Showing 1 - 25 of 42 results
Direct investigation of cell contraction signal networks by light-based perturbation methods.
Cell contraction plays an important role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. This includes functions in skeletal, heart, and smooth muscle cells, which lead to highly coordinated contractions of multicellular assemblies, and functions in non-muscle cells, which are often highly localized in subcellular regions and transient in time. While the regulatory processes that control cell contraction in muscle cells are well understood, much less is known about cell contraction in non-muscle cells. In this review, we focus on the mechanisms that control cell contraction in space and time in non-muscle cells, and how they can be investigated by light-based methods. The review particularly focusses on signal networks and cytoskeletal components that together control subcellular contraction patterns to perform functions on the level of cells and tissues, such as directional migration and multicellular rearrangements during development. Key features of light-based methods that enable highly local and fast perturbations are highlighted, and how experimental strategies can capitalize on these features to uncover causal relationships in the complex signal networks that control cell contraction.
Allosteric regulation of kinase activity in living cells.
The dysregulation of protein kinases is associated with multiple diseases due to the kinases’ involvement in a variety of cell signaling pathways. Manipulating protein kinase function, by controlling the active site, is a promising therapeutic and investigative strategy to mitigate and study diseases. Kinase active sites share structural similarities making it difficult to specifically target one kinase, allosteric control allows specific regulation and study of kinase function without directly targeting the active site. Allosteric sites are distal to the active site but coupled via a dynamic network of inter-atomic interactions between residues in the protein. Establishing an allosteric control over a kinase requires understanding the allosteric wiring of the protein. Computational techniques offer effective and inexpensive mapping of the allosteric sites on a protein. Here, we discuss methods to map and regulate allosteric communications in proteins, and strategies to establish control over kinase functions in live cells and organisms. Protein molecules, or “sensors” are engineered to function as tools to control allosteric activity of the protein as these sensors have high spatiotemporal resolution and help in understanding cell phenotypes after immediate activation or inactivation of a kinase. Traditional methods used to study protein functions, such as knockout, knockdown, or mutation, cannot offer a sufficiently high spatiotemporal resolution. We discuss the modern repertoire of tools to regulate protein kinases as we enter a new era in deciphering cellular signaling and developing novel approaches to treat diseases associated with signal dysregulation.
Photoswitchable binders enable temporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
General methods for spatiotemporal control of specific endogenous proteins would be broadly useful for probing protein function in living cells. Synthetic protein binders that bind and inhibit endogenous protein targets can be obtained from nanobodies, designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins), and other small protein scaffolds, but generalizable methods to control their binding activity are lacking. Here, we report robust single-chain photoswitchable DARPins (psDARPins) for bidirectional optical control of endogenous proteins. We created topological variants of the DARPin scaffold by computer-aided design so fusion of photodissociable dimeric Dronpa (pdDronpa) results in occlusion of target binding at baseline. Cyan light induces pdDronpa dissociation to expose the binding surface (paratope), while violet light restores pdDronpa dimerization and paratope caging. Since the DARPin redesign leaves the paratope intact, the approach was easily applied to existing DARPins for GFP, ERK, and Ras, as demonstrated by relocalizing GFP-family proteins and inhibiting endogenous ERK and Ras with optical control. Finally, a Ras-targeted psDARPin was used to determine that, following EGF-activation of EGFR, Ras is required for sustained EGFR to ERK signaling. In summary, psDARPins provide a generalizable strategy for precise spatiotemporal dissection of endogenous protein function.
Quantitative insights in tissue growth and morphogenesis with optogenetics.
Cells communicate with each other to jointly regulate cellular processes during cellular differentiation and tissue morphogenesis. This multiscale coordination arises through spatiotemporal activity of morphogens to pattern cell signaling and transcriptional factor activity. This coded information controls cell mechanics, proliferation, and differentiation to shape the growth and morphogenesis of organs. While many of the molecular components and physical interactions have been identified in key model developmental systems, there are still many unresolved questions related to the dynamics involved due to challenges in precisely perturbing and quantitatively measuring signaling dynamics. Recently, a broad range of synthetic optogenetic tools have been developed and employed to quantitatively define relationships between signal transduction and downstream cellular responses. These optogenetic tools can control intracellular activities at the single cell or whole tissue scale to direct subsequent biological processes. In this brief review, we highlight a selected set of studies that develop and implement optogenetic tools to unravel quantitative biophysical mechanisms for tissue growth and morphogenesis across a broad range of biological systems through the manipulation of morphogens, signal transduction cascades, and cell mechanics. More generally, we discuss how optogenetic tools have emerged as a powerful platform for probing and controlling multicellular development.
The clinical potential of optogenetic interrogation of pathogenesis.
Opsin-based optogenetics has emerged as a powerful biomedical tool using light to control protein conformation. Such capacity has been initially demonstrated to control ion flow across the cell membrane, enabling precise control of action potential in excitable cells such as neurons or muscle cells. Further advancement in optogenetics incorporates a greater variety of photoactivatable proteins and results in flexible control of biological processes, such as gene expression and signal transduction, with commonly employed light sources such as LEDs or lasers in optical microscopy. Blessed by the precise genetic targeting specificity and superior spatiotemporal resolution, optogenetics offers new biological insights into physiological and pathological mechanisms underlying health and diseases. Recently, its clinical potential has started to be capitalized, particularly for blindness treatment, due to the convenient light delivery into the eye.
RhoA regulation in space and time.
RhoGTPases are well known for being controllers of cell cytoskeleton and share common features in the way they act and are controlled. These include their switch from GDP to GTP states, their regulations by different guanine exchange factors (GEFs), GTPase-activating proteins and guanosine dissociation inhibitors (GDIs), and their similar structure of active sites/membrane anchors. These very similar features often lead to the common consideration that the differences in their biological effects mainly arise from the different types of regulators and specific effectors associated with each GTPase. Focusing on data obtained through biosensors, live cell microscopy and recent optogenetic approaches, we highlight in this review that the regulation of RhoA appears to depart from Cdc42 and Rac1 modes of regulation through its enhanced lability at the plasma membrane. RhoA presents a high dynamic turnover at the membrane that is regulated not only by GDIs but also by GEFs, effectors and a possible soluble conformational state. This peculiarity of RhoA regulation may be important for the specificities of its functions, such as the existence of activity waves or its putative dual role in the initiation of protrusions and contractions.
Precise modulation of embryonic development through optogenetics.
The past decade has witnessed enormous progress in optogenetics, which uses photo-sensitive proteins to control signal transduction in live cells and animals. The ever-increasing amount of optogenetic tools, however, could overwhelm the selection of appropriate optogenetic strategies. In this work, we summarize recent progress in this emerging field and highlight the application of opsin-free optogenetics in studying embryonic development, focusing on new insights gained into optical induction of morphogenesis, cell polarity, cell fate determination, tissue differentiation, neuronal regeneration, synaptic plasticity, and removal of cells during development.
Plant optogenetics: Applications and perspectives.
To understand cell biological processes, like signalling pathways, protein movements, or metabolic processes, precise tools for manipulation are desired. Optogenetics allows to control cellular processes by light and can be applied at a high temporal and spatial resolution. In the last three decades, various optogenetic applications have been developed for animal, fungal, and prokaryotic cells. However, using optogenetics in plants has been difficult due to biological and technical issues, like missing cofactors, the presence of endogenous photoreceptors, or the necessity of light for photosynthesis, which potentially activates optogenetic tools constitutively. Recently developed tools overcome these limitations, making the application of optogenetics feasible also in plants. Here, we highlight the most useful recent applications in plants and give a perspective for future optogenetic approaches in plants science.
Optogenetics for transcriptional programming and genetic engineering.
Optogenetics combines genetics and biophotonics to enable noninvasive control of biological processes with high spatiotemporal precision. When engineered into protein machineries that govern the cellular information flow as depicted in the central dogma, multiple genetically encoded non-opsin photosensory modules have been harnessed to modulate gene transcription, DNA or RNA modifications, DNA recombination, and genome engineering by utilizing photons emitting in the wide range of 200-1000 nm. We present herein generally applicable modular strategies for optogenetic engineering and highlight latest advances in the broad applications of opsin-free optogenetics to program transcriptional outputs and precisely manipulate the mammalian genome, epigenome, and epitranscriptome. We also discuss current challenges and future trends in opsin-free optogenetics, which has been rapidly evolving to meet the growing needs in synthetic biology and genetics research.
Extracellular Optogenetics at the Interface of Synthetic Biology and Materials Science.
We review fundamental mechanisms and applications of OptoGels: hydrogels with light-programmable properties endowed by photoswitchable proteins ("optoproteins") found in nature. Light, as the primary source of energy on earth, has driven evolution to develop highly-tuned functionalities, such as phototropism and circadian entrainment. These functions are mediated through a growing family of optoproteins that respond to the entire visible spectrum ranging from ultraviolet to infrared by changing their structure to transmit signals inside of cells. In a recent series of articles, engineers and biochemists have incorporated optoproteins into a variety of extracellular systems, endowing them with photocontrollability. While other routes exist for dynamically controlling material properties, light-sensitive proteins have several distinct advantages, including precise spatiotemporal control, reversibility, substrate selectivity, as well as biodegradability and biocompatibility. Available conjugation chemistries endow OptoGels with a combinatorially large design space determined by the set of optoproteins and polymer networks. These combinations result in a variety of tunable material properties. Despite their potential, relatively little of the OptoGel design space has been explored. Here, we aim to summarize innovations in this emerging field and highlight potential future applications of these next generation materials. OptoGels show great promise in applications ranging from mechanobiology, to 3D cell and organoid engineering, and programmable cell eluting materials.
Optogenetic technologies in translational cancer research.
Gene and cell therapies are widely recognized as future cancer therapeutics but poor controllability limits their clinical applications. Optogenetics, the use of light-controlled proteins to precisely spatiotemporally regulate the activity of genes and cells, opens up new possibilities for cancer treatment. Light of specific wavelength can activate the immune response, oncolytic activity and modulate cell signaling in tumor cells non-invasively, in dosed manner, with tissue confined action and without side effects of conventional therapies. Here, we review optogenetic approaches in cancer research, their clinical potential and challenges of incorporating optogenetics in cancer therapy. We critically discuss beneficial combinations of optogenetic technologies with therapeutic nanobodies, T-cell activation and CAR-T cell approaches, genome editors and oncolytic viruses. We consider viral vectors and nanoparticles for delivering optogenetic payloads and activating light to tumors. Finally, we highlight herein the prospects for integrating optogenetics into immunotherapy as a novel, fast, reversible and safe approach to cancer treatment.
Optophysiology: Illuminating cell physiology with optogenetics.
Optogenetics combines light and genetics to enable precise control of living cells, tissues, and organisms with tailored functions. Optogenetics has the advantages of noninvasiveness, rapid responsiveness, tunable reversibility, and superior spatiotemporal resolution. Following the initial discovery of microbial opsins as light-actuated ion channels, a plethora of naturally occurring or engineered photoreceptors or photosensitive domains that respond to light at varying wavelengths has ushered in the next chapter of optogenetics. Through protein engineering and synthetic biology approaches, genetically encoded photoswitches can be modularly engineered into protein scaffolds or host cells to control a myriad of biological processes, as well as to enable behavioral control and disease intervention in vivo. Here, we summarize these optogenetic tools on the basis of their fundamental photochemical properties to better inform the chemical basis and design principles. We also highlight exemplary applications of opsin-free optogenetics in dissecting cellular physiology (designated "optophysiology") and describe the current progress, as well as future trends, in wireless optogenetics, which enables remote interrogation of physiological processes with minimal invasiveness. This review is anticipated to spark novel thoughts on engineering next-generation optogenetic tools and devices that promise to accelerate both basic and translational studies.
Engineering Photoresponsive Ligand Tethers for Mechanical Regulation of Stem Cells.
Regulating stem cell functions by precisely controlling the nanoscale presentation of bioactive ligands has a substantial impact on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine but remains a major challenge. Here it is shown that bioactive ligands can become mechanically "invisible" by increasing their tether lengths to the substrate beyond a critical length, providing a way to regulate mechanotransduction without changing the biochemical conditions. Building on this finding, light switchable tethers are rationally designed, whose lengths can be modulated reversibly by switching a light-responsive protein, pdDronpa, in between monomer and dimer states. This allows the regulation of the adhesion, spreading, and differentiation of stem cells by light on substrates of well-defined biochemical and physical properties. Spatiotemporal regulation of differential cell fates on the same substrate is further demonstrated, which may represent an important step toward constructing complex organoids or mini tissues by spatially defining the mechanical cues of the cellular microenvironment with light.
Applications of Upconversion Nanoparticles in Cellular Optogenetics.
Upconversion-mediated optogenetics is an emerging powerful technique to remotely control and manipulate the deep-tissue protein functions and signaling pathway activation. This technique uses lanthanide upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as light transducers and through near-infrared light to indirectly activate the traditional optogenetic proteins. With the merits of high spatiotemporal resolution and minimal invasiveness, this technique enables cell-type specific manipulation of cellular activities in deep tissues as well as in living animals. In this review, we introduce the latest development of optogenetic modules and UCNPs, with emphasis on the integration of UCNPs with cellular optogenetics and their biomedical applications on the control of neural/brain activity, cancer therapy and cardiac optogenetics in vivo. Furthermore, we analyze the current developed strategies to optimize and advance the upconversion-mediated optogenetics and discuss the remaining challenges of its further applications in biomedical study and clinical translational research. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Optogenetics harnesses photoactivatable proteins to optically stimulate and control intracellular activities. UCNPs-mediated NIR-activatable optogenetics uses lanthanide upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) as light transducers and utilizes near-infrared (NIR) light to indirectly activate the traditional optogenetic proteins. The integration of UCNPs with cellular optogenetics has showed great promise in biomedical applications in regulating neural/brain activity, cancer therapy and cardiac optogenetics in vivo. The evolution and optimization of functional UCNPs and the discovery and engineering of novel optogenetic modules would both contribute to the advance of such unique hybrid technology, which may lead to discoveries in biomedical research and provide new treatments for human diseases.
A guide to the optogenetic regulation of endogenous molecules.
Genetically encoded tools for the regulation of endogenous molecules (RNA, DNA elements and protein) are needed to study and control biological processes with minimal interference caused by protein overexpression and overactivation of signaling pathways. Here we focus on light-controlled optogenetic tools (OTs) that allow spatiotemporally precise regulation of gene expression and protein function. To control endogenous molecules, OTs combine light-sensing modules from natural photoreceptors with specific protein or nucleic acid binders. We discuss OT designs and group OTs according to the principles of their regulation. We outline characteristics of OT performance, discuss considerations for their use in vivo and review available OTs and their applications in cells and in vivo. Finally, we provide a brief outlook on the development of OTs.
Optogenetic approaches for understanding homeostatic and degenerative processes in Drosophila.
Many organs and tissues have an intrinsic ability to regenerate from a dedicated, tissue-specific stem cell pool. As organisms age, the process of self-regulation or homeostasis begins to slow down with fewer stem cells available for tissue repair. Tissues become more fragile and organs less efficient. This slowdown of homeostatic processes leads to the development of cellular and neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we highlight the recent use and future potential of optogenetic approaches to study homeostasis. Optogenetics uses photosensitive molecules and genetic engineering to modulate cellular activity in vivo, allowing precise experiments with spatiotemporal control. We look at applications of this technology for understanding the mechanisms governing homeostasis and degeneration as applied to widely used model organisms, such as Drosophila melanogaster, where other common tools are less effective or unavailable.
Capicua is a fast-acting transcriptional brake.
Even though transcriptional repressors are studied with ever-increasing molecular resolution, the temporal aspects of gene repression remain poorly understood. Here, we address the dynamics of transcriptional repression by Capicua (Cic), which is essential for normal development and is commonly mutated in human cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.1,2 We report the speed limit for Cic-dependent gene repression based on live imaging and optogenetic perturbations in the early Drosophila embryo, where Cic was originally discovered.3 Our measurements of Cic concentration and intranuclear mobility, along with real-time monitoring of the activity of Cic target genes, reveal remarkably fast transcriptional repression within minutes of removing an optogenetic de-repressive signal. In parallel, quantitative analyses of transcriptional bursting of Cic target genes support a repression mechanism providing a fast-acting brake on burst generation. This work sets quantitative constraints on potential mechanisms for gene regulation by Cic.
Optogenetic Approaches for the Spatiotemporal Control of Signal Transduction Pathways.
Biological signals are sensed by their respective receptors and are transduced and processed by a sophisticated intracellular signaling network leading to a signal-specific cellular response. Thereby, the response to the signal depends on the strength, the frequency, and the duration of the stimulus as well as on the subcellular signal progression. Optogenetic tools are based on genetically encoded light-sensing proteins facilitating the precise spatiotemporal control of signal transduction pathways and cell fate decisions in the absence of natural ligands. In this review, we provide an overview of optogenetic approaches connecting light-regulated protein-protein interaction or caging/uncaging events with steering the function of signaling proteins. We briefly discuss the most common optogenetic switches and their mode of action. The main part deals with the engineering and application of optogenetic tools for the control of transmembrane receptors including receptor tyrosine kinases, the T cell receptor and integrins, and their effector proteins. We also address the hallmarks of optogenetics, the spatial and temporal control of signaling events.
Optical regulation of endogenous RhoA reveals selection of cellular responses by signal amplitude.
How protein signaling networks respond to different input strengths is an important but poorly understood problem in cell biology. For example, the small GTPase RhoA regulates both focal adhesion (FA) growth or disassembly, but whether RhoA serves as a switch selecting between cellular outcomes, or if outcomes are simply modulated by additional factors in the cell, is not clear. Here, we develop a photoswitchable RhoA guanine exchange factor, psRhoGEF, to precisely control endogenous RhoA activity. We also develop a FRET-based biosensor to allow visualization of RhoA activity together with psRhoGEF control. Using these new optical tools, we discover that low levels of RhoA activation preferentially induce FA disassembly in a Src-dependent manner, while high levels induce both FA growth and disassembly in a ROCK-dependent manner. Thus, rheostatic control of RhoA activation with photoswitchable RhoGEF reveals that cells can use signal amplitude to produce multiple responses to a single biochemical signal.
Signaling, Deconstructed: Using Optogenetics to Dissect and Direct Information Flow in Biological Systems.
Cells receive enormous amounts of information from their environment. How they act on this information-by migrating, expressing genes, or relaying signals to other cells-comprises much of the regulatory and self-organizational complexity found across biology. The "parts list" involved in cell signaling is generally well established, but how do these parts work together to decode signals and produce appropriate responses? This fundamental question is increasingly being addressed with optogenetic tools: light-sensitive proteins that enable biologists to manipulate the interaction, localization, and activity state of proteins with high spatial and temporal precision. In this review, we summarize how optogenetics is being used in the pursuit of an answer to this question, outlining the current suite of optogenetic tools available to the researcher and calling attention to studies that increase our understanding of and improve our ability to engineer biology. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, Volume 23 is June 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Non-neuromodulatory Optogenetic Tools in Zebrafish.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a popular vertebrate model organism to investigate molecular mechanisms driving development and disease. Due to its transparency at embryonic and larval stages, investigations in the living organism are possible with subcellular resolution using intravital microscopy. The beneficial optical characteristics of zebrafish not only allow for passive observation, but also active manipulation of proteins and cells by light using optogenetic tools. Initially, photosensitive ion channels have been applied for neurobiological studies in zebrafish to dissect complex behaviors on a cellular level. More recently, exciting non-neural optogenetic tools have been established to control gene expression or protein localization and activity, allowing for unprecedented non-invasive and precise manipulation of various aspects of cellular physiology. Zebrafish will likely be a vertebrate model organism at the forefront of in vivo application of non-neural optogenetic tools and pioneering work has already been performed. In this review, we provide an overview of non-neuromodulatory optogenetic tools successfully applied in zebrafish to control gene expression, protein localization, cell signaling, migration and cell ablation.