Showing 1 - 21 of 21 results
Functionally asymmetric motor neurons contribute to coordinating locomotion of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Locomotion circuits developed in simple animals, and circuit motifs further evolved in higher animals. To understand locomotion circuit motifs, they must be characterized in many models. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses one of the best-studied circuits for undulatory movement. Yet, for 1/6th of the cholinergic motor neurons (MNs), the AS MNs, functional information is unavailable. Ventral nerve cord (VNC) MNs coordinate undulations, in small circuits of complementary neurons innervating opposing muscles. AS MNs differ, as they innervate muscles and other MNs asymmetrically, without complementary partners. We characterized AS MNs by optogenetic, behavioral and imaging analyses. They generate asymmetric muscle activation, enabling navigation, and contribute to coordination of dorso-ventral undulation as well as anterio-posterior bending wave propagation. AS MN activity correlated with forward and backward locomotion, and they functionally connect to premotor interneurons (PINs) for both locomotion regimes. Electrical feedback from AS MNs via gap junctions may affect only backward PINs.
Illuminating pathogen-host intimacy through optogenetics.
The birth and subsequent evolution of optogenetics has resulted in an unprecedented advancement in our understanding of the brain. Its outstanding success does usher wider applications; however, the tool remains still largely relegated to neuroscience. Here, we introduce selected aspects of optogenetics with potential applications in infection biology that will not only answer long-standing questions about intracellular pathogens (parasites, bacteria, viruses) but also broaden the dimension of current research in entwined models. In this essay, we illustrate how a judicious integration of optogenetics with routine methods can illuminate the host-pathogen interactions in a way that has not been feasible otherwise.
Blue-Light Receptors for Optogenetics.
Sensory photoreceptors underpin light-dependent adaptations of organismal physiology, development, and behavior in nature. Adapted for optogenetics, sensory photoreceptors become genetically encoded actuators and reporters to enable the noninvasive, spatiotemporally accurate and reversible control by light of cellular processes. Rooted in a mechanistic understanding of natural photoreceptors, artificial photoreceptors with customized light-gated function have been engineered that greatly expand the scope of optogenetics beyond the original application of light-controlled ion flow. As we survey presently, UV/blue-light-sensitive photoreceptors have particularly allowed optogenetics to transcend its initial neuroscience applications by unlocking numerous additional cellular processes and parameters for optogenetic intervention, including gene expression, DNA recombination, subcellular localization, cytoskeleton dynamics, intracellular protein stability, signal transduction cascades, apoptosis, and enzyme activity. The engineering of novel photoreceptors benefits from powerful and reusable design strategies, most importantly light-dependent protein association and (un)folding reactions. Additionally, modified versions of these same sensory photoreceptors serve as fluorescent proteins and generators of singlet oxygen, thereby further enriching the optogenetic toolkit. The available and upcoming UV/blue-light-sensitive actuators and reporters enable the detailed and quantitative interrogation of cellular signal networks and processes in increasingly more precise and illuminating manners.
Rapid Integration of Multi-copy Transgenes Using Optogenetic Mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Stably transmitted transgenes are indispensable for labeling cellular components and manipulating cellular functions. In Caenorhabditis elegans, transgenes are generally generated as inheritable multi-copy extrachromosomal arrays, which can be stabilized in the genome through a mutagenesis-mediated integration process. Standard methods to integrate extrachromosomal arrays primarily use protocols involving ultraviolet light plus trimethylpsoralen or gamma- or X-ray irradiation, which are laborious and time-consuming. Here, we describe a one-step integration method, following germline-mutagenesis induced by mini Singlet Oxygen Generator (miniSOG). Upon blue light treatment, miniSOG tagged to histone (Histone-miniSOG) generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) and induces heritable mutations, including DNA double-stranded breaks. We demonstrate that we can bypass the need to first establish extrachromosomal transgenic lines by coupling microinjection of desired plasmids with blue light illumination on Histone-miniSOG worms to obtain integrants in the F3 progeny. We consistently obtained more than one integrant from 12 injected animals in two weeks. This optogenetic approach significantly reduces the amount of time and labor for transgene integration. Moreover, it enables to generate stably expressed transgenes that cause toxicity in animal growth.
Descending pathway facilitates undulatory wave propagation in Caenorhabditis elegans through gap junctions.
Descending signals from the brain play critical roles in controlling and modulating locomotion kinematics. In the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system, descending AVB premotor interneurons exclusively form gap junctions with the B-type motor neurons that execute forward locomotion. We combined genetic analysis, optogenetic manipulation, calcium imaging, and computational modeling to elucidate the function of AVB-B gap junctions during forward locomotion. First, we found that some B-type motor neurons generate rhythmic activity, constituting distributed oscillators. Second, AVB premotor interneurons use their electric inputs to drive bifurcation of B-type motor neuron dynamics, triggering their transition from stationary to oscillatory activity. Third, proprioceptive couplings between neighboring B-type motor neurons entrain the frequency of body oscillators, forcing coherent bending wave propagation. Despite substantial anatomical differences between the motor circuits of C. elegans and higher model organisms, converging principles govern coordinated locomotion.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
Optogenetic Tools for Subcellular Applications in Neuroscience.
The ability to study cellular physiology using photosensitive, genetically encoded molecules has profoundly transformed neuroscience. The modern optogenetic toolbox includes fluorescent sensors to visualize signaling events in living cells and optogenetic actuators enabling manipulation of numerous cellular activities. Most optogenetic tools are not targeted to specific subcellular compartments but are localized with limited discrimination throughout the cell. Therefore, optogenetic activation often does not reflect context-dependent effects of highly localized intracellular signaling events. Subcellular targeting is required to achieve more specific optogenetic readouts and photomanipulation. Here we first provide a detailed overview of the available optogenetic tools with a focus on optogenetic actuators. Second, we review established strategies for targeting these tools to specific subcellular compartments. Finally, we discuss useful tools and targeting strategies that are currently missing from the optogenetics repertoire and provide suggestions for novel subcellular optogenetic applications.
Illuminating developmental biology through photochemistry.
Developmental biology has been continually shaped by technological advances, evolving from a descriptive science into one immersed in molecular and cellular mechanisms. Most recently, genome sequencing and 'omics' profiling have provided developmental biologists with a wealth of genetic and biochemical information; however, fully translating this knowledge into functional understanding will require new experimental capabilities. Photoactivatable probes have emerged as particularly valuable tools for investigating developmental mechanisms, as they can enable rapid, specific manipulations of DNA, RNA, proteins, and cells with spatiotemporal precision. In this Perspective, we describe optochemical and optogenetic systems that have been applied in multicellular organisms, insights gained through the use of these probes, and their current limitations. We also suggest how chemical biologists can expand the reach of photoactivatable technologies and bring new depth to our understanding of organismal development.
Temperature Sensitive Singlet Oxygen Photosensitization by LOV-Derived Fluorescent Flavoproteins.
Optogenetic sensitizers that selectively produce a given reactive oxygen species (ROS) constitute a promising tool for studying cell signaling processes with high levels of spatiotemporal control. However, to harness the full potential of this tool for live cell studies, the photophysics of currently available systems need to be explored further and optimized. Of particular interest in this regard, are the flavoproteins miniSOG and SOPP, both of which (1) contain the chromophore flavin mononucleotide, FMN, in a LOV-derived protein enclosure, and (2) photosensitize the production of singlet oxygen, O2(a(1)Δg). Here we present an extensive experimental study of the singlet and triplet state photophysics of FMN in SOPP and miniSOG over a physiologically relevant temperature range. Although changes in temperature only affect the singlet excited state photophysics slightly, the processes that influence the deactivation of the triplet excited state are more sensitive to temperature. Most notably, for both proteins, the rate constant for quenching of (3)FMN by ground state oxygen, O2(X(3)Σg(-)), increases ∼10-fold upon increasing the temperature from 10 to 43 °C, while the oxygen-independent channels of triplet state deactivation are less affected. As a consequence, this increase in temperature results in higher yields of O2(a(1)Δg) formation for both SOPP and miniSOG. We also show that the quantum yields of O2(a(1)Δg) production by both miniSOG and SOPP are mainly limited by the fraction of FMN triplet states quenched by O2(X(3)Σg(-)). The results presented herein provide a much-needed quantitative framework that will facilitate the future development of optogenetic ROS sensitizers.
Precision Optogenetic Tool for Selective Single- and Multiple-Cell Ablation in a Live Animal Model System.
Cell ablation is a strategy to study cell lineage and function during development. Optogenetic methods are an important cell-ablation approach, and we have previously developed a mini singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG) tool that works in the living Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we use directed evolution to generate miniSOG2, an improved tool for cell ablation via photogenerated reactive oxygen species. We apply miniSOG2 to a far more complex model animal system, Drosophila melanogaster, and demonstrate that it can be used to kill a single neuron in a Drosophila larva. In addition, miniSOG2 is able to photoablate a small group of cells in one of the larval wing imaginal discs, resulting in an adult with one incomplete and one normal wing. We expect miniSOG2 to be a useful optogenetic tool for precision cell ablation at a desired developmental time point in live animals, thus opening a new window into cell origin, fate and function, tissue regeneration, and developmental biology.
The Growing and Glowing Toolbox of Fluorescent and Photoactive Proteins.
Over the past 20 years, protein engineering has been extensively used to improve and modify the fundamental properties of fluorescent proteins (FPs) with the goal of adapting them for a fantastic range of applications. FPs have been modified by a combination of rational design, structure-based mutagenesis, and countless cycles of directed evolution (gene diversification followed by selection of clones with desired properties) that have collectively pushed the properties to photophysical and biochemical extremes. In this review, we provide both a summary of the progress that has been made during the past two decades, and a broad overview of the current state of FP development and applications in mammalian systems.
Lysosome-associated miniSOG as a photosensitizer for mammalian cells.
Genetically encoded photosensitizers represent a promising optogenetic tool for the induction of light-controlled oxidative stress strictly localized to a selected intracellular compartment. Here we tested the phototoxic effects of the flavin-containing phototoxic protein miniSOG targeted to the cytoplasmic surfaces of late endosomes and lysosomes by fusion with Rab7. In HeLa Kyoto cells stably expressing miniSOG-Rab7, we demonstrated a high level of cell death upon blue-light illumination. Pepstatin A completely abolished phototoxicity of miniSOG-Rab7, showing a key role for cathepsin D in this model. Using a far-red fluorescence sensor for caspase-3, we observed caspase-3 activation during miniSOG-Rab7-mediated cell death. We conclude that upon illumination, miniSOG-Rab7 induces lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and leakage of cathepsins into the cytosol, resulting in caspase-dependent apoptosis.
Highly efficient optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans using membrane-targeted miniSOG.
The genetically encoded photosensitizer miniSOG (mini Singlet Oxygen Generator) can be used to kill cells in C. elegans. miniSOG generates the reactive oxygen species (ROS) singlet oxygen after illumination with blue light. Illumination of neurons expressing miniSOG targeted to the outer mitochondrial membrane (mito-miniSOG) causes neuronal death. To enhance miniSOG's efficiency as an ablation tool in multiple cell types we tested alternative targeting signals. We find that membrane targeted miniSOG allows highly efficient cell killing. When combined with a point mutation that increases miniSOG's ROS generation, membrane targeted miniSOG can ablate neurons in less than one tenth the time of mito-miniSOG. We extend the miniSOG ablation technique to non-neuronal tissues, revealing an essential role for the epidermis in locomotion. These improvements expand the utility and throughput of optogenetic cell ablation in C. elegans.
Optogenetic mutagenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can modify and damage DNA. Here we report an optogenetic mutagenesis approach that is free of toxic chemicals and easy to perform by taking advantage of a genetically encoded ROS generator. This method relies on the potency of ROS generation by His-mSOG, the mini singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, fused to a histone. Caenorhabditis elegans expressing His-mSOG in the germline behave and reproduce normally, without photoinduction. Following exposure to blue light, the His-mSOG animals produce progeny with a wide range of heritable phenotypes. We show that optogenetic mutagenesis by His-mSOG induces a broad spectrum of mutations including single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), chromosomal deletions, as well as integration of extrachromosomal transgenes, which complements those derived from traditional chemical or radiation mutagenesis. The optogenetic mutagenesis expands the toolbox for forward genetic screening and also provides direct evidence that nuclear ROS can induce heritable and specific genetic mutations.
A proposal for a dipole-generated BLUF domain mechanism.
The resting and signaling structures of the blue-light sensing using flavin (BLUF) photoreceptor domains are still controversially debated due to differences in the molecular models obtained by crystal and NMR structures. Photocycles for the given preferred structural framework have been established, but a unifying picture combining experiment and theory remains elusive. We summarize present work on the AppA BLUF domain from both experiment and theory. We focus on IR and UV/vis spectra, and to what extent theory was able to reproduce experimental data and predict the structural changes upon formation of the signaling state. We find that the experimental observables can be theoretically reproduced employing any structural model, as long as the orientation of the signaling essential Gln63 and its tautomer state are a choice of the modeler. We also observe that few approaches are comparative, e.g., by considering all structures in the same context. Based on recent experimental findings and a few basic calculations, we suggest the possibility for a BLUF activation mechanism that only relies on electron transfer and its effect on the local electrostatics, not requiring an associated proton transfer. In this regard, we investigate the impact of dispersion correction on the interaction energies arising from weakly bound amino acids.
A photosensitive degron enables acute light-induced protein degradation in the nervous system.
Acutely inducing degradation enables studying the function of essential proteins. Available techniques target proteins post-translationally, via ubiquitin or by fusing destabilizing domains (degrons), and in some cases degradation is controllable by small molecules. Yet, they are comparably slow, possibly inducing compensatory changes, and do not allow localized protein depletion. The photosensitizer miniature singlet oxygen generator (miniSOG), fused to proteins of interest, provides fast light-induced protein destruction, e.g. affecting neurotransmission within minutes, but the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated also affect proteins nearby, causing multifaceted phenotypes. A photosensitive degron (psd), recently developed and characterized in yeast, only targets the protein it is fused to, acting quickly as it is ubiquitin-independent, and the B-LID light-inducible degron was similarly shown to affect protein abundance in zebrafish. We implemented the psd in Caenorhabditis elegans and compared it to miniSOG. The psd effectively caused protein degradation within one hour of low intensity blue light (30 μW/mm(2)). Targeting synaptotagmin (SNT-1::tagRFP::psd), required for efficient neurotransmission, reduced locomotion within 15 minutes of illumination and within one hour behavior and miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs) were affected almost to the same degree seen in snt-1 mutants. Thus, psd effectively photo-degrades specific proteins, quickly inducing loss-of-function effects without affecting bystander proteins.
Investigating neuronal function with optically controllable proteins.
In the nervous system, protein activities are highly regulated in space and time. This regulation allows for fine modulation of neuronal structure and function during development and adaptive responses. For example, neurite extension and synaptogenesis both involve localized and transient activation of cytoskeletal and signaling proteins, allowing changes in microarchitecture to occur rapidly and in a localized manner. To investigate the role of specific protein regulation events in these processes, methods to optically control the activity of specific proteins have been developed. In this review, we focus on how photosensory domains enable optical control over protein activity and have been used in neuroscience applications. These tools have demonstrated versatility in controlling various proteins and thereby cellular functions, and possess enormous potential for future applications in nervous systems. Just as optogenetic control of neuronal firing using opsins has changed how we investigate the function of cellular circuits in vivo, optical control may yet yield another revolution in how we study the circuitry of intracellular signaling in the brain.
Optogenetic control of ROS production.
Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are known to cause oxidative damage to DNA, proteins and lipids. In addition, recent evidence suggests that ROS can also initiate signaling cascades that respond to stress and modify specific redox-sensitive moieties as a regulatory mechanism. This suggests that ROS are physiologically-relevant signaling molecules. However, these sensor/effector molecules are not uniformly distributed throughout the cell. Moreover, localized ROS damage may elicit site-specific compensatory measures. Thus, the impact of ROS can be likened to that of calcium, a ubiquitous second messenger, leading to the prediction that their effects are exquisitely dependent upon their location, quantity and even the timing of generation. Despite this prediction, ROS signaling is most commonly intuited through the global administration of chemicals that produce ROS or by ROS quenching through global application of antioxidants. Optogenetics, which uses light to control the activity of genetically-encoded effector proteins, provides a means of circumventing this limitation. Photo-inducible genetically-encoded ROS-generating proteins (RGPs) were originally employed for their phototoxic effects and cell ablation. However, reducing irradiance and/or fluence can achieve sub-lethal levels of ROS that may mediate subtle signaling effects. Hence, transgenic expression of RGPs as fusions to native proteins gives researchers a new tool to exert spatial and temporal control over ROS production. This review will focus on the new frontier defined by the experimental use of RGPs to study ROS signaling.
Optogenetic inhibition of synaptic release with chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI).
Optogenetic techniques provide effective ways of manipulating the functions of selected neurons with light. In the current study, we engineered an optogenetic technique that directly inhibits neurotransmitter release. We used a genetically encoded singlet oxygen generator, miniSOG, to conduct chromophore assisted light inactivation (CALI) of synaptic proteins. Fusions of miniSOG to VAMP2 and synaptophysin enabled disruption of presynaptic vesicular release upon illumination with blue light. In cultured neurons and hippocampal organotypic slices, synaptic release was reduced up to 100%. Such inhibition lasted >1 hr and had minimal effects on membrane electrical properties. When miniSOG-VAMP2 was expressed panneuronally in Caenorhabditis elegans, movement of the worms was reduced after illumination, and paralysis was often observed. The movement of the worms recovered overnight. We name this technique Inhibition of Synapses with CALI (InSynC). InSynC is a powerful way to silence genetically specified synapses with light in a spatially and temporally precise manner.
Photo-inducible cell ablation in Caenorhabditis elegans using the genetically encoded singlet oxygen generating protein miniSOG.
We describe a method for light-inducible and tissue-selective cell ablation using a genetically encoded photosensitizer, miniSOG (mini singlet oxygen generator). miniSOG is a newly engineered fluorescent protein of 106 amino acids that generates singlet oxygen in quantum yield upon blue-light illumination. We transgenically expressed mitochondrially targeted miniSOG (mito-miniSOG) in Caenorhabditis elegans neurons. Upon blue-light illumination, mito-miniSOG causes rapid and effective death of neurons in a cell-autonomous manner without detectable damages to surrounding tissues. Neuronal death induced by mito-miniSOG appears to be independent of the caspase CED-3, but the clearance of the damaged cells partially depends on the phagocytic receptor CED-1, a homolog of human CD91. We show that neurons can be killed at different developmental stages. We further use this method to investigate the role of the premotor interneurons in regulating the convulsive behavior caused by a gain-of-function mutation in the neuronal acetylcholine receptor acr-2. Our findings support an instructive role for the interneuron AVB in controlling motor neuron activity and reveal an inhibitory effect of the backward premotor interneurons on the forward interneurons. In summary, the simple inducible cell ablation method reported here allows temporal and spatial control and will prove to be a useful tool in studying the function of specific cells within complex cellular contexts.
A genetically encoded tag for correlated light and electron microscopy of intact cells, tissues, and organisms.
Electron microscopy (EM) achieves the highest spatial resolution in protein localization, but specific protein EM labeling has lacked generally applicable genetically encoded tags for in situ visualization in cells and tissues. Here we introduce "miniSOG" (for mini Singlet Oxygen Generator), a fluorescent flavoprotein engineered from Arabidopsis phototropin 2. MiniSOG contains 106 amino acids, less than half the size of Green Fluorescent Protein. Illumination of miniSOG generates sufficient singlet oxygen to locally catalyze the polymerization of diaminobenzidine into an osmiophilic reaction product resolvable by EM. MiniSOG fusions to many well-characterized proteins localize correctly in mammalian cells, intact nematodes, and rodents, enabling correlated fluorescence and EM from large volumes of tissue after strong aldehyde fixation, without the need for exogenous ligands, probes, or destructive permeabilizing detergents. MiniSOG permits high quality ultrastructural preservation and 3-dimensional protein localization via electron tomography or serial section block face scanning electron microscopy. EM shows that miniSOG-tagged SynCAM1 is presynaptic in cultured cortical neurons, whereas miniSOG-tagged SynCAM2 is postsynaptic in culture and in intact mice. Thus SynCAM1 and SynCAM2 could be heterophilic partners. MiniSOG may do for EM what Green Fluorescent Protein did for fluorescence microscopy.