Showing 1 - 25 of 66 results
Photoactivation of LOV domains with chemiluminescence.
Optogenetics has opened new possibilities in the remote control of diverse cellular functions with high spatiotemporal precision using light. However, delivering light to optically non-transparent systems remains a challenge. Here, we describe the photoactivation of light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domains (LOV domains) with in situ generated light from a chemiluminescence reaction between luminol and H2O2. This activation is possible due to the spectral overlap between the blue chemiluminescence emission and the absorption bands of the flavin chromophore in LOV domains. All four LOV domain proteins with diverse backgrounds and structures (iLID, BcLOV4, nMagHigh/pMagHigh, and VVDHigh) were photoactivated by chemiluminescence as demonstrated using a bead aggregation assay. The photoactivation with chemiluminescence required a critical light-output below which the LOV domains reversed back to their dark state with protein characteristic kinetics. Furthermore, spatially confined chemiluminescence produced inside giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) was able to photoactivate proteins both on the membrane and in solution, leading to the recruitment of the corresponding proteins to the GUV membrane. Finally, we showed that reactive oxygen species produced by neutrophil like cells can be converted into sufficient chemiluminescence to recruit the photoswitchable protein BcLOV4-mCherry from solution to the cell membrane. The findings highlight the utility of chemiluminescence as an endogenous light source for optogenetic applications, offering new possibilities for studying cellular processes in optically non-transparent systems.
Spatiotemporal control of RNA metabolism and CRISPR-Cas functions using engineered photoswitchable RNA-binding proteins.
RNA molecules perform various crucial roles in diverse cellular processes, from translating genetic information to decoding the genome, regulating gene expression and catalyzing chemical reactions. RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play an essential role in regulating the diverse behaviors and functions of RNA in live cells, but techniques for the spatiotemporal control of RBP activities and RNA functions are rarely reported yet highly desirable. We recently reported the development of LicV, a synthetic photoswitchable RBP that can bind to a specific RNA sequence in response to blue light irradiation. LicV has been used successfully for the optogenetic control of RNA localization, splicing, translation and stability, as well as for the photoswitchable regulation of transcription and genomic locus labeling. Compared to classical genetic or pharmacologic perturbations, LicV-based light-switchable effectors have the advantages of large dynamic range between dark and light conditions and submicron and millisecond spatiotemporal resolutions. In this protocol, we provide an easy, efficient and generalizable strategy for engineering photoswitchable RBPs for the spatiotemporal control of RNA metabolism. We also provide a detailed protocol for the conversion of a CRISPR-Cas system to optogenetic control. The protocols typically take 2-3 d, including transfection and results analysis. Most of this protocol is applicable to the development of novel LicV-based photoswitchable effectors for the optogenetic control of other RNA metabolisms and CRISPR-Cas functions.
Full-field exposure of larval zebrafish to narrow waveband LED light sources at defined power and energy for optogenetic applications.
Optogenetic approaches in transparent zebrafish models have provided numerous insights into vertebrate neurobiology. The purpose of this study was to develop methods to activate light-sensitive transgene products simultaneously throughout an entire larval zebrafish.
Diya – a universal light illumination platform for multiwell plate cultures.
Recent progress in protein engineering has established optogenetics as one of the leading external non-invasive stimulation strategies, with many optogenetic tools being designed for in vivo operation. Characterization and optimization of these tools require a high-throughput and versatile light delivery system targeting micro-titer culture volumes. Here, we present a universal light illumination platform – Diya, compatible with a wide range of cell culture plates and dishes. Diya hosts specially-designed features ensuring active thermal management, homogeneous illumination, and minimal light bleedthrough. It offers light induction programming via a user-friendly custom-designed GUI. Through extensive characterization experiments with multiple optogenetic tools in diverse model organisms (bacteria, yeast and human cell lines), we show that Diya maintains viable conditions for cell cultures undergoing light induction. Finally, we demonstrate an optogenetic strategy for in vivo biomolecular controller operation. With a custom-designed antithetic integral feedback circuit, we exhibit robust perfect adaptation and light-controlled set-point variation using Diya.
A biological camera that captures and stores images directly into DNA.
The increasing integration between biological and digital interfaces has led to heightened interest in utilizing biological materials to store digital data, with the most promising one involving the storage of data within defined sequences of DNA that are created by de novo DNA synthesis. However, there is a lack of methods that can obviate the need for de novo DNA synthesis, which tends to be costly and inefficient. Here, in this work, we detail a method of capturing 2-dimensional light patterns into DNA, by utilizing optogenetic circuits to record light exposure into DNA, encoding spatial locations with barcoding, and retrieving stored images via high-throughput next-generation sequencing. We demonstrate the encoding of multiple images into DNA, totaling 1152 bits, selective image retrieval, as well as robustness to drying, heat and UV. We also demonstrate successful multiplexing using multiple wavelengths of light, capturing 2 different images simultaneously using red and blue light. This work thus establishes a 'living digital camera', paving the way towards integrating biological systems with digital devices.
OPTO-BLUE: An Integrated Bidirectional Optogenetic Lentiviral Platform for Controlled Light-Induced Gene Expression.
Regulated systems for transgene expression are useful tools in basic research and a promising platform in biomedicine due to their regulated transgene expression by an inducer. The emergence of optogenetics expression systems enabled the construction of light-switchable systems, enhancing the spatial and temporal resolution of a transgene. The LightOn system is an optogenetic tool that regulates the expression of a gene of interest using blue light as an inducer. This system is based on a photosensitive protein (GAVPO), which dimerizes and binds to the UASG sequence in response to blue light, triggering the expression of a downstream transgene. Previously, we adapted the LightOn system to a dual lentiviral vector system for neurons. Here, we continue the optimization and assemble all components of the LightOn system into a single lentiviral plasmid, the OPTO-BLUE system. For functional validation, we used enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) as an expression reporter (OPTO-BLUE-EGFP) and evaluated the efficiency of EGFP expression by transfection and transduction in HEK293-T cells exposed to continuous blue-light illumination. Altogether, these results prove that the optimized OPTO-BLUE system allows the light-controlled expression of a reporter protein according to a specific time and light intensity. Likewise, this system should provide an important molecular tool to modulate gene expression of any protein by blue light.
Controlling protein stability with SULI, a highly sensitive tag for stabilization upon light induction.
Optogenetics tools for precise temporal and spatial control of protein abundance are valuable in studying diverse complex biological processes. In the present study, we engineer a monomeric tag of stabilization upon light induction (SULI) for yeast and zebrafish based on a single light-oxygen-voltage domain from Neurospora crassa. Proteins of interest fused with SULI are stable upon light illumination but are readily degraded after transfer to dark conditions. SULI shows a high dynamic range and a high tolerance to fusion at different positions of the target protein. Further studies reveal that SULI-mediated degradation occurs through a lysine ubiquitination-independent proteasome pathway. We demonstrate the usefulness of SULI in controlling the cell cycle in yeast and regulating protein stability in zebrafish, respectively. Overall, our data indicate that SULI is a simple and robust tool to quantitatively and spatiotemporally modulate protein levels for biotechnological or biomedical applications.
A Single-Component Optogenetic Gal4-UAS System Allows Stringent Control of Gene Expression in Zebrafish and Drosophila.
The light-regulated Gal4-UAS system has offered new ways to control cellular activities with precise spatial and temporal resolution in zebrafish and Drosophila. However, the existing optogenetic Gal4-UAS systems suffer from having multiple protein components and a dependence on extraneous light-sensitive cofactors, which increase the technical complexity and limit the portability of these systems. To overcome these limitations, we herein describe the development of a novel optogenetic Gal4-UAS system (ltLightOn) for both zebrafish and Drosophila based on a single light-switchable transactivator, termed GAVPOLT, which dimerizes and binds to gene promoters to activate transgene expression upon blue light illumination. The ltLightOn system is independent of exogenous cofactors and exhibits a more than 2400-fold ON/OFF gene expression ratio, allowing quantitative, spatial, and temporal control of gene expression. We further demonstrate the usefulness of the ltLightOn system in regulating zebrafish embryonic development by controlling the expression of lefty1 by light. We believe that this single-component optogenetic system will be immensely useful in understanding the gene function and behavioral circuits in zebrafish and Drosophila.
An optogenetic toolkit for light-inducible antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are a key control mechanism for synthetic biology and microbiology. Resistance genes are used to select desired cells and regulate bacterial populations, however their use to-date has been largely static. Precise spatiotemporal control of antibiotic resistance could enable a wide variety of applications that require dynamic control of susceptibility and survival. Here, we use light-inducible Cre recombinase to activate expression of drug resistance genes in Escherichia coli. We demonstrate light-activated resistance to four antibiotics: carbenicillin, kanamycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline. Cells exposed to blue light survive in the presence of lethal antibiotic concentrations, while those kept in the dark do not. To optimize resistance induction, we vary promoter, ribosome binding site, and enzyme variant strength using chromosome and plasmid-based constructs. We then link inducible resistance to expression of a heterologous fatty acid enzyme to increase production of octanoic acid. These optogenetic resistance tools pave the way for spatiotemporal control of cell survival.
Spatiotemporally controllable diphtherin transgene system and neoantigen immunotherapy.
Individualized immunotherapy has attracted great attention due to its high specificity, effectiveness, and safety. We used an exogenous antigen to label tumor cells with MHC I molecules, which allowed neoantigen-specific T cells to recognize and kill tumor cells. A neoantigen vaccine alone cannot achieve complete tumor clearance due to a tumor immunosuppressive microenvironment. The LightOn system was developed to effectively eliminate tumor cells through the spatiotemporally controllable expression of diphtheria toxin A fragment, leading to antigen release in the tumor region. These antigens stimulated and enhanced immunological function and thus, recruited neoantigen-specific T cells to infiltrate tumor tissue. Using the nanoparticle delivery system, neoantigens produced higher delivery efficiency to lymph nodes and improved tumor targeting ability for tumor cell labelling. Good tumor inhibition and prolonged survival were achieved, while eliciting a strong immune response. The combination of a spatiotemporally controllable transgene system with tumor neoantigen labeling has great potential for tumor immunotherapy.
Coupling Cell Communication and Optogenetics: Implementation of a Light-Inducible Intercellular System in Yeast.
Cell communication is a widespread mechanism in biology, allowing the transmission of information about environmental conditions. In order to understand how cell communication modulates relevant biological processes such as survival, division, differentiation, and apoptosis, different synthetic systems based on chemical induction have been successfully developed. In this work, we coupled cell communication and optogenetics in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our approach is based on two strains connected by the light-dependent production of α-factor pheromone in one cell type, which induces gene expression in the other type. After the individual characterization of the different variants of both strains, the optogenetic intercellular system was evaluated by combining the cells under contrasting illumination conditions. Using luciferase as a reporter gene, specific co-cultures at a 1:1 ratio displayed activation of the response upon constant blue light, which was not observed for the same cell mixtures grown in darkness. Then, the system was assessed at several dark/blue-light transitions, where the response level varies depending on the moment in which illumination was delivered. Furthermore, we observed that the amplitude of response can be tuned by modifying the initial ratio between both strains. Finally, the two-population system showed higher fold inductions in comparison with autonomous strains. Altogether, these results demonstrated that external light information is propagated through a diffusible signaling molecule to modulate gene expression in a synthetic system involving microbial cells, which will pave the road for studies allowing optogenetic control of population-level dynamics.
Enhancement of Vivid-based Photo-Activatable Gal4 Transcription Factor in Mammalian Cells.
The Gal4/UAS system is a versatile tool to manipulate exogenous gene expression of cells spatially and temporally in many model organisms. Many variations of light-controllable Gal4/UAS system are now available, following the development of photo-activatable (PA) molecular switches and integration of these tools. However, many PA-Gal4 transcription factors have undesired background transcription activities even in dark conditions, and this severely attenuates reliable light-controlled gene expression. Therefore, it is important to develop reliable PA-Gal4 transcription factors with robust light-induced gene expression and limited background activity. By optimization of synthetic PA-Gal4 transcription factors, we have validated configurations of Gal4 DNA biding domain, transcription activation domain and blue light-dependent dimer formation molecule Vivid (VVD), and applied types of transcription activation domains to develop a new PA-Gal4 transcription factor we have named eGAV (enhanced Gal4-VVD transcription factor). Background activity of eGAV in dark conditions was significantly lower than that of hGAVPO, a commonly used PA-Gal4 transcription factor, and maximum light-induced gene expression levels were also improved. Light-controlled gene expression was verified in cultured HEK293T cells with plasmid-transient transfections, and in mouse EpH4 cells with lentivirus vector-mediated transduction. Furthermore, light-controlled eGAV-mediated transcription was confirmed in transfected neural stem cells and progenitors in developing and adult mouse brain and chick spinal cord, and in adult mouse hepatocytes, demonstrating that eGAV can be applied to a wide range of experimental systems and model organisms.Key words: optogenetics, Gal4/UAS system, transcription, gene expression, Vivid.
Expanding the molecular versatility of an optogenetic switch in yeast.
In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the FUN-LOV (FUNgal Light Oxygen and Voltage) optogenetic switch enables high levels of light-activated gene expression in a reversible and tunable fashion. The FUN-LOV components, under identical promoter and terminator sequences, are encoded in two different plasmids, which limits its future applications in wild and industrial yeast strains. In this work, we aim to expand the molecular versatility of the FUN-LOV switch to increase its biotechnological applications. Initially, we generated new variants of this system by replacing the promoter and terminator sequences and by cloning the system in a single plasmid (FUN-LOVSP). In a second step, we included the nourseothricin (Nat) or hygromycin (Hph) antibiotic resistances genes in the new FUN-LOVSP plasmid, generating two new variants (FUN-LOVSP-Nat and FUN-LOVSP-Hph), to allow selection after genome integration. Then, we compared the levels of light-activated expression for each FUN-LOV variants using the luciferase reporter gene in the BY4741 yeast strain. The results indicate that FUN-LOVSP-Nat and FUN-LOVSP-Hph, either episomally or genome integrated, reached higher levels of luciferase expression upon blue-light stimulation compared the original FUN-LOV system. Finally, we demonstrated the functionality of FUN-LOVSP-Hph in the 59A-EC1118 wine yeast strain, showing similar levels of reporter gene induction under blue-light respect to the laboratory strain, and with lower luciferase expression background in darkness condition. Altogether, the new FUN-LOV variants described here are functional in different yeast strains, expanding the biotechnological applications of this optogenetic tool.
Opto-katanin, an optogenetic tool for localized, microtubule disassembly.
Microtubules are cytoskeletal polymers that separate chromosomes during mitosis and serve as rails for intracellular transport and organelle positioning. Manipulation of microtubules is widely used in cell and developmental biology, but tools for precise subcellular spatiotemporal control of microtubules are currently lacking. Here, we describe a light-activated system for localized recruitment of the microtubule-severing enzyme katanin. This system, named opto-katanin, uses targeted illumination with blue light to induce rapid, localized, and reversible microtubule depolymerization. This tool allows precise clearing of a subcellular region of microtubules while preserving the rest of the microtubule network, demonstrating that regulation of katanin recruitment to microtubules is sufficient to control its severing activity. The tool is not toxic in the absence of blue light and can be used to disassemble both dynamic and stable microtubules in primary neurons as well as in dividing cells. We show that opto-katanin can be used to locally block vesicle transport and to clarify the dependence of organelle morphology and dynamics on microtubules. Specifically, our data indicate that microtubules are not required for the maintenance of the Golgi stacks or the tubules of the endoplasmic reticulum but are needed for the formation of new membrane tubules. Finally, we demonstrate that this tool can be applied to study the contribution of microtubules to cell mechanics by showing that microtubule bundles can exert forces constricting the nucleus.
Implementation of a Novel Optogenetic Tool in Mammalian Cells Based on a Split T7 RNA Polymerase.
Optogenetic tools are widely used to control gene expression dynamics both in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. These tools are used in a variety of biological applications from stem cell differentiation to metabolic engineering. Despite some tools already available in bacteria, no light-inducible system currently exists to control gene expression independently from mammalian transcriptional and/or translational machineries thus working orthogonally to endogenous regulatory mechanisms. Such a tool would be particularly important in synthetic biology, where orthogonality is advantageous to achieve robust activation of synthetic networks. Here we implement, characterize, and optimize a new optogenetic tool in mammalian cells based on a previously published system in bacteria called Opto-T7RNAPs. The tool is orthogonal to the cellular machinery for transcription and consists of a split T7 RNA polymerase coupled with the blue light-inducible magnets system (mammalian OptoT7-mOptoT7). In our study we exploited the T7 polymerase's viral origins to tune our system's expression level, reaching up to an almost 20-fold change activation over the dark control. mOptoT7 is used here to generate mRNA for protein expression, shRNA for protein inhibition, and Pepper aptamer for RNA visualization. Moreover, we show that mOptoT7 can mitigate the gene expression burden when compared to another optogenetic construct. These properties make mOptoT7 a powerful new tool to use when orthogonality and viral RNA species (that lack endogenous RNA modifications) are desired.
Engineered Cas9 extracellular vesicles as a novel gene editing tool.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have shown promise as biological delivery vehicles, but therapeutic applications require efficient cargo loading. Here, we developed new methods for CRISPR/Cas9 loading into EVs through reversible heterodimerization of Cas9-fusions with EV sorting partners. Cas9-loaded EVs were collected from engineered Expi293F cells using standard methodology, characterized using nanoparticle tracking analysis, western blotting, and transmission electron microscopy and analysed for CRISPR/Cas9-mediated functional gene editing in a Cre-reporter cellular assay. Light-induced dimerization using Cryptochrome 2 combined with CD9 or a Myristoylation-Palmitoylation-Palmitoylation lipid modification resulted in efficient loading with approximately 25 Cas9 molecules per EV and high functional delivery with 51% gene editing of the Cre reporter cassette in HEK293 and 25% in HepG2 cells, respectively. This approach was also effective for targeting knock-down of the therapeutically relevant PCSK9 gene with 6% indel efficiency in HEK293. Cas9 transfer was detergent-sensitive and associated with the EV fractions after size exclusion chromatography, indicative of EV-mediated transfer. Considering the advantages of EVs over other delivery vectors we envision that this study will prove useful for a range of therapeutic applications, including CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing.
Light-switchable diphtherin transgene system combined with losartan for triple negtative breast cancer therapy based on nano drug delivery system.
Breast cancer is a common malignancy in women. The abnormally dense collagen network in breast cancer forms a therapeutic barrier that hinders the penetration and anti-tumor effect of drugs. To overcome this hurdle, we adopted a therapeutic strategy to treat breast cancer which combined a light-switchable transgene system and losartan. The light-switchable transgene system could regulate expression of the diphtheria toxin A fragment (DTA) gene with a high on/off ratio under blue light and had great potential for spatiotemporally controllable gene expression. We developed a nanoparticle drug delivery system to achieve tumor microenvironment-responsive and targeted delivery of DTA-encoded plasmids (pDTA) to tumor sites via dual targeting to cluster of differentiation-44 and αvβ3 receptors. In vivo studies indicated that the combination of pDTA and losartan reduce the concentration of collagen type I from 5.9 to 1.9 µg/g and decreased the level of active transforming growth factor-β by 75.0% in tumor tissues. Moreover, deeper tumor penetration was achieved, tumor growth was inhibited, and the survival rate was increased. Our combination strategy provides a novel and practical method for clinical treatment of breast cancer.
Bifunctional optogenetic switch for improving shikimic acid production in E. coli.
Biomass formation and product synthesis decoupling have been proven to be promising to increase the titer of desired value add products. Optogenetics provides a potential strategy to develop light-induced circuits that conditionally control metabolic flux redistribution for enhanced microbial production. However, the limited number of light-sensitive proteins available to date hinders the progress of light-controlled tools.
To address these issues, two optogenetic systems (TPRS and TPAS) were constructed by reprogramming the widely used repressor TetR and protease TEVp to expand the current optogenetic toolkit. By merging the two systems, a bifunctional optogenetic switch was constructed to enable orthogonally regulated gene transcription and protein accumulation. Application of this bifunctional switch to decouple biomass formation and shikimic acid biosynthesis allowed 35 g/L of shikimic acid production in a minimal medium from glucose, representing the highest titer reported to date by E. coli without the addition of any chemical inducers and expensive aromatic amino acids. This titer was further boosted to 76 g/L when using rich medium fermentation.
The cost effective and light-controlled switch reported here provides important insights into environmentally friendly tools for metabolic pathway regulation and should be applicable to the production of other value-add chemicals.
Optogenetic control of RNA function and metabolism using engineered light-switchable RNA-binding proteins.
RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play an essential role in regulating the function of RNAs in a cellular context, but our ability to control RBP activity in time and space is limited. Here, we describe the engineering of LicV, a photoswitchable RBP that binds to a specific RNA sequence in response to blue light irradiation. When fused to various RNA effectors, LicV allows for optogenetic control of RNA localization, splicing, translation and stability in cell culture. Furthermore, LicV-assisted CRISPR-Cas systems allow for efficient and tunable photoswitchable regulation of transcription and genomic locus labeling. These data demonstrate that the photoswitchable RBP LicV can serve as a programmable scaffold for the spatiotemporal control of synthetic RNA effectors.
Opto-Katanin: An Optogenetic Tool for Localized Microtubule Disassembly.
Microtubules are major cytoskeletal filaments that drive chromosome separation during cell division, serve as rails for intracellular transport and as a scaffold for organelle positioning. Experimental manipulation of microtubules is widely used in cell and developmental biology, but tools for precise subcellular spatiotemporal control of microtubule integrity are currently lacking. Here, we exploit the dependence of the mammalian microtubule-severing protein katanin on microtubule-targeting co-factors to generate a light-activated system for localized microtubule disassembly that we named opto-katanin. Targeted illumination with blue light induces rapid and localized opto-katanin recruitment and local microtubule depolymerization, which is quickly reversible after stopping light-induced activation. Opto-katanin can be employed to locally perturb microtubule-based transport and organelle morphology in dividing cells and differentiated neurons with high spatiotemporal precision. We show that different microtubule-associated proteins can be used to recruit opto-katanin to microtubules and induce severing, paving the way for spatiotemporally precise manipulation of specific microtubule subpopulations.
Modular and Molecular Optimization of a LOV (Light-Oxygen-Voltage)-Based Optogenetic Switch in Yeast.
Optogenetic switches allow light-controlled gene expression with reversible and spatiotemporal resolution. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, optogenetic tools hold great potential for a variety of metabolic engineering and biotechnology applications. In this work, we report on the modular optimization of the fungal light-oxygen-voltage (FUN-LOV) system, an optogenetic switch based on photoreceptors from the fungus Neurospora crassa. We also describe new switch variants obtained by replacing the Gal4 DNA-binding domain (DBD) of FUN-LOV with nine different DBDs from yeast transcription factors of the zinc cluster family. Among the tested modules, the variant carrying the Hap1p DBD, which we call "HAP-LOV", displayed higher levels of luciferase expression upon induction compared to FUN-LOV. Further, the combination of the Hap1p DBD with either p65 or VP16 activation domains also resulted in higher levels of reporter expression compared to the original switch. Finally, we assessed the effects of the plasmid copy number and promoter strength controlling the expression of the FUN-LOV and HAP-LOV components, and observed that when low-copy plasmids and strong promoters were used, a stronger response was achieved in both systems. Altogether, we describe a new set of blue-light optogenetic switches carrying different protein modules, which expands the available suite of optogenetic tools in yeast and can additionally be applied to other systems.
Reliably Engineering and Controlling Stable Optogenetic Gene Circuits in Mammalian Cells.
Reliable gene expression control in mammalian cells requires tools with high fold change, low noise, and determined input-to-output transfer functions, regardless of the method used. Toward this goal, optogenetic gene expression systems have gained much attention over the past decade for spatiotemporal control of protein levels in mammalian cells. However, most existing circuits controlling light-induced gene expression vary in architecture, are expressed from plasmids, and utilize variable optogenetic equipment, creating a need to explore characterization and standardization of optogenetic components in stable cell lines. Here, the study provides an experimental pipeline of reliable gene circuit construction, integration, and characterization for controlling light-inducible gene expression in mammalian cells, using a negative feedback optogenetic circuit as a case example. The protocols also illustrate how standardizing optogenetic equipment and light regimes can reliably reveal gene circuit features such as gene expression noise and protein expression magnitude. Lastly, this paper may be of use for laboratories unfamiliar with optogenetics who wish to adopt such technology. The pipeline described here should apply for other optogenetic circuits in mammalian cells, allowing for more reliable, detailed characterization and control of gene expression at the transcriptional, proteomic, and ultimately phenotypic level in mammalian cells.
A Light-Oxygen-Voltage Receptor Integrates Light and Temperature.
Sensory photoreceptors enable organisms to adjust their physiology, behavior, and development in response to light, generally with spatiotemporal acuity and reversibility. These traits underlie the use of photoreceptors as genetically encoded actuators to alter by light the state and properties of heterologous organisms. Subsumed as optogenetics, pertinent approaches enable regulating diverse cellular processes, not least gene expression. Here, we controlled the widely used Tet repressor by coupling to light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) modules that either homodimerize or dissociate under blue light. Repression could thus be elevated or relieved, and consequently protein expression was modulated by light. Strikingly, the homodimeric RsLOV module from Rhodobacter sphaeroides not only dissociated under light but intrinsically reacted to temperature. The limited light responses of wild-type RsLOV at 37 °C were enhanced in two variants that exhibited closely similar photochemistry and structure. One variant improved the weak homodimerization affinity of 40 µM by two-fold and thus also bestowed light sensitivity on a receptor tyrosine kinase. Certain photoreceptors, exemplified by RsLOV, can evidently moonlight as temperature sensors which immediately bears on their application in optogenetics and biotechnology. Properly accounted for, the temperature sensitivity can be leveraged for the construction of signal-responsive cellular circuits.
Engineering AraC to make it responsive to light instead of arabinose.
The L-arabinose-responsive AraC and its cognate PBAD promoter underlie one of the most often used chemically inducible prokaryotic gene expression systems in microbiology and synthetic biology. Here, we change the sensing capability of AraC from L-arabinose to blue light, making its dimerization and the resulting PBAD activation light-inducible. We engineer an entire family of blue light-inducible AraC dimers in Escherichia coli (BLADE) to control gene expression in space and time. We show that BLADE can be used with pre-existing L-arabinose-responsive plasmids and strains, enabling optogenetic experiments without the need to clone. Furthermore, we apply BLADE to control, with light, the catabolism of L-arabinose, thus externally steering bacterial growth with a simple transformation step. Our work establishes BLADE as a highly practical and effective optogenetic tool with plug-and-play functionality-features that we hope will accelerate the broader adoption of optogenetics and the realization of its vast potential in microbiology, synthetic biology and biotechnology.
Optimization of the Light-On system in a lentiviral platform to a light-controlled expression of genes in neurons.
Molecular brain therapies require the development of molecular switches to control gene expression in a limited and regulated manner in time and space. Light-switchable gene systems allow precise control of gene expression with an enhanced spatio-temporal resolution compared to chemical inducers. In this work, we adapted the existing light-switchable Light-On system into a lentiviral platform, which consists of two modules: (i) one for the expression of the blue light-switchable trans-activator GAVPO and (ii) a second module containing an inducible-UAS promoter (UAS) modulated by a light-activated GAVPO.