Showing 1 - 17 of 17 results
Optogenetics and CRISPR: A New Relationship Built to Last.
Since the breakthrough discoveries that CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases can be easily programmed and employed to induce targeted double-strand breaks in mammalian cells, the gene editing field has grown exponentially. Today, CRISPR technologies based on engineered class II CRISPR effectors facilitate targeted modification of genes and RNA transcripts. Moreover, catalytically impaired CRISPR-Cas variants can be employed as programmable DNA binding domains and used to recruit effector proteins, such as transcriptional regulators, epigenetic modifiers or base-modifying enzymes, to selected genomic loci. The juxtaposition of CRISPR and optogenetics enables spatiotemporally confined and highly dynamic genome perturbations in living cells and animals and holds unprecedented potential for biology and biomedicine.Here, we provide an overview of the state-of-the-art methods for light-control of CRISPR effectors. We will detail the plethora of exciting applications enabled by these systems, including spatially confined genome editing, timed activation of endogenous genes, as well as remote control of chromatin-chromatin interactions. Finally, we will discuss limitations of current optogenetic CRISPR tools and point out routes for future innovation in this emerging field.
A single-component light sensor system allows highly tunable and direct activation of gene expression in bacterial cells.
Light-regulated modules offer unprecedented new ways to control cellular behaviour with precise spatial and temporal resolution. Among a variety of bacterial light-switchable gene expression systems, single-component systems consisting of single transcription factors would be more useful due to the advantages of speed, simplicity, and versatility. In the present study, we developed a single-component light-activated bacterial gene expression system (eLightOn) based on a novel LOV domain from Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RsLOV). The eLightOn system showed significant improvements over the existing single-component bacterial light-activated expression systems, with benefits including a high ON/OFF ratio of >500-fold, a high activation level, fast activation kinetics, and/or good adaptability. Additionally, the induction characteristics, including regulatory windows, activation kinetics and light sensitivities, were highly tunable by altering the expression level of LexRO. We demonstrated the usefulness of the eLightOn system in regulating cell division and swimming by controlling the expression of the FtsZ and CheZ genes, respectively, as well as constructing synthetic Boolean logic gates using light and arabinose as the two inputs. Taken together, our data indicate that the eLightOn system is a robust and highly tunable tool for quantitative and spatiotemporal control of bacterial gene expression.
Photoreaction Mechanisms of Flavoprotein Photoreceptors and Their Applications.
Three classes of flavoprotein photoreceptors, cryptochromes (CRYs), light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-domain proteins, and blue light using FAD (BLUF)-domain proteins, have been identified that control various physiological processes in multiple organisms. Accordingly, signaling activities of photoreceptors have been intensively studied and the related mechanisms have been exploited in numerous optogenetic tools. Herein, we summarize the current understanding of photoactivation mechanisms of the flavoprotein photoreceptors and review their applications.
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.
Light-induced dimerization approaches to control cellular processes.
Light-inducible approaches provide means to control biological systems with spatial and temporal resolution that is unmatched by traditional genetic perturbations. Recent developments of optogenetic and chemo-optogenetic systems for induced proximity in cells facilitate rapid and reversible manipulation of highly dynamic cellular processes and have become valuable tools in diverse biological applications. The new expansions of the toolbox facilitate control of signal transduction, genome editing, 'painting' patterns of active molecules onto cellular membranes and light-induced cell cycle control. A combination of light- and chemically induced dimerization approaches has also seen interesting progress. Here we provide an overview of the optogenetic systems and the emerging chemo-optogenetic systems, and discuss recent applications in tackling complex biological problems.
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.
Light‐Controlled Mammalian Cells and Their Therapeutic Applications in Synthetic Biology.
The ability to remote control the expression of therapeutic genes in mammalian cells in order to treat disease is a central goal of synthetic biology‐inspired therapeutic strategies. Furthermore, optogenetics, a combination of light and genetic sciences, provides an unprecedented ability to use light for precise control of various cellular activities with high spatiotemporal resolution. Recent work to combine optogenetics and therapeutic synthetic biology has led to the engineering of light‐controllable designer cells, whose behavior can be regulated precisely and noninvasively. This Review focuses mainly on non‐neural optogenetic systems, which are often used in synthetic biology, and their applications in genetic programing of mammalian cells. Here, a brief overview of the optogenetic tool kit that is available to build light‐sensitive mammalian cells is provided. Then, recently developed strategies for the control of designer cells with specific biological functions are summarized. Recent translational applications of optogenetically engineered cells are also highlighted, ranging from in vitro basic research to in vivo light‐controlled gene therapy. Finally, current bottlenecks, possible solutions, and future prospects for optogenetics in synthetic biology are discussed.
Controlling Cells with Light and LOV.
Optogenetics is a powerful method for studying dynamic processes in living cells and has advanced cell biology research over the recent past. Key to the successful application of optogenetics is the careful design of the light‐sensing module, typically employing a natural or engineered photoreceptor that links the exogenous light input to the cellular process under investigation. Light–oxygen–voltage (LOV) domains, a highly diverse class of small blue light sensors, have proven to be particularly versatile for engineering optogenetic input modules. These can function via diverse modalities, including inducible allostery, protein recruitment, dimerization, or dissociation. This study reviews recent advances in the development of LOV domain‐based optogenetic tools and their application for studying and controlling selected cellular functions. Focusing on the widely employed LOV2 domain from Avena sativa phototropin‐1, this review highlights the broad spectrum of engineering opportunities that can be explored to achieve customized optogenetic regulation. Finally, major bottlenecks in the development of optogenetic methods are discussed and strategies to overcome these with recent synthetic biology approaches are pointed out.
LOV Domains in the Design of Photoresponsive Enzymes.
In nature, a multitude of mechanisms have emerged for regulating biological processes and, specifically, protein activity. Light as a natural regulatory element is of outstanding interest for studying and modulating protein activity because it can be precisely applied with regard to a site of action, instant of time, or intensity. Naturally occuring photoresponsive proteins, predominantly those containing a light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain, have been characterized structurally and mechanistically and also conjugated to various proteins of interest. Immediate advantages of these new photoresponsive proteins such as genetic encoding, no requirement of chemical modification, and reversibility are paid by difficulties in predicting the envisaged activity or type and site of domain fusion. In this article, we summarize recent advances and give a survey on currently available design concepts for engineering photoswitchable proteins.
Emerging approaches for spatiotemporal control of targeted genome with inducible CRISPR-Cas9.
The breakthrough CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) nuclease has revolutionized our ability in genome engineering. Although Cas9 is already a powerful tool for simple and efficient target endogenous gene manipulation, further engineering of Cas9 will improve the performance of Cas9, such as gene-editing efficiency and accuracy in vivo, and expand the application possibility of this Cas9 technology. The emerging inducible Cas9 methods, which can control the activity of Cas9 using an external stimulus such as chemicals and light, have the potential to provide spatiotemporal gene manipulation in user-defined cell population at a specific time and improve the accuracy of Cas9-mediated genome editing. In this review, we focus on the recent advance in inducible Cas9 technologies, especially light-inducible Cas9, and related methodologies, and also discuss future directions of this emerging tools.
Engineering genetically-encoded tools for optogenetic control of protein activity.
Optogenetic tools offer fast and reversible control of protein activity with subcellular spatial precision. In the past few years, remarkable progress has been made in engineering photoactivatable systems regulating the activity of cellular proteins. In this review, we discuss general strategies in designing and optimizing such optogenetic tools and highlight recent advances in the field, with specific focus on applications regulating protein catalytic activity.
Strategies for development of optogenetic systems and their applications.
It has become clear that biological processes are highly dynamic and heterogeneous within and among cells. Conventional analytical tools and chemical or genetic manipulations are unsuitable for dissecting the role of their spatiotemporally dynamic nature. Recently, optical control of biomolecular signaling, a technology called “optogenetics,” has gained much attention. The technique has enabled spatial and temporal regulation of specific signaling pathways both in vitro and in vivo. This review presents strategies for optogenetic systems development and application for biological research. Combinations with other technologies and future perspectives are also discussed herein. Although many optogenetic approaches are designed to modulate ion channel conductivity, we mainly examine systems that target other biomolecular reactions such as gene expression, protein translocations, and kinase or receptor signaling pathways.
Engineering of temperature- and light-switchable Cas9 variants.
Sensory photoreceptors have enabled non-invasive and spatiotemporal control of numerous biological processes. Photoreceptor engineering has expanded the repertoire beyond natural receptors, but to date no generally applicable strategy exists towards constructing light-regulated protein actuators of arbitrary function. We hence explored whether the homodimeric Rhodobacter sphaeroides light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain (RsLOV) that dissociates upon blue-light exposure can confer light sensitivity onto effector proteins, via a mechanism of light-induced functional site release. We chose the RNA-guided programmable DNA endonuclease Cas9 as proof-of-principle effector, and constructed a comprehensive library of RsLOV inserted throughout the Cas9 protein. Screening with a high-throughput assay based on transcriptional repression in Escherichia coli yielded paRC9, a moderately light-activatable variant. As domain insertion can lead to protein destabilization, we also screened the library for temperature-sensitive variants and isolated tsRC9, a variant with robust activity at 29°C but negligible activity at 37°C. Biochemical assays confirmed temperature-dependent DNA cleavage and binding for tsRC9, but indicated that the light sensitivity of paRC9 is specific to the cellular setting. Using tsRC9, the first temperature-sensitive Cas9 variant, we demonstrate temperature-dependent transcriptional control over ectopic and endogenous genetic loci. Taken together, RsLOV can confer light sensitivity onto an unrelated effector; unexpectedly, the same LOV domain can also impart strong temperature sensitivity.
Sensory photoreceptors not only control diverse adaptive responses in Nature, but as light-regulated actuators they also provide the foundation for optogenetics, the non-invasive and spatiotemporally precise manipulation of cellular events by light. Novel photoreceptors have been engineered that establish control by light over manifold biological processes previously inaccessible to optogenetic intervention. Recently, photoreceptor engineering has witnessed a rapid development, and light-regulated actuators for the perturbation of a plethora of cellular events are now available. Here, we review fundamental principles of photoreceptors and light-regulated allostery. Photoreceptors dichotomize into associating receptors that alter their oligomeric state as part of light-regulated allostery and non-associating receptors that do not. A survey of engineered photoreceptors pinpoints light-regulated association reactions and order-disorder transitions as particularly powerful and versatile design principles. Photochromic photoreceptors that are bidirectionally toggled by two light colors augur enhanced spatiotemporal resolution and use as photoactivatable fluorophores. By identifying desirable traits in engineered photoreceptors, we provide pointers for the design of future, light-regulated actuators.
Natural photoreceptors and their application to synthetic biology.
The ability to perturb living systems is essential to understand how cells sense, integrate, and exchange information, to comprehend how pathologic changes in these processes relate to disease, and to provide insights into therapeutic points of intervention. Several molecular technologies based on natural photoreceptor systems have been pioneered that allow distinct cellular signaling pathways to be modulated with light in a temporally and spatially precise manner. In this review, we describe and discuss the underlying design principles of natural photoreceptors that have emerged as fundamental for the rational design and implementation of synthetic light-controlled signaling systems. Furthermore, we examine the unique challenges that synthetic protein technologies face when applied to the study of neural dynamics at the cellular and network level.
Photochemistry of flavoprotein light sensors.
Three major classes of flavin photosensors, light oxygen voltage (LOV) domains, blue light sensor using FAD (BLUF) proteins and cryptochromes (CRYs), regulate diverse biological activities in response to blue light. Recent studies of structure, spectroscopy and chemical mechanism have provided unprecedented insight into how each family operates at the molecular level. In general, the photoexcitation of the flavin cofactor leads to changes in redox and protonation states that ultimately remodel protein conformation and molecular interactions. For LOV domains, issues remain regarding early photochemical events, but common themes in conformational propagation have emerged across a diverse family of proteins. For BLUF proteins, photoinduced electron transfer reactions critical to light conversion are defined, but the subsequent rearrangement of hydrogen bonding networks key for signaling remains highly controversial. For CRYs, the relevant photocycles are actively debated, but mechanistic and functional studies are converging. Despite these challenges, our current understanding has enabled the engineering of flavoprotein photosensors for control of signaling processes within cells.
Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light.
Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are a large family of cell surface receptors that sense growth factors and hormones and regulate a variety of cell behaviours in health and disease. Contactless activation of RTKs with spatial and temporal precision is currently not feasible. Here, we generated RTKs that are insensitive to endogenous ligands but can be selectively activated by low-intensity blue light. We screened light-oxygen-voltage (LOV)-sensing domains for their ability to activate RTKs by light-activated dimerization. Incorporation of LOV domains found in aureochrome photoreceptors of stramenopiles resulted in robust activation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and rearranged during transfection (RET). In human cancer and endothelial cells, light induced cellular signalling with spatial and temporal precision. Furthermore, light faithfully mimicked complex mitogenic and morphogenic cell behaviour induced by growth factors. RTKs under optical control (Opto-RTKs) provide a powerful optogenetic approach to actuate cellular signals and manipulate cell behaviour.