Photo-activatable Cre recombinase regulates gene expression in vivo.
ABSTRACT: Techniques allowing precise spatial and temporal control of gene expression in the brain are needed. Herein we describe optogenetic approaches using a photo-activatable Cre recombinase (PA-Cre) to stably modify gene expression in the mouse brain. Blue light illumination for 12 hours via optical fibers activated PA-Cre in the hippocampus, a deep brain structure. Two-photon illumination through a thinned skull window for 100 minutes activated PA-Cre within a sub-millimeter region of cortex. Light activation of PA-Cre may allow permanent gene modification with improved spatiotemporal precision compared to standard methods.
Project description:Optogenetic genome engineering tools enable spatiotemporal control of gene expression and provide new insight into biological function. Here, we report the new version of genetically encoded photoactivatable (PA) Cre recombinase, PA-Cre 3.0. To improve PA-Cre technology, we compare light-dimerization tools and optimize for mammalian expression using a CAG promoter, Magnets, and 2A self-cleaving peptide. To prevent background recombination caused by the high sequence similarity in the dimerization domains, we modify the codons for mouse gene targeting and viral production. Overall, these modifications significantly reduce dark leak activity and improve blue-light induction developing our new version, PA-Cre 3.0. As a resource, we have generated and validated AAV-PA-Cre 3.0 as well as two mouse lines that can conditionally express PA-Cre 3.0. Together these new tools will facilitate further biological and biomedical research.
Project description:Spatiotemporal control of gene expression or labeling is a valuable strategy for identifying functions of genes within complex neural circuits. Here, we develop a highly light-sensitive and efficient photoactivatable Flp recombinase (PA-Flp) that is suitable for genetic manipulation in vivo. The highly light-sensitive property of PA-Flp is ideal for activation in deep mouse brain regions by illumination with a noninvasive light-emitting diode. In addition, PA-Flp can be extended to the Cre-lox system through a viral vector as Flp-dependent Cre expression platform, thereby activating both Flp and Cre. Finally, we demonstrate that PA-Flp-dependent, Cre-mediated Ca<sub>v</sub>3.1 silencing in the medial septum increases object-exploration behavior in mice. Thus, PA-Flp is a noninvasive, highly efficient, and easy-to-use optogenetic module that offers a side-effect-free and expandable genetic manipulation tool for neuroscience research.
Project description:A common mechanism for inducibly controlling protein function relies on reconstitution of split protein fragments using chemical or light-induced dimerization domains. A protein is split into fragments that are inactive on their own, but can be reconstituted after dimerization. As many split proteins retain affinity for their complementary half, maintaining low activity in the absence of an inducer remains a challenge. Here, we systematically explore methods to achieve tight regulation of inducible proteins that are effective despite variation in protein expression level. We characterize a previously developed split Cre recombinase (PA-Cre2.0) that is reconstituted upon light-induced CRY2-CIB1 dimerization, in cultured cells and in vivo in rodent brain. In culture, PA-Cre2.0 shows low background and high induced activity over a wide range of expression levels, while in vivo the system also shows low background and sensitive response to brief light inputs. The consistent activity stems from fragment compartmentalization that shifts localization toward the cytosol. Extending this work, we exploit nuclear compartmentalization to generate light-and-chemical regulated versions of Cre recombinase. This work demonstrates in vivo functionality of PA-Cre2.0, describes new approaches to achieve tight inducible control of Cre DNA recombinase, and provides general guidelines for further engineering and application of split protein fragments.
Project description:Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome 2 (AtCRY2), a light-sensitive photosensory protein, was previously adapted for use in controlling protein-protein interactions through light-dependent binding to a partner protein, CIB1. While the existing CRY2-CIB dimerization system has been used extensively for optogenetic applications, some limitations exist. Here, we set out to optimize function of the CRY2-CIB system by identifying versions of CRY2-CIB that are smaller, show reduced dark interaction, and maintain longer or shorter signaling states in response to a pulse of light. We describe minimal functional CRY2 and CIB1 domains maintaining light-dependent interaction and new signaling mutations affecting AtCRY2 photocycle kinetics. The latter work implicates an ?13-?14 turn motif within plant CRYs whose perturbation alters signaling-state lifetime. Using a long-lived L348F photocycle mutant, we engineered a second-generation photoactivatable Cre recombinase, PA-Cre2.0, that shows five-fold improved dynamic range, allowing robust recombination following exposure to a single, brief pulse of light.
Project description:The defining features of a neuron are its functional and anatomical connections with thousands of other neurons in the brain. Together, these neurons form functional networks that direct animal behavior. Current approaches that allow the interrogation of specific populations of neurons and neural circuits rely heavily on targeting their gene expression profiles or connectivity. However, these approaches are often unable to delineate specific neuronal populations. Here, we developed a novel intersectional split intein-mediated split-Cre recombinase system that can selectively label specific types of neurons based on their gene expression profiles and structural connectivity. We developed this system by splitting Cre recombinase into two fragments with evolved split inteins and subsequently expressed one fragment under the influence of a cell type-specific promoter in a transgenic animal, and delivered the other fragment via retrograde viral gene transfer. This approach results in the reconstitution of Cre recombinase in only specific population of neurons projecting from a specific brain region or in those of a specific neuronal type. Taken together, our split intein-based split-Cre system will be useful for sophisticated characterization of mammalian brain circuits.
Project description:DNA aptamers are a powerful class of molecules for sensing targets, but have been limited when applied to imaging in living animals because most aptamer probes are fluorescence-based, which limits imaging penetration depth. Photoacoustic (PA) imaging emerged as an alternative to MRI and X-ray tomography in biomedical imaging, due to its ability to afford high-resolution images at depths in the cm range. Despite its promise, PA imaging is limited by a lack of strategies to design selective and activatable probes for targets. To overcome this limitation, we report design and demonstration of PA probes based on DNA aptamers that can hybridize to DNA strands conjugated to a near-infrared fluorophore/quencher pair (IRDye 800CW/IRDye QC-1) with efficient contact quenching. Binding of the target triggered a release of the DNA strand with the quencher and thus relief of the contact quenching, resulting in a change of the PA signal ratio at 780/725 nm. Using thrombin as a model, a relationship was established between the thrombin concentrations and the PA ratio, with a dynamic range of 0-1000 nM and a limit of detection of 112 nM. Finally, in vivo PA imaging studies showed that the PA ratio increased significantly 45 min after injection of thrombin but not with injection of PBS as a vehicle control, demonstrating the first aptamer-based activatable PA probe for advanced molecular imaging in living mice. Since in vitro selection can obtain aptamers selective for many targets, the design demonstrated can be applied for PA imaging of a number of targets.
Project description:There are many transgenic GFP reporter lines that allow the visualization of specific populations of cells. Using such lines for functional studies requires a method that transforms GFP into a molecule that enables genetic manipulation. We developed a method that exploits GFP for gene manipulation, Cre recombinase dependent on GFP (CRE-DOG), a split component system that uses GFP and its derivatives to directly induce Cre/loxP recombination. Using plasmid electroporation and AAV viral vectors, we delivered CRE-DOG to multiple GFP mouse lines, which led to effective recombination selectively in GFP-labeled cells. Furthermore, CRE-DOG enabled optogenetic control of these neurons. Beyond providing a new set of tools for manipulation of gene expression selectively in GFP(+) cells, we found that GFP can be used to reconstitute the activity of a protein not known to have a modular structure, suggesting that this strategy might be applicable to a wide range of proteins.
Project description:We have previously described a recombinase-mediated gene stacking system in which the Cre recombinase is used to remove lox-site flanked DNA no longer needed after each round of Bxb1 integrase-mediated site-specific integration. The Cre recombinase can be conveniently introduced by hybridization with a cre-expressing plant. However, maintaining an efficient cre-expressing line over many generations can be a problem, as high production of this DNA-binding protein might interfere with normal chromosome activities. To counter this selection against high Cre activity, we considered a split-cre approach, in which Cre activity is reconstituted after separate parts of Cre are brought into the same genome by hybridization. To insure that the recombinase-mediated gene stacking system retains its freedom to operate, we tested for new locations to split Cre into complementing fragments. In this study, we describe testing four new locations for splitting the Cre recombinase for protein fragment complementation and show that the two fragments of Cre split between Lys244 and Asn245 can reconstitute activity that is comparable to that of wild-type Cre.
Project description:We describe a Toxoplasma gondii strain that will permit the use of site-specific recombination to study the host-parasite interactions of this organism. This Toxoplasma strain efficiently injects a Cre fusion protein into host cells. In a Cre-reporter cell line, a single parasite invasion induced Cre-mediated recombination in 95% of infected host cells. By infecting Cre-reporter mice with these parasites, we also monitored host-cell infection in vivo.
Project description:Marker rescue is an important molecular technique that enables sequential gene deletions. The Cre-loxP recombination system has been used for marker gene rescue in various organisms, including aspergilli. However, this system requires many time-consuming steps, including construction of a Cre expression plasmid, introduction of the plasmid, and Cre expression in the transformant. To circumvent this laborious process, we investigated a method wherein Cre could be directly introduced into Aspergillus oryzae protoplasts on carrier DNA such as a fragment or plasmid. In this study, we define the carrier DNA (Cre carrier) as a carrier for the Cre enzyme. A mixture of commercial Cre and nucleic acids (e.g., pUG6 plasmid) was introduced into A. oryzae protoplasts using a modified protoplast-polyethylene glycol method, resulting in the deletion of a selectable marker gene flanked by loxP sites. By using this method, we readily constructed a marker gene-rescued strain lacking ligD to optimize homologous recombination. Furthermore, we succeeded in integrative recombination at a loxP site in A. oryzae. Thus, we developed a simple method to use the Cre-loxP recombination system in A. oryzae by direct introduction of Cre into protoplasts using DNA as a carrier for the enzyme.