Showing 1 - 25 of 283 results
Dynamics and heterogeneity of Erk-induced immediate-early gene expression.
Many canonical signaling pathways exhibit complex time-varying responses, yet how minutes-timescale pulses of signaling interact with the dynamics of transcription and gene expression remains poorly understood. Erk-induced immediate early gene (IEG) expression is a model of this interface, exemplifying both dynamic pathway activity and a rapid, potent transcriptional response. Here, we quantitatively characterize IEG expression downstream of dynamic Erk stimuli in individual cells. We find that IEG expression responds rapidly to acute changes in Erk activity, but only in a sub-population of stimulus-responsive cells. We find that while Erk activity partially predicts IEG expression, a majority of response heterogeneity is independent of Erk and can be rapidly tuned by different mitogenic stimuli and parallel signaling pathways. We extend our findings to an in vivo context, the mouse epidermis, where we observe heterogenous immediate-early gene accumulation in both fixed tissue and single-cell RNA-sequencing data. Our results demonstrate that signaling dynamics can be faithfully transmitted to gene expression and suggest that the signaling-responsive population is an important parameter for interpreting gene expression responses.
Signaling, Deconstructed: Using Optogenetics to Dissect and Direct Information Flow in Biological Systems.
Cells receive enormous amounts of information from their environment. How they act on this information-by migrating, expressing genes, or relaying signals to other cells-comprises much of the regulatory and self-organizational complexity found across biology. The "parts list" involved in cell signaling is generally well established, but how do these parts work together to decode signals and produce appropriate responses? This fundamental question is increasingly being addressed with optogenetic tools: light-sensitive proteins that enable biologists to manipulate the interaction, localization, and activity state of proteins with high spatial and temporal precision. In this review, we summarize how optogenetics is being used in the pursuit of an answer to this question, outlining the current suite of optogenetic tools available to the researcher and calling attention to studies that increase our understanding of and improve our ability to engineer biology. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, Volume 23 is June 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Strategies for site-specific recombination with high efficiency and precise spatiotemporal resolution.
Site-specific recombinases (SSRs) are invaluable genome engineering tools that have enormously boosted our understanding of gene functions and cell lineage relationships in developmental biology, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and multiple diseases. However, the ever-increasing complexity of biomedical research requires the development of novel site-specific genetic recombination technologies that can manipulate genomic DNA with high efficiency and fine spatiotemporal control. Here, we review the latest innovative strategies of the commonly used Cre-loxP recombination system and its combinatorial strategies with other SSR systems. We also highlight recent progress with a focus on the new generation of chemical- and light-inducible genetic systems and discuss the merits and limitations of each new and established system. Finally, we provide the future perspectives of combining various recombination systems or improving well-established site-specific genetic tools to achieve more efficient and precise spatiotemporal genetic manipulation.
Photo-dependent membrane-less organelles formed from plant phyB and PIF6 proteins in mammalian cells.
Plant photobodies are the membrane-less organelles (MLOs) that can be generated by protein-protein interactions between active form of phytochrome B (phyB) and phytochrome-interacting factors (PIFs). These organelles regulate plant photomorphogenesis. In this study, we developed two chimeric proteins with fluorescent proteins, phyB fused to EGFP and PIF6 fused to mCherry, and investigated their exogenous expression in mammalian cells by confocal fluorescence microscopy. Results showed that irradiation with diffused 630-nm light induced formation and subsequent increase in sizes of the MLOs. The assembly and disassembly of the photo-inducible MLOs in the mammalian cell cytoplasm obeyed the laws inherent in the concentration-dependent phase separation of biopolymers. The sizes of MLOs formed from phyB and PIF6 in mammalian cells corresponded to the sizes of the so-called "early" photobodies in plant cells. These results suggested that the first step for the formation of plant photobodies might be based on the light-dependent liquid-liquid phase separation of PIFs and other proteins that can specifically interact with the active form of phyB. The developed chimeric proteins in principle can be used to control the assembly and disassembly of photo-inducible MLOs, and thereby to regulate various intracellular processes in mammalian cells.
Synthetic Biological Approaches for Optogenetics and Tools for Transcriptional Light‐Control in Bacteria.
Light has become established as a tool not only to visualize and investigate but also to steer biological systems. This review starts by discussing the unique features that make light such an effective control input in biology. It then gives an overview of how light‐control came to progress, starting with photoactivatable compounds and leading up to current genetic implementations using optogenetic approaches. The review then zooms in on optogenetics, focusing on photosensitive proteins, which form the basis for optogenetic engineering using synthetic biological approaches. As the regulation of transcription provides a highly versatile means for steering diverse biological functions, the focus of this review then shifts to transcriptional light regulators, which are presented in the biotechnologically highly relevant model organism Escherichia coli.
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.
Liquid-liquid phase separation of light-inducible transcription factors increases transcription activation in mammalian cells and mice.
Light-inducible gene switches represent a key strategy for the precise manipulation of cellular events in fundamental and applied research. However, the performance of widely used gene switches is limited due to low tissue penetrance and possible phototoxicity of the light stimulus. To overcome these limitations, we engineer optogenetic synthetic transcription factors to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation in close spatial proximity to promoters. Phase separation of constitutive and optogenetic synthetic transcription factors was achieved by incorporation of intrinsically disordered regions. Supported by a quantitative mathematical model, we demonstrate that engineered transcription factor droplets form at target promoters and increase gene expression up to fivefold. This increase in performance was observed in multiple mammalian cells lines as well as in mice following in situ transfection. The results of this work suggest that the introduction of intrinsically disordered domains is a simple yet effective means to boost synthetic transcription factor activity.
Optogenetics: The Art of Illuminating Complex Signaling Pathways.
Dissection of cell signaling requires tools that can mimic spatiotemporal dynamics of individual pathways in living cells. Optogenetic methods enable manipulation of signaling processes with precise timing and local control. In this review, we describe recent optogenetic approaches for regulation of cell signaling, highlight their advantages and limitations, and discuss examples of their application.
Efficient photoactivatable Dre recombinase for cell type-specific spatiotemporal control of genome engineering in the mouse.
Precise genetic engineering in specific cell types within an intact organism is intriguing yet challenging, especially in a spatiotemporal manner without the interference caused by chemical inducers. Here we engineered a photoactivatable Dre recombinase based on the identification of an optimal split site and demonstrated that it efficiently regulated transgene expression in mouse tissues spatiotemporally upon blue light illumination. Moreover, through a double-floxed inverted open reading frame strategy, we developed a Cre-activated light-inducible Dre (CALID) system. Taking advantage of well-defined cell-type-specific promoters or a well-established Cre transgenic mouse strain, we demonstrated that the CALID system was able to activate endogenous reporter expression for either bulk or sparse labeling of CaMKIIα-positive excitatory neurons and parvalbumin interneurons in the brain. This flexible and tunable system could be a powerful tool for the dissection and modulation of developmental and genetic complexity in a wide range of biological systems.
Optical sensors of G protein signaling.
Heterotrimeric G proteins are central mediators of cellular signal transduction. They receive, process, and transduce signals from G protein-coupled receptors to downstream effectors. Since their discovery, a number of optical sensors of G protein localization and function have been developed and applied in living systems. In this minireview, we provide an overview of existing G protein-based sensors and the experimental approaches they utilize, with emphasis on live-cell imaging techniques. We outline recent advances, as well as identify current challenges and likely future directions in the field of G protein sensor development.
A light way for nuclear cell biologists.
The nucleus is a very complex organelle present in eukaryotic cells. Having the crucial task to safeguard, organize and manage the genetic information, it must tightly control its molecular constituents, its shape and its internal architecture at any given time. Despite our vast knowledge of nuclear cell biology, much is yet to be unraveled. For instance, only recently we came to appreciate the existence of a dynamic nuclear cytoskeleton made of actin filaments that regulates processes such as gene expression, DNA repair and nuclear expansion. This suggests further exciting discoveries ahead of us. Modern cell biologists embrace a new methodology relying on precise perturbations of cellular processes that require a reversible, highly spatially-confinable, rapid, inexpensive and tunable external stimulus: light. In this review, we discuss how optogenetics, the state-of-the-art technology that uses genetically-encoded light-sensitive proteins to steer biological processes, can be adopted to specifically investigate nuclear cell biology.
The Promise of Optogenetics for Bioproduction: Dynamic Control Strategies and Scale-Up Instruments.
Progress in metabolic engineering and synthetic and systems biology has made bioproduction an increasingly attractive and competitive strategy for synthesizing biomolecules, recombinant proteins and biofuels from renewable feedstocks. Yet, due to poor productivity, it remains difficult to make a bioproduction process economically viable at large scale. Achieving dynamic control of cellular processes could lead to even better yields by balancing the two characteristic phases of bioproduction, namely, growth versus production, which lie at the heart of a trade-off that substantially impacts productivity. The versatility and controllability offered by light will be a key element in attaining the level of control desired. The popularity of light-mediated control is increasing, with an expanding repertoire of optogenetic systems for novel applications, and many optogenetic devices have been designed to test optogenetic strains at various culture scales for bioproduction objectives. In this review, we aim to highlight the most important advances in this direction. We discuss how optogenetics is currently applied to control metabolism in the context of bioproduction, describe the optogenetic instruments and devices used at the laboratory scale for strain development, and explore how current industrial-scale bioproduction processes could be adapted for optogenetics or could benefit from existing photobioreactor designs. We then draw attention to the steps that must be undertaken to further optimize the control of biological systems in order to take full advantage of the potential offered by microbial factories.
Creating Red Light-Switchable Protein Dimerization Systems as Genetically Encoded Actuators with High Specificity.
Protein dimerization systems controlled by red light with increased tissue penetration depth are a highly needed tool for clinical applications such as cell and gene therapies. However, mammalian applications of existing red light-induced dimerization systems are hampered by limitations of their two components: a photosensory protein (or photoreceptor) which often requires a mammalian exogenous chromophore and a naturally occurring photoreceptor binding protein typically having a complex structure and nonideal binding properties. Here, we introduce an efficient, generalizable method (COMBINES-LID) for creating highly specific, reversible light-induced heterodimerization systems independent of any existing binders to a photoreceptor. It involves a two-step binder screen (phage display and yeast two-hybrid) of a combinatorial nanobody library to obtain binders that selectively engage a light-activated form of a photoswitchable protein or domain not the dark form. Proof-of-principle was provided by engineering nanobody-based, red light-induced dimerization (nanoReD) systems comprising a truncated bacterial phytochrome sensory module using a mammalian endogenous chromophore, biliverdin, and light-form specific nanobodies. Selected nanoReD systems were biochemically characterized, exhibiting low dark activity and high induction specificity, and further demonstrated for the reversible control of protein translocation and activation of gene expression in mice. Overall, COMBINES-LID opens new opportunities for creating genetically encoded actuators for the optical manipulation of biological processes.
Improvement of Phycocyanobilin Synthesis for Genetically Encoded Phytochrome-Based Optogenetics.
Optogenetics is a powerful technique using photoresponsive proteins, and the light-inducible dimerization (LID) system, an optogenetic tool, allows to manipulate intracellular signaling pathways. One of the red/far-red responsive LID systems, phytochrome B (PhyB)-phytochrome interacting factor (PIF), has a unique property of controlling both association and dissociation by light on the second time scale, but PhyB requires a linear tetrapyrrole chromophore such as phycocyanobilin (PCB), and such chromophores are present only in higher plants and cyanobacteria. Here, we report that we further improved our previously developed PCB synthesis system (SynPCB) and successfully established a stable cell line containing a genetically encoded PhyB-PIF LID system. First, four genes responsible for PCB synthesis, namely, PcyA, HO1, Fd, and Fnr, were replaced with their counterparts derived from thermophilic cyanobacteria. Second, Fnr was truncated, followed by fusion with Fd to generate a chimeric protein, tFnr-Fd. Third, these genes were concatenated with P2A peptide cDNAs for polycistronic expression, resulting in an approximately 4-fold increase in PCB synthesis compared with the previous version. Finally, we incorporated the PhyB, PIF, and SynPCB system into drug inducible lentiviral and transposon vectors, which enabled us to induce PCB synthesis and the PhyB-PIF LID system by doxycycline treatment. These tools provide a new opportunity to advance our understanding of the causal relationship between intracellular signaling and cellular functions.
The rise and shine of yeast optogenetics.
Optogenetics refers to the control of biological processes with light. The activation of cellular phenomena by defined wavelengths has several advantages compared to traditional chemically-inducible systems, such as spatiotemporal resolution, dose-response regulation, low cost and moderate toxic effects. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in yeast, a remarkable biological platform that is not only a model organism for cellular and molecular biology studies, but also a microorganism with diverse biotechnological applications. In this review, we summarize the main optogenetic systems implemented in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which allow orthogonal control (by light) of gene expression, protein subcellular localization, reconstitution of protein activity, or protein sequestration by oligomerization. Furthermore, we review the application of optogenetic systems in the control of metabolic pathways, heterologous protein production and flocculation. We then revise an example of a previously described yeast optogenetic switch, named FUN-LOV, which allows precise and strong activation of the target gene. Finally, we describe optogenetic systems that have not yet been implemented in yeast, which could therefore be used to expand the panel of available tools in this biological chassis. In conclusion, a wide repertoire of optogenetic systems can be used to address fundamental biological questions and broaden the biotechnological toolkit in yeast.
Optogenetics in plants.
The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of optogenetics; a field that has given researchers the ability to use light to control biological processes at high spatio-temporal and quantitative resolution, in a reversible manner with minimal side effects. Optogenetics has revolutionised the neurosciences, increased our understanding of cellular signalling and metabolic networks and resulted in variety of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. However, implementing optogenetics in plants has been less straight forward given their dependency on light for their life cycle. Here, we highlight some of the widely used technologies in microorganisms and animal systems derived from plant photoreceptor proteins and discuss strategies recently implemented to overcome the challenges for using optogenetics in plants.
Multichromatic Control of Signaling Pathways in Mammalian Cells.
The precise control of signaling proteins is a prerequisite to decipher the complexity of the signaling network and to reveal and to study pathways involved in regulating cellular metabolism and gene expression. Optogenetic approaches play an emerging role as they enable the spatiotemporal control of signaling processes. Herein, a multichromatic system is developed by combining the blue light cryptochrome 2 system and the red/far-red light phytochrome B system. The use of three wavelengths allows the orthogonal control of the RAF/ERK and the AKT signaling pathway. Continuous exposure of cells to blue light leads to activation of AKT while simultaneous pulses of red and far-red light enable the modulation of ERK signaling in cells with constantly active AKT signaling. The optimized, orthogonal multichromatic system presented here is a valuable tool to better understand the fine grained and intricate processes involved in cell fate decisions.
Optogenetic interrogation and control of cell signaling.
Signaling networks control the flow of information through biological systems and coordinate the chemical processes that constitute cellular life. Optogenetic actuators - genetically encoded proteins that undergo light-induced changes in activity or conformation - are useful tools for probing signaling networks over time and space. They have permitted detailed dissections of cellular proliferation, differentiation, motility, and death, and enabled the assembly of synthetic systems with applications in areas as diverse as photography, chemical synthesis, and medicine. In this review, we provide a brief introduction to optogenetic systems and describe their application to molecular-level analyses of cell signaling. Our discussion highlights important research achievements and speculates on future opportunities to exploit optogenetic systems in the study and assembly of complex biochemical networks.
Optogenetics and biosensors set the stage for metabolic cybergenetics.
Cybergenetic systems use computer interfaces to enable feed-back controls over biological processes in real time. The complex and dynamic nature of cellular metabolism makes cybergenetics attractive for controlling engineered metabolic pathways in microbial fermentations. Cybergenetics would not only create new avenues of research into cellular metabolism, it would also enable unprecedented strategies for pathway optimization and bioreactor operation and automation. Implementation of metabolic cybergenetics, however, will require new capabilities from actuators, biosensors, and control algorithms. The recent application of optogenetics in metabolic engineering, the expanding role of genetically encoded biosensors in strain development, and continued progress in control algorithms for biological processes suggest that this technology will become available in the not so distant future.
Light control of RTK activity: from technology development to translational research.
Inhibition of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) by small molecule inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies is used to treat cancer. Conversely, activation of RTKs with their ligands, including growth factors and insulin, is used to treat diabetes and neurodegeneration. However, conventional therapies that rely on injection of RTK inhibitors or activators do not provide spatiotemporal control over RTK signaling, which results in diminished efficiency and side effects. Recently, a number of optogenetic and optochemical approaches have been developed that allow RTK inhibition or activation in cells and in vivo with light. Light irradiation can control RTK signaling non-invasively, in a dosed manner, with high spatio-temporal precision, and without the side effects of conventional treatments. Here we provide an update on the current state of the art of optogenetic and optochemical RTK technologies and the prospects of their use in translational studies and therapy.
Optogenetic control of protein binding using light-switchable nanobodies.
A growing number of optogenetic tools have been developed to reversibly control binding between two engineered protein domains. In contrast, relatively few tools confer light-switchable binding to a generic target protein of interest. Such a capability would offer substantial advantages, enabling photoswitchable binding to endogenous target proteins in cells or light-based protein purification in vitro. Here, we report the development of opto-nanobodies (OptoNBs), a versatile class of chimeric photoswitchable proteins whose binding to proteins of interest can be enhanced or inhibited upon blue light illumination. We find that OptoNBs are suitable for a range of applications including reversibly binding to endogenous intracellular targets, modulating signaling pathway activity, and controlling binding to purified protein targets in vitro. This work represents a step towards programmable photoswitchable regulation of a wide variety of target proteins.
Optogenetic control of heterologous metabolism in E. coli.
Multi-objective optimization of microbial chassis for the production of xenobiotic compounds requires the implementation of metabolic control strategies that permit dynamic distribution of cellular resources between biomass and product formation. We addressed this need in a previous study by engineering the T7 RNA polymerase to be thermally responsive. The modified polymerase is activated only after the temperature of the host cell falls below 18oC, and Escherichia coli cells that employ the protein to transcribe the heterologous lycopene biosynthetic pathway exhibit impressive improvements in productivity. We have expanded our toolbox of metabolic switches in the current study by engineering a version of the T7 RNA polymerase that drives the transition between biomass and product formation upon stimulation with red light. The engineered polymerase is expressed as two distinct polypeptide chains. Each chain comprises one of two photoactive components from Arabidopsis thaliana, phytochrome B (PhyB) and phytochrome-integrating factor 3 (PIF3), as well as the N- or C-terminus domains of both, the vacuolar ATPase subunit (VMA) intein of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the polymerase. Red light drives photodimerization of PhyB and PIF3, which then brings together the N- and C-terminus domains of the VMA intein. Trans-splicing of the intein follows suit and produces an active form of the polymerase that subsequently transcribes any sequence that is under the control of a T7 promoter. The photodimerization also involves a third element, the cyanobacterial chromophore phycocyanobilin (PCB), which too is expressed heterologously by E. coli. We deployed this version of the T7 RNA polymerase to control the production of lycopene in E. coli and observed tight control of pathway expression. We tested a variety of expression configurations to identify one that imposes the lowest metabolic burden on the strain, and we subsequently optimized key parameters such as the source, moment and duration of photostimulation. We also identified targets for future refinement of the circuit. In summary, our work is a significant advance for the field and greatly expands on previous work by other groups that have used optogenetic circuits to control heterologous metabolism in prokaryotic hosts.
CreLite: An Optogenetically Controlled Cre/loxP System Using Red Light.
Precise manipulation of gene expression with temporal and spatial control is essential for functional analysis and determining cell lineage relationships in complex biological systems. The Cre-loxP system is commonly used for gene manipulation at desired times and places. However, specificity is dependent on the availability of tissue- or cell-specific regulatory elements used in combination with Cre. Here we present CreLite, an optogenetically-controlled Cre system using red light in developing zebrafish embryos. Cre activity is disabled by splitting Cre and fusing with the Arabidopsis thaliana red light-inducible binding partners, PhyB and PIF6. Upon red light illumination, the PhyB-CreC and PIF6-CreN fusion proteins come together in the presence of the cofactor phycocyanobilin (PCB) to restore Cre activity. Red light exposure of zebrafish embryos harboring a Cre-dependent multi-color fluorescent protein reporter injected with CreLite mRNAs and PCB resulted in Cre activity as measured by the generation of multi-spectral cell labeling in several different tissues. Our data show that CreLite can be used for gene manipulations in whole embryos or small groups of cells at different developmental stages, and suggests CreLite may also be useful for temporal and spatial control of gene expression in cell culture, ex vivo organ culture, and other animal models. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Lights up on organelles: Optogenetic tools to control subcellular structure and organization.
Since the neurobiological inception of optogenetics, light-controlled molecular perturbations have been applied in many scientific disciplines to both manipulate and observe cellular function. Proteins exhibiting light-sensitive conformational changes provide researchers with avenues for spatiotemporal control over the cellular environment and serve as valuable alternatives to chemically inducible systems. Optogenetic approaches have been developed to target proteins to specific subcellular compartments, allowing for the manipulation of nuclear translocation and plasma membrane morphology. Additionally, these tools have been harnessed for molecular interrogation of organelle function, location, and dynamics. Optogenetic approaches offer novel ways to answer fundamental biological questions and to improve the efficiency of bioengineered cell factories by controlling the assembly of synthetic organelles. This review first provides a summary of available optogenetic systems with an emphasis on their organelle-specific utility. It then explores the strategies employed for organelle targeting and concludes by discussing our perspective on the future of optogenetics to control subcellular structure and organization. This article is categorized under: Laboratory Methods and Technologies > Genetic/Genomic Methods Physiology > Physiology of Model Organisms Biological Mechanisms > Regulatory Biology Models of Systems Properties and Processes > Cellular Models.
A non-invasive far-red light-induced split-Cre recombinase system for controllable genome engineering in mice.
The Cre-loxP recombination system is a powerful tool for genetic manipulation. However, there are widely recognized limitations with chemically inducible Cre-loxP systems, and the UV and blue-light induced systems have phototoxicity and minimal capacity for deep tissue penetration. Here, we develop a far-red light-induced split Cre-loxP system (FISC system) based on a bacteriophytochrome optogenetic system and split-Cre recombinase, enabling optogenetical regulation of genome engineering in vivo solely by utilizing a far-red light (FRL). The FISC system exhibits low background and no detectable photocytotoxicity, while offering efficient FRL-induced DNA recombination. Our in vivo studies showcase the strong organ-penetration capacity of FISC system, markedly outperforming two blue-light-based Cre systems for recombination induction in the liver. Demonstrating its strong clinical relevance, we successfully deploy a FISC system using adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery. Thus, the FISC system expands the optogenetic toolbox for DNA recombination to achieve spatiotemporally controlled, non-invasive genome engineering in living systems.