Showing 1 - 25 of 28 results
Steering Molecular Activity with Optogenetics: Recent Advances and Perspectives.
Optogenetics utilizes photosensitive proteins to manipulate the localization and interaction of molecules in living cells. Because light can be rapidly switched and conveniently confined to the sub‐micrometer scale, optogenetics allows for controlling cellular events with an unprecedented resolution in time and space. The past decade has witnessed an enormous progress in the field of optogenetics within the biological sciences. The ever‐increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, can overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. Considering that each optogenetic tool may have a distinct mode of action, a comparative analysis of the current optogenetic toolbox can promote the further use of optogenetics, especially by researchers new to this field. This review provides such a compilation that highlights the spatiotemporal accuracy of current optogenetic systems. Recent advances of optogenetics in live cells and animal models are summarized, the emerging work that interlinks optogenetics with other research fields is presented, and exciting clinical and industrial efforts to employ optogenetic strategy toward disease intervention are reported.
Structural and spectroscopic characterization of photoactive yellow protein and photoswitchable fluorescent protein constructs containing heavy atoms.
Photo-induced structural rearrangements of chromophore-containing proteins are essential for various light-dependent signaling pathways and optogenetic applications. Ultrafast structural and spectroscopic methods have offered insights into these structural rearrangements across many timescales. However, questions still remain about exact mechanistic details, especially regarding photoisomerization of the chromophore within these proteins femtoseconds to picoseconds after photoexcitation. Instrumentation advancements for time-resolved crystallography and ultrafast electron diffraction provide a promising opportunity to study these reactions, but achieving enough signal-to-noise is a constant challenge. Here we present four new photoactive yellow protein constructs and one new fluorescent protein construct that contain heavy atoms either within or around the chromophore and can be expressed with high yields. Structural characterization of these constructs, most at atomic resolution, show minimal perturbation caused by the heavy atoms compared to wild-type structures. Spectroscopic studies report the effects of the heavy atom identity and location on the chromophore's photophysical properties. None of the substitutions prevent photoisomerization, although certain rates within the photocycle may be affected. Overall, these new proteins containing heavy atoms are ideal samples for state-of-theart time-resolved crystallography and electron diffraction experiments to elucidate crucial mechanistic information of photoisomerization.
Yeast Two Hybrid Screening of Photo-Switchable Protein-Protein Interaction Libraries.
Although widely used in the detection and characterization of protein-protein interactions, Y2H screening has been under-used for the engineering of new optogenetic tools or the improvement of existing tools. Here we explore the feasibility of using Y2H selection and screening to evaluate libraries of photoswitchable protein-protein interactions. We targeted the interaction between circularly permuted photoactive yellow protein (cPYP) and its binding partner BoPD (binder of PYP dark state) by mutating a set of four surface residues of cPYP that contribute to the binding interface. A library of ~10,000 variants was expressed in yeast together with BoPD in a Y2H format. An initial selection for the cPYP/BoPD interaction was performed using a range of concentrations of the cPYP chromophore. As expected, the majority (>90% of cPYP variants no longer bound to BoPD). Replica plating was the used to evaluate the photoswitchability of the surviving clones. Photoswitchable cPYP variants with BoPD affinities equal to, or higher than, native cPYP were recovered in addition to variants with altered photocycles and binders that interacted with BoPD as apo-proteins. Y2H results reflected protein-protein interaction affinity, expression, photoswitchability and chromophore uptake, and correlated well with results obtained both in vitro and in mammalian cells. Thus, by systematic variation of selection parameters, Y2H screens can be effectively used to generate new optogenetic tools for controlling protein-protein interactions for use in diverse settings.
A time-dependent role for the transcription factor CREB in neuronal allocation to an engram underlying a fear memory revealed using a novel in vivo optogenetic tool to modulate CREB function.
The internal representation of an experience is thought to be encoded by long-lasting physical changes to the brain ("engrams") (Josselyn et al. Nat Rev Neurosci 16:521-534, 2015; Josselyn et al. J Neurosci 37:4647-4657, 2017; Schacter. 2001; Tonegawa et al. Neuron 87:918-931, 2015). Previously, we (Han et al. Science 316:457-460, 2007) and others (Zhou et al. Nat Neurosci 12:1438-1443, 2009) showed within the lateral amygdala (LA), a region critical for auditory conditioned fear, eligible neurons compete against one other for allocation to an engram. Neurons with relatively higher function of the transcription factor CREB were more likely to be allocated to the engram. In these studies, though, CREB function was artificially increased for several days before training. Precisely when increased CREB function is important for allocation remains an unanswered question. Here, we took advantage of a novel optogenetic tool (opto-DN-CREB) (Ali et al. Chem Biol 22:1531-1539, 2015) to gain spatial and temporal control of CREB function in freely behaving mice. We found increasing CREB function in a small, random population of LA principal neurons in the minutes-hours, but not 24 h, before training was sufficient to enhance memory, likely because these neurons were preferentially allocated to the underlying engram. However, similarly increasing CREB activity in a small population of random LA neurons immediately after training disrupted subsequent memory retrieval, likely by disrupting the precise spatial and temporal patterns of offline post-training neuronal activity and/or function required for consolidation. These findings reveal the importance of the timing of CREB activity in regulating allocation and subsequent memory retrieval, and further, highlight the potential of optogenetic approaches to control protein function with temporal specificity in behaving animals.
Structural Basis of Design and Engineering for Advanced Plant Optogenetics.
In optogenetics, light-sensitive proteins are specifically expressed in target cells and light is used to precisely control the activity of these proteins at high spatiotemporal resolution. Optogenetics initially used naturally occurring photoreceptors to control neural circuits, but has expanded to include carefully designed and engineered photoreceptors. Several optogenetic constructs are based on plant photoreceptors, but their application to plant systems has been limited. Here, we present perspectives on the development of plant optogenetics, considering different levels of design complexity. We discuss how general principles of light-driven signal transduction can be coupled with approaches for engineering protein folding to develop novel optogenetic tools. Finally, we explore how the use of computation, networks, circular permutation, and directed evolution could enrich optogenetics.
Detection of Incorporation of p-Coumaric Acid into Photoactive Yellow Protein Variants in Vivo.
We report the design and characterization of photoactive yellow protein (PYP)-blue fluorescent protein (mTagBFP) fusion constructs that permit the direct assay of reconstitution and function of the PYP domain. These constructs allow for in vivo testing of co-expression systems for enzymatic production of the p-coumaric acid-based PYP chromophore, via the action of tyrosine ammonia lyase and p-coumaroyl-CoA ligase (pCL or 4CL). We find that different 4CL enzymes can function to reconstitute PYP, including 4CL from Arabidopsis thaliana that can produce ∼100% holo-PYP protein under optimal conditions. mTagBFP fusion constructs additionally enable rapid analysis of effects of mutations on PYP photocycles. We use this mTagBFP fusion strategy to demonstrate in vivo reconstitution of several PYP-based optogenetic tools in Escherichia coli via a biosynthesized chromophore, an important step for the use of these optogenetic tools in vivo in diverse hosts.
A yeast system for discovering optogenetic inhibitors of eukaryotic translation initiation.
The precise spatiotemporal regulation of protein synthesis is essential for many complex biological processes such as memory formation, embryonic development and tumor formation. Current methods used to study protein synthesis offer only a limited degree of spatiotemporal control. Optogenetic methods, in contrast, offer the prospect of controlling protein synthesis non-invasively within minutes and with a spatial scale as small as a single synapse. Here, we present a hybrid yeast system where growth depends on the activity of human eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) that is suitable for screening optogenetic designs for the down-regulation of protein synthesis. We used this system to screen a diverse initial panel of 15 constructs designed to couple a light switchable domain (PYP, RsLOV, LOV, Dronpa) to 4EBP2 (eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein 2), a native inhibitor of translation initiation. We identified cLIPS1 (circularly permuted LOV inhibitor of protein synthesis 1), a fusion of a segment of 4EBP2 and a circularly permuted version of the LOV2 domain from Avena sativa, as a photo-activated inhibitor of translation. Adapting the screen for higher throughput, we tested small libraries of cLIPS1 variants and found cLIPS2, a construct with an improved degree of optical control. We show that these constructs can both inhibit translation in yeast harboring a human eIF4E in vivo, and bind human eIF4E in vitro in a light-dependent manner. This hybrid yeast system thus provides a convenient way for discovering optogenetic constructs that can regulate of human eIF4E-depednednt translation initiation in a mechanistically defined manner.
Discovering selective binders for photoswitchable proteins using phage display.
Nature provides an array of proteins that change conformation in response to light. The discovery of a complementary array of proteins that bind only the light-state or dark-state conformation of their photoactive partner proteins would allow each light-switchable protein to be used as an optogenetic tool to control protein-protein interactions. However, as many photoactive proteins have no known binding partner, the advantages of optogenetic control - precise spatial and temporal resolution - are currently restricted to a few well-defined natural systems. In addition, the affinities and kinetics of native interactions are often sub-optimal and are difficult to engineer in the absence of any structural information. We report a phage display strategy using a small scaffold protein that can be used to discover new binding partners for both light and dark states of a given light-switchable protein. We used our approach to generate binding partners that interact specifically with the light state or the dark state conformation of two light-switchable proteins: PYP, a test case for a protein with no known partners, and AsLOV2 a well-characterized protein. We show that these novel light-switchable protein-protein interactions can function in living cells to control subcellular localization processes.
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.
Optogenetics: A Primer for Chemists.
The field of optogenetics uses genetically encoded, light-responsive proteins to control physiological processes. This technology has been hailed as the one of the ten big ideas in brain science in the past decade, the breakthrough of the decade, and the method of the year in 2010 and again in 2014. The excitement evidenced by these proclamations is confirmed by a couple of impressive numbers. The term "optogenetics" was coined in 2006. As of December 2017, "optogenetics" is found in the title or abstract of almost 1600 currently funded National Institutes of Health grants. In addition, nearly 600 reviews on optogenetics have appeared since 2006, which averages out to approximately one review per week! However, in spite of these impressive numbers, the potential applications and implications of optogenetics are not even close to being fully realized. This is due, in large part, to the challenges associated with the design of optogenetic analogs of endogenous proteins. This review is written from a chemist's perspective, with a focus on the molecular strategies that have been developed for the construction of optogenetic proteins.
Strategies for the photo-control of endogenous protein activity.
Photo-controlled or 'optogenetic' effectors interfacing with endogenous protein machinery allow the roles of endogenous proteins to be probed. There are two main approaches being used to develop optogenetic effectors: (i) caging strategies using photo-controlled conformational changes, and (ii) protein relocalization strategies using photo-controlled protein-protein interactions. Numerous specific examples of these approaches have been reported and efforts to develop general methods for photo-control of endogenous proteins are a current focus. The development of improved screening and selection methods for photo-switchable proteins would advance the field.
Natural Resources for Optogenetic Tools.
Photoreceptors are found in all kingdoms of life and mediate crucial responses to environmental challenges. Nature has evolved various types of photoresponsive protein structures with different chromophores and signaling concepts for their given purpose. The abundance of these signaling proteins as found nowadays by (meta-)genomic screens enriched the palette of optogenetic tools significantly. In addition, molecular insights into signal transduction mechanisms and design principles from biophysical studies and from structural and mechanistic comparison of homologous proteins opened seemingly unlimited possibilities for customizing the naturally occurring proteins for a given optogenetic task. Here, a brief overview on the photoreceptor concepts already established as optogenetic tools in natural or engineered form, their photochemistry and their signaling/design principles is given. Finally, so far not regarded photosensitive modules and protein architectures with potential for optogenetic application are described.
Optogenetic Inhibitor of the Transcription Factor CREB.
Current approaches for optogenetic control of transcription do not mimic the activity of endogenous transcription factors, which act at numerous sites in the genome in a complex interplay with other factors. Optogenetic control of dominant negative versions of endogenous transcription factors provides a mechanism for mimicking the natural regulation of gene expression. Here we describe opto-DN-CREB, a blue-light-controlled inhibitor of the transcription factor CREB created by fusing the dominant negative inhibitor A-CREB to photoactive yellow protein (PYP). A light-driven conformational change in PYP prevents coiled-coil formation between A-CREB and CREB, thereby activating CREB. Optogenetic control of CREB function was characterized in vitro, in HEK293T cells, and in neurons where blue light enabled control of expression of the CREB targets NR4A2 and c-Fos. Dominant negative inhibitors exist for numerous transcription factors; linking these to optogenetic domains offers a general approach for spatiotemporal control of native transcriptional events.
Applications of hydrogen deuterium exchange (HDX) for the characterization of conformational dynamics in light-activated photoreceptors.
Rational design of optogenetic tools is inherently linked to the understanding of photoreceptor function. Structural analysis of elements involved in signal integration in individual sensor domains provides an initial idea of their mode of operation, but understanding how local structural rearrangements eventually affect signal transmission to output domains requires inclusion of the effector regions in the characterization. However, the dynamic nature of these assemblies renders their structural analysis challenging and therefore a combination of high- and low-resolution techniques is required to appreciate functional aspects of photoreceptors. This review focuses on the potential of hydrogen-deuterium exchange coupled to mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) for complementing the structural characterization of photoreceptors. In this respect, the ability of HDX-MS to provide information on conformational dynamics and the possibility to address multiple functionally relevant states in solution render this methodology ideally suitable. We highlight recent examples demonstrating the potential of HDX-MS and discuss how these results can help to improve existing optogenetic systems or guide the design of novel optogenetic tools.
Time-resolved crystallography and protein design: signalling photoreceptors and optogenetics.
Time-resolved X-ray crystallography and solution scattering have been successfully conducted on proteins on time-scales down to around 100 ps, set by the duration of the hard X-ray pulses emitted by synchrotron sources. The advent of hard X-ray free-electron lasers (FELs), which emit extremely intense, very brief, coherent X-ray pulses, opens the exciting possibility of time-resolved experiments with femtosecond time resolution on macromolecular structure, in both single crystals and solution. The X-ray pulses emitted by an FEL differ greatly in many properties from those emitted by a synchrotron, in ways that at first glance make time-resolved measurements of X-ray scattering with the required accuracy extremely challenging. This opens up several questions which I consider in this brief overview. Are there likely to be chemically and biologically interesting structural changes to be revealed on the femtosecond time-scale? How shall time-resolved experiments best be designed and conducted to exploit the properties of FELs and overcome challenges that they pose? To date, fast time-resolved reactions have been initiated by a brief laser pulse, which obviously requires that the system under study be light-sensitive. Although this is true for proteins of the visual system and for signalling photoreceptors, it is not naturally the case for most interesting biological systems. To generate more biological targets for time-resolved study, can this limitation be overcome by optogenetic, chemical or other means?
Optical control of protein-protein interactions via blue light-induced domain swapping.
The design of new optogenetic tools for controlling protein function would be facilitated by the development of protein scaffolds that undergo large, well-defined structural changes upon exposure to light. Domain swapping, a process in which a structural element of a monomeric protein is replaced by the same element of another copy of the same protein, leads to a well-defined change in protein structure. We observe domain swapping in a variant of the blue light photoreceptor photoactive yellow protein in which a surface loop is replaced by a well-characterized protein-protein interaction motif, the E-helix. In the domain-swapped dimer, the E-helix sequence specifically binds a partner K-helix sequence, whereas in the monomeric form of the protein, the E-helix sequence is unable to fold into a binding-competent conformation and no interaction with the K-helix is seen. Blue light irradiation decreases the extent of domain swapping (from Kd = 10 μM to Kd = 300 μM) and dramatically enhances the rate, from weeks to <1 min. Blue light-induced domain swapping thus provides a novel mechanism for controlling of protein-protein interactions in which light alters both the stability and the kinetic accessibility of binding-competent states.
Proteins in action: femtosecond to millisecond structural dynamics of a photoactive flavoprotein.
Living systems are fundamentally dependent on the ability of proteins to respond to external stimuli. The mechanism, the underlying structural dynamics, and the time scales for regulation of this response are central questions in biochemistry. Here we probe the structural dynamics of the BLUF domain found in several photoactive flavoproteins, which is responsible for light activated functions as diverse as phototaxis and gene regulation. Measurements have been made over 10 decades of time (from 100 fs to 1 ms) using transient vibrational spectroscopy. Chromophore (flavin ring) localized dynamics occur on the pico- to nanosecond time scale, while subsequent protein structural reorganization is observed over microseconds. Multiple time scales are observed for the dynamics associated with different vibrations of the protein, suggesting an underlying hierarchical relaxation pathway. Structural evolution in residues directly H-bonded to the chromophore takes place more slowly than changes in more remote residues. However, a point mutation which suppresses biological function is shown to 'short circuit' this structural relaxation pathway, suppressing the changes which occur further away from the chromophore while accelerating dynamics close to it.
A circularly permuted photoactive yellow protein as a scaffold for photoswitch design.
Upon blue light irradiation, photoactive yellow protein (PYP) undergoes a conformational change that involves large movements at the N-terminus of the protein. We reasoned that this conformational change might be used to control other protein or peptide sequences if these were introduced as linkers connecting the N- and C-termini of PYP in a circular permutant. For such a design strategy to succeed, the circularly permuted PYP (cPYP) would have to fold normally and undergo a photocycle similar to that of the wild-type protein. We created a test cPYP by connecting the N- and C-termini of wild-type PYP (wtPYP) with a GGSGGSGG linker polypeptide and introducing new N- and C-termini at G115 and S114, respectively. Biophysical analysis indicated that this cPYP adopts a dark-state conformation much like wtPYP and undergoes wtPYP-like photoisomerization driven by blue light. However, thermal recovery of dark-state cPYP is ∼10-fold faster than that of wtPYP, so that very bright light is required to significantly populate the light state. Targeted mutations at M121E (M100 in wtPYP numbering) were found to enhance the light sensitivity substantially by lengthening the lifetime of the light state to ∼10 min. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), circular dichroism, and UV-vis analysis indicated that the M121E-cPYP mutant also adopts a dark-state structure like that of wtPYP, although protonated and deprotonated forms of the chromophore coexist, giving rise to a shoulder near 380 nm in the UV-vis absorption spectrum. Fluorine NMR studies with fluorotryptophan-labeled M121E-cPYP show that blue light drives large changes in conformational dynamics and leads to solvent exposure of Trp7 (Trp119 in wtPYP numbering), consistent with substantial rearrangement of the N-terminal cap structure. M121E-cPYP thus provides a scaffold that may allow a wider range of photoswitchable protein designs via replacement of the linker polypeptide with a target protein or peptide sequence.
Genetically engineered light sensors for control of bacterial gene expression.
Light of different wavelengths can serve as a transient, noninvasive means of regulating gene expression for biotechnological purposes. Implementation of advanced gene regulatory circuits will require orthogonal transcriptional systems that can be simultaneously controlled and that can produce several different control states. Fully genetically encoded light sensors take advantage of the favorable characteristics of light, do not need the supplementation of any chemical inducers or co-factors, and have been demonstrated to control gene expression in Escherichia coli. Herein, we review engineered light-sensor systems with potential for in vivo regulation of gene expression in bacteria, and highlight different means of extending the range of available light input and transcriptional output signals. Furthermore, we discuss advances in multiplexing different light sensors for achieving multichromatic control of gene expression and indicate developments that could facilitate the construction of efficient systems for light-regulated, multistate control of gene expression.
The short-lived signaling state of the photoactive yellow protein photoreceptor revealed by combined structural probes.
The signaling state of the photoactive yellow protein (PYP) photoreceptor is transiently developed via isomerization of its blue-light-absorbing chromophore. The associated structural rearrangements have large amplitude but, due to its transient nature and chemical exchange reactions that complicate NMR detection, its accurate three-dimensional structure in solution has been elusive. Here we report on direct structural observation of the transient signaling state by combining double electron electron resonance spectroscopy (DEER), NMR, and time-resolved pump-probe X-ray solution scattering (TR-SAXS/WAXS). Measurement of distance distributions for doubly spin-labeled photoreceptor constructs using DEER spectroscopy suggests that the signaling state is well ordered and shows that interspin-label distances change reversibly up to 19 Å upon illumination. The SAXS/WAXS difference signal for the signaling state relative to the ground state indicates the transient formation of an ordered and rearranged conformation, which has an increased radius of gyration, an increased maximum dimension, and a reduced excluded volume. Dynamical annealing calculations using the DEER derived long-range distance restraints in combination with short-range distance information from (1)H-(15)N HSQC perturbation spectroscopy give strong indication for a rearrangement that places part of the N-terminal domain in contact with the exposed chromophore binding cleft while the terminal residues extend away from the core. Time-resolved global structural information from pump-probe TR-SAXS/WAXS data supports this conformation and allows subsequent structural refinement that includes the combined energy terms from DEER, NMR, and SAXS/WAXS together. The resulting ensemble simultaneously satisfies all restraints, and the inclusion of TR-SAXS/WAXS effectively reduces the uncertainty arising from the possible spin-label orientations. The observations are essentially compatible with reduced folding of the I(2)' state (also referred to as the 'pB' state) that is widely reported, but indicates it to be relatively ordered and rearranged. Furthermore, there is direct evidence for the repositioning of the N-terminal region in the I(2)' state, which is structurally modeled by dynamical annealing and refinement calculations.
Lights on and action! Controlling microbial gene expression by light.
Light-mediated control of gene expression and thus of any protein function and metabolic process in living microbes is a rapidly developing field of research in the areas of functional genomics, systems biology, and biotechnology. The unique physical properties of the environmental factor light allow for an independent photocontrol of various microbial processes in a noninvasive and spatiotemporal fashion. This mini review describes recently developed strategies to generate photo-sensitive expression systems in bacteria and yeast. Naturally occurring and artificial photoswitches consisting of light-sensitive input domains derived from different photoreceptors and regulatory output domains are presented and individual properties of light-controlled expression systems are discussed.
Tripping the light fantastic: blue-light photoreceptors as examples of environmentally modulated protein-protein interactions.
Blue-light photoreceptors play a pivotal role in detecting the quality and quantity of light in the environment, controlling a wide range of biological responses. Several families of blue-light photoreceptors have been characterized in detail using biophysics and biochemistry, beginning with photon absorption, through intervening signal transduction, to regulation of biological activities. Here we review the light oxygen voltage, cryptochrome, and sensors of blue light using FAD families, three different groups of proteins that offer distinctly different modes of photochemical activation and signal transduction yet play similar roles in a vast array of biological responses. We cover mechanisms of light activation and propagation of conformational responses that modulate protein-protein interactions involved in biological signaling. Discovery and characterization of these processes in natural proteins are now allowing the design of photoregulatable engineered proteins, facilitating the generation of novel reagents for biochemical and cell biological research.
A photoswitchable DNA-binding protein based on a truncated GCN4-photoactive yellow protein chimera.
Photo-controlled DNA-binding proteins promise to be useful tools for probing complex spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression in living organisms. Here we report a novel photoswitchable DNA-binding protein, GCN4(S)Δ25PYP, based on a truncated GCN4-photoactive yellow protein chimera. In contrast to previously reported designed photoswitchable proteins where DNA binding affinity is enhanced upon irradiation, GCN4(S)Δ25PYP dissociates from DNA when irradiated with blue light. In addition, the rate of thermal relaxation to the ground state, part of the PYP photocycle, is enhanced by DNA binding whereas in previous reported constructs it is slowed. The origins of this reversed photoactivity are analyzed in structural terms.
Structure and function of plant photoreceptors.
Signaling photoreceptors use the information contained in the absorption of a photon to modulate biological activity in plants and a wide range of organisms. The fundamental-and as yet imperfectly answered-question is, how is this achieved at the molecular level? We adopt the perspective of biophysicists interested in light-dependent signal transduction in nature and the three-dimensional structures that underpin signaling. Six classes of photoreceptors are known: light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) sensors, xanthopsins, phytochromes, blue-light sensors using flavin adenine dinucleotide (BLUF), cryptochromes, and rhodopsins. All are water-soluble proteins except rhodopsins, which are integral membrane proteins; all are based on a modular architecture except cryptochromes and rhodopsins; and each displays a distinct, light-dependent chemical process based on the photochemistry of their nonprotein chromophore, such as isomerization about a double bond (xanthopsins, phytochromes, and rhodopsins), formation or rupture of a covalent bond (LOV sensors), or electron transfer (BLUF sensors and cryptochromes).
Photoregulation in prokaryotes.
The spectroscopic identification of sensory rhodopsin I by Bogomolni and Spudich in 1982 provided a molecular link between the light environment and phototaxis in Halobacterium salinarum, and thus laid the foundation for the study of signal transducing photosensors in prokaryotes. In recent years, a number of new prokaryotic photosensory receptors have been discovered across a broad range of taxa, including dozens in chemotrophic species. Among these photoreceptors are new classes of rhodopsins, BLUF-domain proteins, bacteriophytochromes, cryptochromes, and LOV-family photosensors. Genetic and biochemical analyses of these receptors have demonstrated that they can regulate processes ranging from photosynthetic pigment biosynthesis to virulence.