on the stimulus. Our understanding of how these dynamics are interpreted by downstream genes has remained incomplete, partly because ubiquitously used environmental inputs activate other transcriptional regulators in addition to RelA. Here, we use an optogenetic tool, CLASP (controllable light-activated shuttling and plasma membrane sequestration), to control RelA spatiotemporal dynamics in mouse fibroblasts and quantify their effect on downstream genes using RNA-seq. Using RelA-CLASP, we show for the first time that nuclear translocation of RelA, without post-translational modifications or activation of other transcriptional regulators, is sufficient to activate downstream genes. Furthermore, we find that TNFα, a common endogenous input, regulates many genes independently of RelA, and that this gene regulation is different from that induced by RelA-CLASP. Genes responsive to RelA-CLASP show a wide range of dynamics in response to a constant RelA input. We use a simple promoter model to recapitulate these diverse dynamic responses, as well as data collected in response to a pulsed RelA-CLASP input, and extract features of many RelA-responsive promoters. We also pinpoint many genes for which more complex models, involving feedback or multi-step promoters, may be needed to explain their response to constant and pulsed TF inputs. This study introduces a new robust tool for studying mammalian transcriptional regulation and demonstrates the power of optogenetic tools in dissecting the quantitative features of important cellular pathways.
Optogenetic EB1 inactivation shortens metaphase spindles by disrupting cortical force-producing interactions with astral microtubules.
Chromosome segregation is accomplished by the mitotic spindle, a bipolar micromachine built primarily from microtubules. Different microtubule populations contribute to spindle function: kinetochore microtubules attach and transmit forces to chromosomes, antiparallel interpolar microtubules support spindle structure, and astral microtubules connect spindle poles to the cell cortex.1,2 In mammalian cells, end-binding (EB) proteins associate with all growing microtubule plus ends throughout the cell cycle and serve as adaptors for diverse +TIPs that control microtubule dynamics and interactions with other intracellular structures.3 Because binding of many +TIPs to EB1 and thus microtubule-end association is switched off by mitotic phosphorylation,4-6 the mitotic function of EBs remains poorly understood. To analyze how EB1 and associated +TIPs on different spindle microtubule populations contribute to mitotic spindle dynamics, we use a light-sensitive EB1 variant, π-EB1, that allows local, acute, and reversible inactivation of +TIP association with growing microtubule ends in live cells.7 We find that acute π-EB1 photoinactivation results in rapid and reversible metaphase spindle shortening and transient relaxation of tension across the central spindle. However, in contrast to interphase, π-EB1 photoinactivation does not inhibit microtubule growth in metaphase but instead increases astral microtubule length and number. Yet in the absence of EB1 activity, astral microtubules fail to engage the cortical dynein/dynactin machinery, and spindle poles move away from regions of π-EB1 photoinactivation. In conclusion, our optogenetic approach reveals mitotic EB1 functions that remain hidden in genetic experiments, likely due to compensatory molecular systems regulating vertebrate spindle dynamics.
Analysis of Three Architectures for Controlling PTP1B with Light.
Photosensory domains are powerful tools for placing proteins under optical control, but their integration into light-sensitive chimeras is often challenging. Many designs require structural iterations, and direct comparisons of alternative approaches are rare. This study uses protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), an influential regulatory enzyme, to compare three architectures for controlling PTPs with light: a protein fusion, an insertion chimera, and a split construct. All three designs permitted optical control of PTP1B activity in vitro (i.e., kinetic assays of purified enzyme) and in mammalian cells; photoresponses measured under both conditions, while different in magnitude, were linearly correlated. The fusion- and insertion-based architectures exhibited the highest dynamic range and maintained native localization patterns in mammalian cells. A single insertion architecture enabled optical control of both PTP1B and TCPTP, but not SHP2, where the analogous chimera was active but not photoswitchable. Findings suggest that PTPs are highly tolerant of domain insertions and support the use of in vitro screens to evaluate different optogenetic designs.
Gezielte Injektion von Effektoren durch Kontrolle der Proteindynamik.
The type III secretion system (T3SS) enables direct injection of bacterial effector proteins into eukaryotic cells. We found that the dynamic cytosolic interface of the system allows Yersinia enterocolitica to suppress premature secretion at low pH, ensuring rapid activation at the site of action. Exploiting this principle, we developed a light-controlled T3SS based on optogenetic interaction switches, which provides unprecedented spatiotemporal control of protein secretion and translocation.
An Optogenetic Toolbox for Synergistic Regulation of Protein Abundance.
Optogenetic tools have been proven to be useful in regulating cellular processes via an external signal. Light can be applied with high spatial and temporal precision as well as easily modulated in quantity and quality. Natural photoreceptors of the light oxygen voltage (LOV) domain family have been characterized in depth, especially the LOV2 domain of Avena sativa (As) phototropin 1 and its derivatives. Information on the behavior of LOV2 variants with changes in the photocycle or the light response has been recorded. Here, we applied well-described photocycle mutations on the AsLOV2 domain of a photosensitive transcription factor (psTF) as well as its variant that is part of the photosensitive degron (psd) psd3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In vivo and in vitro measurements revealed that each photoreceptor component of the light-sensitive transcription factor and the psd3 module can be modulated in its light sensitivity by mutations that are known to prolong or shorten the dark-reversion time of AsLOV2. Yet, only two of the mutations showed differences in the in vivo behavior in the context of the psd3 module. For the AsLOV2 domain in the context of the psTF, we observed different characteristics for all four variants. Molecular dynamics simulations showed distinct influences of the shortened Jα helix and the V416L mutation in the context of the psd3 photoreceptor. In conclusion, we demonstrated the tunability of two optogenetic tools with a set of mutations that affect the photocycle of the inherent photoreceptors. As these optogenetic tools are concurrent in their action, pleiotropic effects on target protein abundance are achievable with the simultaneous action of the diverse photoreceptor variants.
A novel mechanism of bulk cytoplasmic transport by cortical dynein in Drosophila ovary.
Cytoplasmic dynein, a major minus-end directed microtubule motor, plays essential roles in eukaryotic cells. Drosophila oocyte growth is mainly dependent on the contribution of cytoplasmic contents from the interconnected sister cells, nurse cells. We have previously shown that cytoplasmic dynein is required for Drosophila oocyte growth, and assumed that it transports cargoes along microtubule tracks from nurse cells to the oocyte. Here we report that instead transporting cargoes along microtubules into the oocyte, cortical dynein actively moves microtubules in nurse cells and from nurse cells to the oocyte via the cytoplasmic bridges, the ring canals. We demonstrate this microtubule movement is sufficient to drag even inert cytoplasmic particles through the ring canals to the oocyte. Furthermore, replacing dynein with a minus-end directed plant kinesin linked to the actin cortex is sufficient for transporting organelles and cytoplasm to the oocyte and driving its growth. These experiments show that cortical dynein can perform bulk cytoplasmic transport by gliding microtubules along the cell cortex and through the ring canals to the oocyte. We propose that the dynein-driven microtubule flow could serve as a novel mode of cargo transport for fast cytoplasmic transfer to support rapid oocyte growth.
Optogenetic control of NOTCH1 signalling.
The Notch signalling pathway is a crucial regulator of cell differentiation as well as tissue organisation. Dysregulation of Notch signalling has been linked to the pathogenesis of different diseases. Notch plays a key role in breast cancer progression by controlling the interaction between the tumour cells and the microenvironment as well as by increasing cell motility and invasion. NOTCH1 is a mechanosensitive receptor, where mechanical force is required to activate the proteolytic cleavage and release of the Notch intracellular domain (NICD). Here, we circumvent this step by regulating Notch activity by light. To achieve this, we have engineered a membrane-bound optogenetic NOTCH1 receptor (optoNotch) to control the activation of NOTCH1 intracellular domain (N1ICD) and its downstream transcriptional activities. Using optoNotch we confirm that NOTCH1 activation increases cell proliferation in MCF7 and MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells in 2D and spheroid 3D cultures. OptoNotch allows fine-tuning ligand-independent regulation of N1ICD to understand the spatiotemporal complexity of Notch signalling.
Desensitisation of Notch signalling through dynamic adaptation in the nucleus.
During embryonic development, signalling pathways orchestrate organogenesis by controlling tissue-specific gene expression programmes and differentiation. Although the molecular components of many common developmental signalling systems are known, our current understanding of how signalling inputs are translated into gene expression outputs in real-time is limited. Here we employ optogenetics to control the activation of Notch signalling during Drosophila embryogenesis with minute accuracy and follow target gene expression by quantitative live imaging. Light-induced nuclear translocation of the Notch Intracellular Domain (NICD) causes a rapid activation of target mRNA expression. However, target gene transcription gradually decays over time despite continuous photo-activation and nuclear NICD accumulation, indicating dynamic adaptation to the signalling input. Using mathematical modelling and molecular perturbations, we show that this adaptive transcriptional response fits to known motifs capable of generating near-perfect adaptation and can be best explained by state-dependent inactivation at the target cis-regulatory region. Taken together, our results reveal dynamic nuclear adaptation as a novel mechanism controlling Notch signalling output during tissue differentiation.
Light-Responsive Dynamic Protein Hydrogels Based on LOVTRAP.
Protein-based hydrogels can mimic many aspects of native extracellular matrices (ECMs) and are promising biomedical materials that find various applications in cell proliferation, drug/cell delivery, and tissue engineering. To be adapted for different tasks, it is important that the mechanical and/or biochemical properties of protein-based hydrogels can be regulated by external stimuli. Light as a regulation stimulus is of advantage because it can be easily applied in demanded spatiotemporal manners. The noncovalent binding between the light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domain 2 (LOV2) and its binding partner ZDark1 (zdk1), named as LOVTRAP, is a light-responsive interaction. The binding affinity of LOVTRAP is much higher in dark than that under blue light irradiation. Taking advantage of these light-responsive interactions, herein we endeavored to use LOVTRAP as a crosslinking mechanism to engineer light-responsive protein hydrogels. Using LOV2-containing and zdk1-containing multifunctional protein building blocks, we successfully engineered a light-responsive protein hydrogel whose viscoelastic properties can change in response to light: in the dark, the hydrogel showed higher storage modulus; under blue light irradiation, the storage modulus decreased. Due to the noncovalent nature of the LOVTRAP, the engineered LOVTRAP protein hydrogels displayed shear-thinning and self-healing properties and served as an excellent injectable protein hydrogel. We anticipated that this new class of light-responsive protein hydrogels will broaden the scope of dynamic protein hydrogels and help develop other light-responsive protein hydrogels for biomedical applications.
An optogenetic method for interrogating YAP1 and TAZ nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttling.
The shuttling of transcription factors and transcriptional regulators into and out of the nucleus is central to the regulation of many biological processes. Here we describe a new method for studying the rates of nuclear entry and exit of transcriptional regulators. A photo-responsive AsLOV (Avena sativa Light Oxygen Voltage) domain is used to sequester fluorescently-labelled transcriptional regulators YAP1 and TAZ/WWTR1 on the surface of mitochondria and reversibly release them upon blue light illumination. After dissociation, fluorescent signals from mitochondria, cytoplasm and nucleus are extracted with a bespoke app and used to generate rates of nuclear entry and exit. Using this method, we demonstrate that phosphorylation of YAP1 on canonical sites enhances its rate of nuclear export. Moreover, we provide evidence that, despite high intercellular variability, YAP1 import and export rates correlated within the same cell. By simultaneously releasing YAP1 and TAZ from sequestration, we show that their rates of entry and exit are correlated. Furthermore, combining the optogenetic release of YAP1 with lattice light-sheet microscopy revealed high heterogeneity of YAP1 dynamics within different cytoplasmic regions, demonstrating the utility and versatility of our tool to study protein dynamics.
Optogenetic Control of Non-Apoptotic Cell Death.
Herein, a set of optogenetic tools (designated LiPOP) that enable photoswitchable necroptosis and pyroptosis in live cells with varying kinetics, is introduced. The LiPOP tools allow reconstruction of the key molecular steps involved in these two non-apoptotic cell death pathways by harnessing the power of light. Further, the use of LiPOPs coupled with upconversion nanoparticles or bioluminescence is demonstrated to achieve wireless optogenetic or chemo-optogenetic killing of cancer cells in multiple mouse tumor models. LiPOPs can trigger necroptotic and pyroptotic cell death in cultured prokaryotic or eukaryotic cells and in living animals, and set the stage for studying the role of non-apoptotic cell death pathways during microbial infection and anti-tumor immunity.
Circularly permuted LOV2 as a modular photoswitch for optogenetic engineering.
Plant-based photosensors, such as the light-oxygen-voltage sensing domain 2 (LOV2) from oat phototropin 1, can be modularly wired into cell signaling networks to remotely control protein activity and physiological processes. However, the applicability of LOV2 is hampered by the limited choice of available caging surfaces and its preference to accommodate the effector domains downstream of the C-terminal Jα helix. Here, we engineered a set of LOV2 circular permutants (cpLOV2) with additional caging capabilities, thereby expanding the repertoire of genetically encoded photoswitches to accelerate the design of optogenetic devices. We demonstrate the use of cpLOV2-based optogenetic tools to reversibly gate ion channels, antagonize CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome engineering, control protein subcellular localization, reprogram transcriptional outputs, elicit cell suicide and generate photoactivatable chimeric antigen receptor T cells for inducible tumor cell killing. Our approach is widely applicable for engineering other photoreceptors to meet the growing need of optogenetic tools tailored for biomedical and biotechnological applications.
Quantifying persistence in the T-cell signaling network using an optically controllable antigen receptor.
T cells discriminate between healthy and infected cells with remarkable sensitivity when mounting an immune response, which is hypothesized to depend on T cells combining stimuli from multiple antigen-presenting cell interactions into a more potent response. To quantify the capacity for T cells to accomplish this, we have developed an antigen receptor that is optically tunable within cell conjugates, providing control over the duration, and intensity of intracellular T-cell signaling. We observe limited persistence within the T-cell intracellular network on disruption of receptor input, with signals dissipating entirely in ~15 min, and directly show sustained proximal receptor signaling is required to maintain gene transcription. T cells thus primarily accumulate the outputs of gene expression rather than integrate discrete intracellular signals. Engineering optical control in a clinically relevant chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), we show that this limited signal persistence can be exploited to increase CAR-T cell activation threefold using pulsatile stimulation. Our results are likely to apply more generally to the signaling dynamics of other cellular networks.
Synthetic Protein Condensates That Inducibly Recruit and Release Protein Activity in Living Cells.
Compartmentation of proteins into biomolecular condensates or membraneless organelles formed by phase separation is an emerging principle for the regulation of cellular processes. Creating synthetic condensates that accommodate specific intracellular proteins on demand would have various applications in chemical biology, cell engineering, and synthetic biology. Here, we report the construction of synthetic protein condensates capable of recruiting and/or releasing proteins of interest in living mammalian cells in response to a small molecule or light. By a modular combination of a tandem fusion of two oligomeric proteins, which forms phase-separated synthetic protein condensates in cells, with a chemically induced dimerization tool, we first created a chemogenetic protein condensate system that can rapidly recruit target proteins from the cytoplasm to the condensates by addition of a small-molecule dimerizer. We next coupled the protein-recruiting condensate system with an engineered proximity-dependent protease, which gave a second protein condensate system wherein target proteins previously expressed inside the condensates are released into the cytoplasm by small-molecule-triggered protease recruitment. Furthermore, an optogenetic condensate system that allows reversible release and sequestration of protein activity in a repeatable manner using light was constructed successfully. These condensate systems were applicable to control protein activity and cellular processes such as membrane ruffling and ERK signaling in a time scale of minutes. This proof-of-principle work provides a new platform for chemogenetic and optogenetic control of protein activity in mammalian cells and represents a step toward tailor-made engineering of synthetic protein condensate-based soft materials with various functionalities for biological and biomedical applications.
A synthetic BRET-based optogenetic device for pulsatile transgene expression enabling glucose homeostasis in mice.
Pulsing cellular dynamics in genetic circuits have been shown to provide critical capabilities to cells in stress response, signaling and development. Despite the fascinating discoveries made in the past few years, the mechanisms and functional capabilities of most pulsing systems remain unclear, and one of the critical challenges is the lack of a technology that allows pulsatile regulation of transgene expression both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we describe the development of a synthetic BRET-based transgene expression (LuminON) system based on a luminescent transcription factor, termed luminGAVPO, by fusing NanoLuc luciferase to the light-switchable transcription factor GAVPO. luminGAVPO allows pulsatile and quantitative activation of transgene expression via both chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches in mammalian cells and mice. Both the pulse amplitude and duration of transgene expression are highly tunable via adjustment of the amount of furimazine. We further demonstrated LuminON-mediated blood-glucose homeostasis in type 1 diabetic mice. We believe that the BRET-based LuminON system with the pulsatile dynamics of transgene expression provides a highly sensitive tool for precise manipulation in biological systems that has strong potential for application in diverse basic biological studies and gene- and cell-based precision therapies in the future.
Engineering Supramolecular Organizing Centers for Optogenetic Control of Innate Immune Responses.
The spatiotemporal organization of oligomeric protein complexes, such as the supramolecular organizing centers (SMOCs) made of MyDDosome and MAVSome, is essential for transcriptional activation of host inflammatory responses and immunometabolism. Light‐inducible assembly of MyDDosome and MAVSome is presented herein to induce activation of nuclear factor‐kB and type‐I interferons. Engineering of SMOCs and the downstream transcription factor permits programmable and customized innate immune operations in a light‐dependent manner. These synthetic molecular tools will likely enable optical and user‐defined modulation of innate immunity at a high spatiotemporal resolution to facilitate mechanistic studies of distinct modes of innate immune activations and potential intervention of immune disorders and cancer.
The mitotic protein NuMA plays a spindle-independent role in nuclear formation and mechanics.
Eukaryotic cells typically form a single, round nucleus after mitosis, and failures to do so can compromise genomic integrity. How mammalian cells form such a nucleus remains incompletely understood. NuMA is a spindle protein whose disruption results in nuclear fragmentation. What role NuMA plays in nuclear integrity, and whether its perceived role stems from its spindle function, are unclear. Here, we use live imaging to demonstrate that NuMA plays a spindle-independent role in forming a single, round nucleus. NuMA keeps the decondensing chromosome mass compact at mitotic exit and promotes a mechanically robust nucleus. NuMA's C terminus binds DNA in vitro and chromosomes in interphase, while its coiled-coil acts as a central regulatory and structural element: it prevents NuMA from binding chromosomes at mitosis, regulates its nuclear mobility, and is essential for nuclear formation. Thus, NuMA plays a structural role over the cell cycle, building and maintaining the spindle and nucleus, two of the cell's largest structures.
Synthetic protein condensates that recruit and release protein activity in living cells.
Compartmentation of proteins into biomolecular condensates or membraneless organelles formed by phase separation is an emerging principle for the regulation of cellular processes. Creating synthetic condensates that accommodate specific intracellular proteins on demand would have various applications in chemical biology, cell engineering and synthetic biology. Here, we report the construction of synthetic protein condensates capable of recruiting and/or releasing proteins of interest in living mammalian cells in response to a small molecule or light. We first present chemogenetic protein-recruiting and -releasing condensates, which rapidly inhibited and activated signaling proteins, respectively. An optogenetic condensate system was successfully constructed that enables reversible release and sequestration of protein activity using light. This proof-of-principle work provides a new platform for chemogenetic and optogenetic control of protein activity in mammalian cells and represents a step towards tailor-made engineering of synthetic protein condensates with various functionalities.
Quantifying signal persistence in the T cell signaling network using an optically controllable antigen receptor.
T cells discriminate between healthy and infected cells with remarkable sensitivity when mounting an immune response. It has been hypothesized that this efficient detection requires combining signals from discrete antigen-presenting cell interactions into a more potent response, requiring T cells to maintain a ‘memory’ of previous encounters. To quantify the magnitude of this phenomenon, we have developed an antigen receptor that is both optically and chemically tunable, providing control over the initiation, duration, and intensity of intracellular T-cell signaling within physiological cell conjugates. We observe very limited persistence within the T cell intracellular network on disruption of receptor input, with signals dissipating entirely in ~15 minutes, and directly confirm that sustained proximal receptor signaling is required to maintain active gene transcription. Our data suggests that T cells are largely incapable of integrating discrete antigen receptor signals but instead simply accumulate the output of gene expression. By engineering optical control in a clinically relevant chimeric antigen receptor, we show that this limited signal persistence can be exploited to increase the activation of primary T cells by ~3-fold by using pulsatile stimulation. Our results are likely to apply more generally to the signaling dynamics of other cellular networks.
Optogenetic Control Reveals Differential Promoter Interpretation of Transcription Factor Nuclear Translocation Dynamics.
Gene expression is thought to be affected not only by the concentration of transcription factors (TFs) but also the dynamics of their nuclear translocation. Testing this hypothesis requires direct control of TF dynamics. Here, we engineer CLASP, an optogenetic tool for rapid and tunable translocation of a TF of interest. Using CLASP fused to Crz1, we observe that, for the same integrated concentration of nuclear TF over time, changing input dynamics changes target gene expression: pulsatile inputs yield higher expression than continuous inputs, or vice versa, depending on the target gene. Computational modeling reveals that a dose-response saturating at low TF input can yield higher gene expression for pulsatile versus continuous input, and that multi-state promoter activation can yield the opposite behavior. Our integrated tool development and modeling approach characterize promoter responses to Crz1 nuclear translocation dynamics, extracting quantitative features that may help explain the differential expression of target genes.