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WIREs Dev Biol
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Optical control of biological processes by light‐switchable proteins

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Cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, or migration depend on precise spatiotemporal coordination of protein activities. Correspondingly, reaching a quantitative understanding of cellular behavior requires experimental approaches that enable spatial and temporal modulation of protein activity. Recently, a variety of light‐sensitive protein domains have been engineered as optogenetic actuators to spatiotemporally control protein activity. In the present review, we discuss the principle of these optical control methods and examples of their applications in modulating signaling pathways. By controlling protein activity with spatiotemporal specificity, tunable dynamics, and quantitative control, light‐controllable proteins promise to accelerate our understanding of cellular and organismal biology. WIREs Dev Biol 2015, 4:545–554. doi: 10.1002/wdev.188 This article is categorized under: Technologies > Perturbing Genes and Generating Modified Animals Technologies > Analysis of Cell, Tissue, and Animal Phenotypes Technologies > Analysis of Proteins
Allosteric linkage of photoreception to protein activity. (a) Tight linkage to the light‐oxygen‐voltage‐sensing (LOV) domain can cage a protein of interest (POI), while light‐induced conformational change in the LOV domain results in its uncaging. (b) Fusion of tetramerizing Dronpa to both ends of a protein causes caging, while light‐induced Dronpa dissociation results in protein uncaging at the same time as Dronpa off‐switching.
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Light‐mediated protein–protein interactions can be used for (a) relocalization, (b) oligomerization, or (c) sequestration of a protein of interest (POI). The green domain represents the chromophore‐containing domain.
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Technologies > Perturbing Genes and Generating Modified Animals
Technologies > Analysis of Cell, Tissue, and Animal Phenotypes
Technologies > Analysis of Proteins