Showing 1 - 11 of 11 results
Optophysiology: Illuminating cell physiology with optogenetics.
Optogenetics combines light and genetics to enable precise control of living cells, tissues, and organisms with tailored functions. Optogenetics has the advantages of noninvasiveness, rapid responsiveness, tunable reversibility, and superior spatiotemporal resolution. Following the initial discovery of microbial opsins as light-actuated ion channels, a plethora of naturally occurring or engineered photoreceptors or photosensitive domains that respond to light at varying wavelengths has ushered in the next chapter of optogenetics. Through protein engineering and synthetic biology approaches, genetically encoded photoswitches can be modularly engineered into protein scaffolds or host cells to control a myriad of biological processes, as well as to enable behavioral control and disease intervention in vivo. Here, we summarize these optogenetic tools on the basis of their fundamental photochemical properties to better inform the chemical basis and design principles. We also highlight exemplary applications of opsin-free optogenetics in dissecting cellular physiology (designated "optophysiology") and describe the current progress, as well as future trends, in wireless optogenetics, which enables remote interrogation of physiological processes with minimal invasiveness. This review is anticipated to spark novel thoughts on engineering next-generation optogenetic tools and devices that promise to accelerate both basic and translational studies.
Slow conformational changes of blue light sensor BLUF proteins in milliseconds.
BLUF (blue light sensor using flavin) proteins consist of flavin-binding BLUF domains and functional domains. Upon blue light excitation, the hydrogen bond network around the flavin chromophore changes, and the absorption spectrum in the visible region exhibits red-shift. Ultimately, the light information received in the BLUF domain is transmitted to the functional region. It has been believed that this red-shift is complete within nanoseconds. Contrary to this commonly accepted scheme, in this study, slow reaction kinetics were discovered in milliseconds (τ1- and τ2-phase) for all the BLUF proteins examined (AppA, OaPAC, BlrP1, YcgF, PapB, SyPixD, and TePixD). Despite extensive reports on BLUF, this is the first clear observation of the BLUF protein absorption change with the duration in the millisecond time region. From the measurements of some domain-deleted mutants of OaPAC and two chimeric mutants of PixD proteins, it was found that the slower dynamics (τ2-phase) are strongly affected by the size and nature of the C-terminal region adjacent to the BLUF domain. Hence, this millisecond reaction is a significant indicator of conformational changes in the C-terminal region, which is essential for the biological functions. On the other hand, the τ1-phase commonly exists in all BLUF proteins, including any mutants. The origin of the slow dynamics was studied using site-specific mutants. These results clearly show the importance of Trp in the BLUF domain. Based on this, a reaction scheme for the BLUF reaction is proposed.
Photoactivated Adenylyl Cyclases: Fundamental Properties and Applications.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) was first discovered to be a sensor for photoavoidance in the flagellate Euglena gracilis. PAC is a flavoprotein that catalyzes the production of cAMP upon illumination with blue light, which enables us to optogenetically manipulate intracellular cAMP levels in various biological systems. Recent progress in genome sequencing has revealed several related proteins in bacteria and ameboflagellates. Among them, the PACs from sulfur bacterium Beggiatoa sp. and cyanobacterium Oscillatoria acuminata have been well characterized, including their crystalline structure. Although there have not been many reported optogenetic applications of PACs so far, they have the potential to be used in various fields within bioscience.
Optogenetic Techniques for Manipulating and Sensing G Protein-Coupled Receptor Signaling.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form the largest class of membrane receptors in the mammalian genome with nearly 800 human genes encoding for unique subtypes. Accordingly, GPCR signaling is implicated in nearly all physiological processes. However, GPCRs have been difficult to study due in part to the complexity of their function which can lead to a plethora of converging or diverging downstream effects over different time and length scales. Classic techniques such as pharmacological control, genetic knockout and biochemical assays often lack the precision required to probe the functions of specific GPCR subtypes. Here we describe the rapidly growing set of optogenetic tools, ranging from methods for optical control of the receptor itself to optical sensing and manipulation of downstream effectors. These tools permit the quantitative measurements of GPCRs and their downstream signaling with high specificity and spatiotemporal precision.
The C-terminal region affects the activity of photoactivated adenylyl cyclase from Oscillatoria acuminata.
Photoactivated adenylyl cyclase (PAC) is a unique protein that, upon blue light exposure, catalyzes cAMP production. The crystal structures of two PACs, from Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) and Beggiatoa sp. (bPAC), have been solved, and they show a high degree of similarity. However, the photoactivity of OaPAC is much lower than that of bPAC, and the regulatory mechanism of PAC photoactivity, which induces the difference in activity between OaPAC and bPAC, has not yet been clarified. Here, we investigated the role of the C-terminal region in OaPAC, the length of which is the only notable difference from bPAC. We found that the photoactivity of OaPAC was inversely proportional to the C-terminal length. However, the deletion of more than nine amino acids did not further increase the activity, indicating that the nine amino acids at the C-terminal critically affect the photoactivity. Besides, absorption spectral features of light-sensing domains (BLUF domains) of the C-terminal deletion mutants showed similar light-dependent spectral shifts as in WT, indicating that the C-terminal region influences the activity without interacting with the BLUF domain. The study characterizes new PAC mutants with modified photoactivities, which could be useful as optogenetics tools.
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.
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.
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.
Molecular mechanism of photoactivation of a light-regulated adenylate cyclase.
The photoactivated adenylate cyclase (PAC) from the photosynthetic cyanobacterium Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) detects light through a flavin chromophore within the N-terminal BLUF domain. BLUF domains have been found in a number of different light-activated proteins, but with different relative orientations. The two BLUF domains of OaPAC are found in close contact with each other, forming a coiled coil at their interface. Crystallization does not impede the activity switching of the enzyme, but flash cooling the crystals to cryogenic temperatures prevents the signature spectral changes that occur on photoactivation/deactivation. High-resolution crystallographic analysis of OaPAC in the fully activated state has been achieved by cryocooling the crystals immediately after light exposure. Comparison of the isomorphous light- and dark-state structures shows that the active site undergoes minimal changes, yet enzyme activity may increase up to 50-fold, depending on conditions. The OaPAC models will assist the development of simple, direct means to raise the cyclic AMP levels of living cells by light, and other tools for optogenetics.
Seeing the light with BLUF proteins.
First described about 15 years ago, BLUF (Blue Light Using Flavin) domains are light-triggered switches that control enzyme activity or gene expression in response to blue light, remaining activated for seconds or even minutes after stimulation. The conserved, ferredoxin-like fold holds a flavin chromophore that captures the light and somehow triggers downstream events. BLUF proteins are found in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes and have a variety of architectures and oligomeric forms, but the BLUF domain itself seems to have a well-preserved structure and mechanism that have been the focus of intense study for a number of years. Crystallographic and NMR structures of BLUF domains have been solved, but the conflicting models have led to considerable debate about the atomic details of photo-activation. Advanced spectroscopic and computational methods have been used to analyse the early events after photon absorption, but these too have led to widely differing conclusions. New structural models are improving our understanding of the details of the mechanism and may lead to novel tailor-made tools for optogenetics.
Structural insight into photoactivation of an adenylate cyclase from a photosynthetic cyanobacterium.
Cyclic-AMP is one of the most important second messengers, regulating many crucial cellular events in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and precise spatial and temporal control of cAMP levels by light shows great promise as a simple means of manipulating and studying numerous cell pathways and processes. The photoactivated adenylate cyclase (PAC) from the photosynthetic cyanobacterium Oscillatoria acuminata (OaPAC) is a small homodimer eminently suitable for this task, requiring only a simple flavin chromophore within a blue light using flavin (BLUF) domain. These domains, one of the most studied types of biological photoreceptor, respond to blue light and either regulate the activity of an attached enzyme domain or change its affinity for a repressor protein. BLUF domains were discovered through studies of photo-induced movements of Euglena gracilis, a unicellular flagellate, and gene expression in the purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides, but the precise details of light activation remain unknown. Here, we describe crystal structures and the light regulation mechanism of the previously undescribed OaPAC, showing a central coiled coil transmits changes from the light-sensing domains to the active sites with minimal structural rearrangement. Site-directed mutants show residues essential for signal transduction over 45 Å across the protein. The use of the protein in living human cells is demonstrated with cAMP-dependent luciferase, showing a rapid and stable response to light over many hours and activation cycles. The structures determined in this study will assist future efforts to create artificial light-regulated control modules as part of a general optogenetic toolkit.