Showing 1 - 25 of 121 results
Coupling between protrusion dynamics and polarized trafficking steers persistent cell migration.
Migrating cells present a variety of paths, from non-persistent random walks to highly directional trajectories. While random movement can be easily explained by an intrinsic basal activity of the cell, persistent movement requires the cell to be stably polarized. It remains unclear how this is achieved from the regulation of underlying subcellular processes. In the context of mesenchymal migration, the ability of cells to migrate persistently over several hours require a mechanism stabilizing their protruding activity at their front. Here, we address this mechanism using human RPE1 cell line as our model. We measure, manipulate, and quantitatively perturb cell protrusive activity of the cortex as well as intracellular organization of the endomembrane trafficking system using dynamic micropatterning, pharmacological and trafficking assays, optogenetics and live-cell imaging with tracking. First, we demonstrate that the Nucleus-Golgi axis aligns with the direction of migration and its alignment with the protrusive activity leads to efficient cell movement. Then, using low doses of Nocodazole to disrupt internal cell organization, we show that long-lived polarity breaks down and migration becomes random. Next, we indicate that a flow of vesicles is directed towards the protrusive activity with a delay of 20 min. Eventually, by applying a sustained optogenetic activation, we prove that a localized Cdc42 gradient is able to orient the Nucleus-Golgi axis over a couple of hours. Taken together, our results suggest that the internal polarity axis, provided by the polarized trafficking of vesicles, is stabilizing the protrusive activity of the cell, while the protrusive activity biases this polarity axis. Using a novel minimal physical model, we show that this feedback is sufficient by itself to recapitulate the quantitative properties of cell migration in the timescale of hours. Our work highlights the importance of the coupling between high-level cellular functions in stabilizing the direction of migration over long timescales.
T cells selectively filter oscillatory signals on the minutes timescale.
T cells experience complex temporal patterns of stimulus via receptor-ligand-binding interactions with surrounding cells. From these temporal patterns, T cells are able to pick out antigenic signals while establishing self-tolerance. Although features such as duration of antigen binding have been examined, our understanding of how T cells interpret signals with different frequencies or temporal stimulation patterns is relatively unexplored. We engineered T cells to respond to light as a stimulus by building an optogenetically controlled chimeric antigen receptor (optoCAR). We discovered that T cells respond to minute-scale oscillations of activation signal by stimulating optoCAR T cells with tunable pulse trains of light. Systematically scanning signal oscillation period from 1 to 150 min revealed that expression of CD69, a T cell activation marker, reached a local minimum at a period of ∼25 min (corresponding to 5 to 15 min pulse widths). A combination of inhibitors and genetic knockouts suggest that this frequency filtering mechanism lies downstream of the Erk signaling branch of the T cell response network and may involve a negative feedback loop that diminishes Erk activity. The timescale of CD69 filtering corresponds with the duration of T cell encounters with self-peptide-presenting APCs observed via intravital imaging in mice, indicating a potential functional role for temporal filtering in vivo. This study illustrates that the T cell signaling machinery is tuned to temporally filter and interpret time-variant input signals in discriminatory ways.
Optogenetic control of PRC1 reveals its role in chromosome alignment on the spindle by overlap length-dependent forces.
During metaphase, chromosome position at the spindle equator is regulated by the forces exerted by kinetochore microtubules and polar ejection forces. However, the role of forces arising from mechanical coupling of sister kinetochore fibers with bridging fibers in chromosome alignment is unknown. Here we develop an optogenetic approach for acute removal of PRC1 to partially disassemble bridging fibers and show that they promote chromosome alignment. Tracking of the plus-end protein EB3 revealed longer antiparallel overlaps of bridging microtubules upon PRC1 removal, which was accompanied by misaligned and lagging kinetochores. Kif4A/kinesin-4 and Kif18A/kinesin-8 were found within the bridging fiber and largely lost upon PRC1 removal, suggesting that these proteins regulate the overlap length of bridging microtubules. We propose that PRC1-mediated crosslinking of bridging microtubules and recruitment of kinesins to the bridging fiber promotes chromosome alignment by overlap length-dependent forces transmitted to the associated kinetochore fibers.
Dual Systems for Enhancing Control of Protein Activity through Induced Dimerization Approaches.
To reveal the underpinnings of complex biological systems, a variety of approaches have been developed that allow switchable control of protein function. One powerful approach for switchable control is the use of inducible dimerization systems, which can be configured to control activity of a target protein upon induced dimerization triggered by chemicals or light. Individually, many inducible dimerization systems suffer from pre‐defined dynamic ranges and overwhelming sensitivity to expression level and cellular context. Such systems often require extensive engineering efforts to overcome issues of background leakiness and restricted dynamic range. To address these limitations, recent tool development efforts have explored overlaying dimerizer systems with a second layer of regulation. Albeit more complex, the resulting layered systems have enhanced functionality, such as tighter control that can improve portability of these tools across platforms.
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.
Optogenetic control of small GTPases reveals RhoA mediates intracellular calcium signaling.
Rho/Ras family small GTPases are known to regulate numerous cellular processes, including cytoskeletal reorganization, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation. These processes are also controlled by Ca2+, and consequently, crosstalk between these signals is considered likely. However, systematic quantitative evaluation has not yet been reported. To fill this gap, we constructed optogenetic tools to control the activity of small GTPases (RhoA, Rac1, Cdc42, Ras, Rap, and Ral) using an improved light-inducible dimer system (iLID). We characterized these optogenetic tools with genetically encoded red fluorescence intensity-based small GTPase biosensors and confirmed these optogenetic tools' specificities. Using these optogenetic tools, we investigated calcium mobilization immediately after small GTPase activation. Unexpectedly, we found that a transient intracellular calcium elevation was specifically induced by RhoA activation in RPE1 and HeLa cells. RhoA activation also induced transient intracellular calcium elevation in MDCK and HEK293T cells, suggesting that generally RhoA induces calcium signaling. Interestingly, the molecular mechanisms linking RhoA activation to calcium increases were shown to be different among the different cell types: In RPE1 and HeLa cells, RhoA activated phospholipase C epsilon (PLCε) at the plasma membrane, which in turn induced Ca2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The RhoA-PLCε axis induced calcium-dependent NFAT nuclear translocation, suggesting it does activate intracellular calcium signaling. Conversely, in MDCK and HEK293T cells, RhoA-ROCK-myosin II axis induced the calcium transients. These data suggest universal coordination of RhoA and calcium signaling in cellular processes, such as cellular contraction and gene expression.
A synthetic gene circuit for imaging-free detection of dynamic cell signaling.
Cells employ intracellular signaling pathways to sense and respond to changes in their external environment. In recent years, live-cell biosensors have revealed complex pulsatile dynamics in many pathways, but studies of these signaling dynamics are limited by the necessity of live-cell imaging at high spatiotemporal resolution1. Here, we describe an approach to infer pulsatile signaling dynamics from just a single measurement in fixed cells using a pulse-detecting gene circuit. We computationally screened for circuit with pulse detecting capability, revealing an incoherent feedforward topology that robustly performs this computation. We then implemented the motif experimentally for the Erk signaling pathway using a single engineered transcription factor and fluorescent protein reporter. Our ‘recorder of Erk activity dynamics’ (READer) responds sensitively to both spontaneous and stimulus-driven Erk pulses. READer circuits thus open the door to permanently labeling transient, dynamic cell populations to elucidate the mechanistic underpinnings and biological consequences of signaling dynamics.
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.
Mechanical frustration of phase separation in the cell nucleus by chromatin.
Liquid-liquid phase separation is a fundamental mechanism underlying subcellular organization. Motivated by the striking observation that optogenetically-generated droplets in the nucleus display suppressed coarsening dynamics, we study the impact of chromatin mechanics on droplet phase separation. We combine theory and simulation to show that crosslinked chromatin can mechanically suppress droplets’ coalescence and ripening, as well as quantitatively control their number, size, and placement. Our results highlight the role of the subcellular mechanical environment on condensate regulation.
Optogenetic inhibition and activation of Rac and Rap1 using a modified iLID system.
The small GTPases Rac1 and Rap1 can fulfill multiple cellular functions because their activation kinetics and localization are precisely controlled. To probe the role of their spatio-temporal dynamics, we generated optogenetic tools that activate or inhibit endogenous Rac and Rap1 in living cells. An improved version of the light-induced dimerization (iLID) system  was used to control plasma membrane localization of protein domains that specifically activate or inactivate Rap1 and Rac (Tiam1 and Chimerin for Rac, RasGRP2 and Rap1GAP for Rap1 [2–5]). Irradiation yielded a 50-230% increase in the concentration of these domains at the membrane, leading to effects on cell morphodynamics consistent with the known roles of Rac1 and Rap1.
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.
Rho1 activation recapitulates early gastrulation events in the ventral, but not dorsal, epithelium of Drosophila embryos.
Ventral furrow formation, the first step in Drosophila gastrulation, is a well-studied example of tissue morphogenesis. Rho1 is highly active in a subset of ventral cells and is required for this morphogenetic event. However, it is unclear whether spatially patterned Rho1 activity alone is sufficient to recapitulate all aspects of this morphogenetic event, including anisotropic apical constriction and coordinated cell movements. Here, using an optogenetic probe that rapidly and robustly activates Rho1 in Drosophila tissues, we show that Rho1 activity induces ectopic deformations in the dorsal and ventral epithelia of Drosophila embryos. These perturbations reveal substantial differences in how ventral and dorsal cells, both within and outside the zone of Rho1 activation, respond to spatially and temporally identical patterns of Rho1 activation. Our results demonstrate that an asymmetric zone of Rho1 activity is not sufficient to recapitulate ventral furrow formation and reveal that additional, ventral-specific factors contribute to the cell- and tissue-level behaviors that emerge during ventral furrow formation.
Light-inducible Deformation of Mitochondria in Live Cells.
Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, are dynamic organelles that undergo constant morphological changes. Increasing evidence indicates that mitochondria morphologies and functions can be modulated by mechanical cues. However, the mechano-sensing and -responding properties of mitochondria and the correlation between mitochondrial morphologies and functions are unclear due to the lack of methods to precisely exert mechano-stimulation on and deform mitochondria inside live cells. Here we present an optogenetic approach that uses light to induce deformation of mitochondria by recruiting molecular motors to the outer mitochondrial membrane via light-activated protein-protein hetero-dimerization. Mechanical forces generated by motor proteins distort the outer membrane, during which the inner mitochondrial membrane can also be deformed. Moreover, this optical method can achieve subcellular spatial precision and be combined with other optical dimerizers and molecular motors. This method presents a novel mitochondria-specific mechano-stimulator for studying mitochondria mechanobiology and the interplay between mitochondria shapes and 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.
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.
Clustering-based positive feedback between a kinase and its substrate enables effective T-cell receptor signaling.
Protein clusters and condensates are pervasive in mammalian signaling. Yet how the signaling capacity of higher-order assemblies differs from simpler forms of molecular organization is still poorly understood. Here, we present an optogenetic approach to switch between light-induced clusters and simple protein heterodimers with a single point mutation. We apply this system to study how clustering affects signaling from the kinase Zap70 and its substrate LAT, proteins that normally form membrane-localized clusters during T cell activation. We find that light-induced clusters of LAT and Zap70 trigger potent activation of downstream signaling pathways even in non-T cells, whereas one-to-one dimers do not. We provide evidence that clusters harbor a local positive feedback loop between three components: Zap70, LAT, and Src-family kinases that bind to phosphorylated LAT and further activate Zap70. Overall, our study provides evidence for a specific role of protein condensates in cell signaling, and identifies a simple biochemical circuit that can robustly sense protein oligomerization state.
Endothelial cell invasiveness is controlled by myosin IIA-dependent inhibition of Arp2/3 activity.
Sprouting angiogenesis is fundamental for development and contributes to multiple diseases, including cancer, diabetic retinopathy and cardiovascular diseases. Sprouting angiogenesis depends on the invasive properties of endothelial tip cells. However, there is very limited knowledge on the mechanisms that endothelial tip cells use to invade into tissues. Here, we prove that endothelial tip cells use long lamellipodia projections (LLPs) as the main cellular protrusion for invasion into nonvascular extracellular matrix. We show that LLPs and filopodia protrusions are balanced by myosin-IIA (MIIA) and actin-related protein 2/3 (Arp2/3) activity. Endothelial cell-autonomous ablation of MIIA promotes excessive LLPs formation in detriment of filopodia. Conversely, endothelial cell-autonomous ablation of Arp2/3 prevents LLPs development and leads to excessive filopodia formation. We further show that MIIA inhibits Rac1-dependent activation of Arp2/3, by regulating the maturation state of focal adhesions. Our discoveries establish the first comprehensive model of how endothelial tip cells regulate its protrusive activity and will pave the way towards new strategies to block invasive tip cells during sprouting angiogenesis.
Morphogenesis: Guiding Embryonic Development with Light.
Embryonic development is controlled by dynamic signaling systems that are translated into patterns of gene expression. Optogenetics has now been used to rescue genetic loss of Drosophila terminal patterning, bringing us a step closer to reconstruct morphogenesis synthetically.
Optimized iLID membrane anchors for local optogenetic protein recruitment.
Optogenetic protein dimerization systems are powerful tools to investigate the biochemical networks that cells use to make decisions and coordinate their activities. These tools, including the improved Light-Inducible Dimer (iLID) system, offer the ability to selectively recruit components to subcellular locations, such as micron-scale regions of the plasma membrane. In this way, the role of individual proteins within signaling networks can be examined with high spatiotemporal resolution. Currently, consistent recruitment is limited by heterogeneous optogenetic component expression, and spatial precision is diminished by protein diffusion, especially over long timescales. Here, we address these challenges within the iLID system with alternative membrane anchoring domains and fusion configurations. Using live cell imaging and mathematical modeling, we demonstrate that the anchoring strategy affects both component expression and diffusion, which in turn impact recruitment strength, kinetics, and spatial dynamics. Compared to the commonly used C-terminal iLID fusion, fusion proteins with large N-terminal anchors show stronger local recruitment, slower diffusion of recruited components, and efficient recruitment over wider gene expression ranges. We also define guidelines for component expression regimes for optimal recruitment for both cell-wide and subcellular recruitment strategies. Our findings highlight key sources of imprecision within light-inducible dimer systems and provide tools that allow greater control of subcellular protein localization across diverse cell biological applications.
Engineering combinatorial and dynamic decoders using synthetic immediate-early genes.
Many cell- and tissue-level functions are coordinated by intracellular signaling pathways that trigger the expression of context-specific target genes. Yet the input-output relationships that link pathways to the genes they activate are incompletely understood. Mapping the pathway-decoding logic of natural target genes could also provide a basis for engineering novel signal-decoding circuits. Here we report the construction of synthetic immediate-early genes (SynIEGs), target genes of Erk signaling that implement complex, user-defined regulation and can be monitored by using live-cell biosensors to track their transcription and translation. We demonstrate the power of this approach by confirming Erk duration-sensing by FOS, elucidating how the BTG2 gene is differentially regulated by external stimuli, and designing a synthetic immediate-early gene that selectively responds to the combination of growth factor and DNA damage stimuli. SynIEGs pave the way toward engineering molecular circuits that decode signaling dynamics and combinations across a broad range of cellular contexts.
Development of light-responsive protein binding in the monobody non-immunoglobulin scaffold.
Monobodies are synthetic non-immunoglobulin customizable protein binders invaluable to basic and applied research, and of considerable potential as future therapeutics and diagnostic tools. The ability to reversibly control their binding activity to their targets on demand would significantly expand their applications in biotechnology, medicine, and research. Here we present, as proof-of-principle, the development of a light-controlled monobody (OptoMB) that works in vitro and in cells and whose affinity for its SH2-domain target exhibits a 330-fold shift in binding affinity upon illumination. We demonstrate that our αSH2-OptoMB can be used to purify SH2-tagged proteins directly from crude E. coli extract, achieving 99.8% purity and over 40% yield in a single purification step. By virtue of their ability to be designed to bind any protein of interest, OptoMBs have the potential to find new powerful applications as light-switchable binders of untagged proteins with the temporal and spatial precision afforded by light.
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.
Dynamic centriolar localization of Polo and Centrobin in early mitosis primes centrosome asymmetry.
Centrosomes, the main microtubule organizing centers (MTOCs) of metazoan cells, contain an older "mother" and a younger "daughter" centriole. Stem cells either inherit the mother or daughter-centriole-containing centrosome, providing a possible mechanism for biased delivery of cell fate determinants. However, the mechanisms regulating centrosome asymmetry and biased centrosome segregation are unclear. Using 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) and live-cell imaging, we show in fly neural stem cells (neuroblasts) that the mitotic kinase Polo and its centriolar protein substrate Centrobin (Cnb) accumulate on the daughter centriole during mitosis, thereby generating molecularly distinct mother and daughter centrioles before interphase. Cnb's asymmetric localization, potentially involving a direct relocalization mechanism, is regulated by Polo-mediated phosphorylation, whereas Polo's daughter centriole enrichment requires both Wdr62 and Cnb. Based on optogenetic protein mislocalization experiments, we propose that the establishment of centriole asymmetry in mitosis primes biased interphase MTOC activity, necessary for correct spindle orientation.
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.
Photo-SNAP-tag, a Light-Regulated Chemical Labeling System.
Methods that allow labeling and tracking of proteins have been instrumental for understanding their function. Traditional methods for labeling proteins include fusion to fluorescent proteins or self-labeling chemical tagging systems such as SNAP-tag or Halo-tag. These latter approaches allow bright fluorophores or other chemical moieties to be attached to a protein of interest through a small fusion tag. In this work, we sought to improve the versatility of self-labeling chemical-tagging systems by regulating their activity with light. We used light-inducible dimerizers to reconstitute a split SNAP-tag (modified human O6-alkylguanine-DNA-alkyltransferase, hAGT) protein, allowing tight light-dependent control of chemical labeling. In addition, we generated a small split SNAP-tag fragment that can efficiently self-assemble with its complement fragment, allowing high labeling efficacy with a small tag. We envision these tools will extend the versatility and utility of the SNAP-tag chemical system for protein labeling applications.