biological activity; cage compounds; chemical biology; light regulation; photochemistry
A light-activatable bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase (T7RNAP) has been generated through the site-specific introduction of a photocaged tyrosine residue at the crucial position Tyr639 within the active site of the enzyme. The photocaged tyrosine disrupts polymerase activity by blocking the incoming nucleotide from reaching the active site of the enzyme. However, a brief irradiation with nonphototoxic UV light of 365 nm removes the ortho-nitrobenzyl caging group from Tyr639 and restores the RNA polymerase activity of T7RNAP. The complete orthogonality of T7RNAP to all endogenous RNA polymerases in pro- and eukaryotic systems allowed for the photochemical activation of gene expression in bacterial and mammalian cells. Specifically, E. coli cells were engineered to produce photocaged T7RNAP in the presence of a GFP reporter gene under the control of a T7 promoter. UV irradiation of these cells led to the spatiotemporal activation of GFP expression. In an analogous fashion, caged T7RNAP was transfected into human embryonic kidney (HEK293T) cells. Irradiation with UV light led to the activation of T7RNAP, thereby inducing RNA polymerization and expression of a luciferase reporter gene in tissue culture. The ability to achieve spatiotemporal regulation of orthogonal RNA synthesis enables the precise dissection and manipulation of a wide range of cellular events, including gene function.
amino acids; caged proteins; light activation; polymerases; RNA
Photochemical control of the polymerase chain reaction has been achieved through the incorporation of light-triggered nucleotides into DNA.
The site-specific incorporation of bioorthogonal groups via genetic code expansion provides a powerful general strategy for site-specifically labelling proteins with any probe. However, the slow reactivity of the bioorthogonal functional groups that can be encoded genetically limits the utility of this strategy. We demonstrate the genetic encoding of a norbornene amino acid using the pyrrolysyl tRNA synthetase/tRNACUA pair in Escherichia coli and mammalian cells. We developed a series of tetrazine-based probes that exhibit `turn-on' fluorescence on their rapid reaction with norbornenes. We demonstrate that the labelling of an encoded norbornene is specific with respect to the entire soluble E. coli proteome and thousands of times faster than established encodable bioorthogonal reactions. We show explicitly the advantages of this approach over state-of-the-art bioorthogonal reactions for protein labelling in vitro and on mammalian cells, and demonstrate the rapid bioorthogonal site-specific labelling of a protein on the mammalian cell surface.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, single-stranded, noncoding RNAs of 21 to 23 nucleotides that regulate gene expression, typically by binding the 3′ untranslated regions of target messenger RNAs. It is estimated that miRNAs are involved in the regulation of 30% of all genes and almost every genetic pathway. Recently, the misregulation of miRNAs has been linked to various human diseases including cancer and viral infections, identifying miRNAs as potential targets for drug discovery. Thus, small-molecule modifiers of miRNAs could serve as lead structures for the development of new therapeutic agents and be useful tools in the elucidation of detailed mechanisms of miRNA function. As a result, we have developed a high-throughput screen for potential small-molecule regulators of the liver-specific microRNA miR-122, which is involved in hepatocellular carcinoma development and hepatitis C virus infection. Our small-molecule screen employs a Huh7 human hepatoma cell line stably transfected with a Renilla luciferase sensor for endogenous miR-122. The assay was optimized and validated using an miR-122 antisense agent and a previously identified small-molecule miR-122 inhibitor. The described reporter assay will enable the high-throughput screening of small-molecule miR-122 inhibitors and can be readily extended to other miRNAs.
high-throughput assay; cell-based assay; luciferase; microRNA; small-molecule inhibitor
Recent investigations continue to emphasize the importance of glycosylation in various diseases including cancer. In this work, we present a step by step protocol describing a method for N-linked glycan profiling of plasma glycoproteins by nano-flow liquid chromatography Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS). A large experimental space was initially explored and is described herein. Three internal standards were spiked into the sample and provided normalization of plasma glycan abundance across different experimental conditions. Incubation methods, times and the effect of NP40 detergent on glycan abundance were explored. It was found that an 18-hour incubation with no detergent lead to the greatest ion abundance; however, data could be obtained in less than one day from raw plasma samples utilizing microwave irradiation or shorter incubation periods. The inter-sample precision of three different glycans was less than 5.5% (RSD) when the internal standards were added prior to the initial processing step. The high mass measurement accuracy (<3 ppm) afforded by the FT-ICR mass spectrometer provided confident identifications of several glycan species.
Highly complex synthetic gene circuits have been engineered in living organisms to develop systems with new biological properties. A precise trigger to activate or deactivate these complex systems is desired in order to tightly control different parts of a synthetic or natural network. Light represents an excellent tool to achieve this goal as it can be regulated in timing, location, intensity, and wavelength, which allows for precise spatiotemporal control over genetic circuits. Recently, light has been used as a trigger to control the biological function of small molecules, oligonucleotides, and proteins involved as parts in gene circuits. Light activation has enabled the construction of unique systems in living organisms such as band-pass filters and edge-detectors in bacterial cells. Additionally, light also allows for the regulation of intermediate steps of complex dynamic pathways in mammalian cells such as those involved in kinase networks. Herein we describe recent advancements in the area of light-controlled synthetic networks.
Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) are efficient tools to regulate gene expression through the inhibition of transcription. Here, nucleobase-caging technology was applied to the first temporal regulation of transcription through light-activated TFOs. Through site-specific incorporation of caged thymidine nucleotides, the TFO:DNA triplex formation is blocked, rendering the TFO inactive. However, after a brief UV irradiation, the caging groups are removed, activating the TFO, and leading to the inhibition of gene transcription. Furthermore, the synthesis and site-specific incorporation of caged deoxycytidine nucleotides within TFO inhibitor sequences was developed, and allows for the light-deactivation of TFO function and thus photochemical activation of gene expression. After UV-induced removal of the caging groups, the TFO forms a DNA dumbbell structure, rendering it inactive, releasing it from the DNA, and activating transcription. These are the first examples of light-regulated TFOs and their application in the photochemical activation and deactivation of gene expression. In addition, hairpin loop structures were found to significantly increase the efficacy of phosphodiester DNA-based TFOs in tissue culture.
Photochemical activation of a deoxyribozyme with peroxidase activity was achieved by the synthesis and incorporation of a caged deoxyguanosine.
A ribozyme based gene control element enabled the spatio-temporal regulation of gene function in mammalian cell culture with light.
Human mitochondrial mRNAs utilize the universal AUG and the unconventional isoleucine AUA codons for methionine. In contrast to translation in the cytoplasm, human mitochondria use one tRNA, hmtRNAMetCAU, to read AUG and AUA codons at both the peptidyl- (P-), and aminoacyl-(A-) sites of the ribosome. The hmtRNAMetCAU has a unique post-transcriptional modification, 5-formylcytidine, at the wobble position 34 (f5C34), and a cytidine substituting for the invariant uridine at position 33 of the canonical “U-turn” in tRNAs. The structure of the tRNA's anticodon stem and loop domain (hmtASLMetCAU), determined by NMR restrained molecular modeling, revealed how the f5C34 modification facilitates the decoding of AUA at the P- and A-sites. The f5C34 defined a reduced conformational space for the nucleoside, in what appears to have restricted the conformational dynamics of the anticodon bases of the modified hmtASLMetCAU. The hmtASLMetCAU exhibited a “C-turn” conformation that has some characteristics of the U-turn motif. Codon binding studies with both E. coli and bovine mitochondrial ribosomes revealed that the f5C34 facilitates AUA binding in the A-site and suggested that the modification favorably alters the ASL's binding kinetics. Mitochondrial translation by many organisms including humans sometimes initiates with the universal isoleucine codons AUU and AUC. The f5C34 enabled P-site codon binding to these normally isoleucine codons. Thus, the physicochemical properties of this one modification, f5C34, expand codon recognition from the traditional AUG to the non-traditional, synonymous codons AUU and AUC as well as AUA, in the reassignment of universal codons in the mitochondria.
5-formylcytidine; NMR structure; mitochondrial translation; codon expansion; near cognate decoding
Oligonucleotides are effective tools for the regulation of gene expression in cell culture and model organisms, most importantly through antisense mechanisms. Due to the inherent instability of DNA antisense agents, various modifications have been introduced to increase the efficacy of oligonucleotides, including phosphorothioate DNA, locked nucleic acids, peptide nucleic acids, and others. Here, we present antisense agent stabilization through conjugation of a polyethylene glycol (PEG) group to a DNA oligonucleotide. By employing a photocleavable linker between the PEG group and the antisense agent we were able to achieve light-induced deactivation of antisense activity. The bioconjugated PEG group provides stability to the DNA antisense agent without affecting its native function of silencing gene expression via RNase H-catalyzed messenger RNA degradation. Once irradiated with UV light of 365 nm, the PEG group is cleaved from the antisense agent leaving the DNA unprotected and open for degradation by endogenous nucleases, thereby restoring gene expression. By using a photocleavable PEG group (PhotoPEG), antisense activity can be regulated with high spatial and temporal resolution, paving the way for precise regulation of gene expression in biological systems.
microRNA; inhibitors; cell based assay; medicinal chemistry; cancer
DNA decoys have been developed for the inhibition of the transcriptional regulation of gene expression. However, the present methodology lacks the spatial and temporal control of gene expression that is commonly found in nature. Here, we report the application of photo-removable protecting groups on nucleobases of NF-κB DNA decoys to regulate NF-κB driven transcription of secreted alkaline phosphatase using light as an external control element. The NF-κB family of proteins is comprised of important eukaryotic transcription factors that regulate a wide range of cellular processes and are involved in immune response, development, cellular growth, and cell death. Several diseases, including cancer, arthritis, chronic inflammation, asthma, neurodegenerative diseases, and heart disease have been linked to constitutively active NF-κB. Through the direct incorporation of caging groups into an NF-κB decoy we were able to disrupt DNA:DNA hybridization and inhibit the binding of the transcription factor to the DNA decoy until UV irradiation removes the caging groups and restores the activity of the oligonucleotide. Excellent light-switching behavior of transcriptional regulation was observed. This is the first example of a caged DNA decoy for the photochemical regulation of gene expression in mammalian cells and represents an important addition to the toolbox of light-controlled gene regulatory agents.
caged compounds; gene technology; light-activation; mutagenesis; zinc-finger nucleases
We developed a new system for light-induced protein dimerization in living cells using a novel photocaged analog of rapamycin (pRap) together with an engineered rapamycin binding domain (iFKBP). Using focal adhesion kinase as a target, we demonstrated successful light-mediated regulation of protein interaction and localization in living cells. Modification of this approach enabled light-triggered activation of a protein kinase and initiation of kinase-induced phenotypic changes in vivo.
Disruptions of anatomical left-right asymmetry result in life-threatening heterotaxic birth defects in vital organs. We performed a small molecule screen for left-right asymmetry phenotypes in Xenopus embryos and discovered a novel pyridine analog, heterotaxin, which disrupts both cardiovascular and digestive organ laterality and inhibits TGF-β-dependent left-right asymmetric gene expression. Heterotaxin analogs also perturb vascular development, melanogenesis, cell migration and adhesion, and indirectly inhibit the phosphorylation of an intracellular mediator of TGF-β signaling. This combined phenotypic profile identifies these compounds as a novel class of TGF-β signaling inhibitors. Notably, heterotaxin analogs also possess highly desirable anti-tumor properties, inhibiting epithelial-mesenchymal transition, angiogenesis and tumor cell proliferation in mammalian systems. Our results suggest that assessing multiple organ, tissue, cellular and molecular parameters in a whole organism context is a valuable strategy for identifying the mechanism of action of novel compounds.
heterotaxia; TGF-β; Smad2; left-right asymmetry; Xenopus; pyridine
Morpholino oligonucleotides, or morpholinos, have emerged as powerful antisense reagents for evaluating gene function in both in vitro and in vivo contexts. However, the constitutive activity of these reagents limits their utility for applications that require spatiotemporal control, such as tissue specific gene disruptions in embryos. In addition, current indirect methods for spatiotemporal regulation of morpholino activity in vivo may have off-target effects. Here we report a novel and efficient synthetic route for directly incorporating photocaged monomeric building blocks into morpholino oligomers, and demonstrate the utility of these caged morpholinos in the light-activated control of gene function in both cell culture and living embryos. We demonstrate that a caged morpholino targeting enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) disrupts EGFP production only after exposure to UV light in both transfected cells and living zebrafish (Danio rerio) and Xenopus frog embryos. Finally, we show that a caged morpholino targeting chordin, a zebrafish gene that yields a distinct phenotype when functionally disrupted by conventional morpholinos, elicits a chordin phenotype in a UV-dependent manner. Our results suggest that directly photocaged morpholinos are readily synthesized and highly efficacious tools for light-activated spatio-temporal control of gene expression in multiple contexts.
antisense agents; gene expression; light-activation; morpholino; photocaging
Biological processes are regulated with a high level of spatial and temporal resolution. In order to understand and manipulate these processes, scientists need to be able to regulate them with Nature’s level of precision. In this context, light is a unique regulatory element because it can be precisely controlled in location, timing and amplitude. Moreover, most biological laboratories have a wide range of light sources as standard equipment. This review article summarizes the most recent advances in light-mediated regulation of protein function and the application in a cellular context. Specifically, the photocaging of small molecule modulators of protein function and of select amino acid residues in proteins will be discussed. In addition, examples of the photochemical control of protein function through the application of natural light-receptors are presented.
The photochemical regulation of biological systems represents a very precise means of achieving high-resolution control over gene expression in both a spatial and a temporal fashion. DNAzymes are enzymatically active deoxyoligonucleotides that enable the site-specific cleavage of RNA, and have been used in a variety of in vitro applications. We have previously reported the photochemical activation of DNAzymes and antisense agents through the preparation of a caged DNA phosphoramidite and its site-specific incorporation into oligonucleotides. The presence of the caging group disrupts either DNA:RNA hybridization or catalytic activity, until removed via a brief irradiation with UV light. Here, we are expanding this concept by investigating the photochemical deactivation of DNAzymes and antisense agents. Moreover, we report the application of light-activated and light-deactivated antisense agents to the regulation of gene function in mammalian cells. This represents the first example of gene silencing antisense agents that can be turned on and turned off in mammalian tissue culture.
A new and efficient route to the recently reported 3-nitro-2-ethyldibenzofuran caging group was developed. Furthermore, its installation on a thymidine phosphoramidite is described. This caging group is efficiently removed through light-irradiation at 365 nm.
We report a general strategy for creating protein kinases in mammalian cells that are poised for very rapid activation by light. By photoactivating a caged version of MEK1, we demonstrate the specific, rapid, and receptor independent activation of an artificial subnetwork within the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway. Time-lapse microscopy allowed us to precisely characterize the kinetics of elementary steps in the signaling cascade and provided insight into adaptive feedback and rate-determining processes in the pathway.
SUMMARY OF RECENT ADVANCES
Recently, several advances have been made in the activation and deactivation of gene expression using light. These developments are based on the application of small molecule inducers of gene expression, antisense- or RNA interference-mediated gene silencing, and the photochemical control of proteins regulating gene function. The majority of the examples employ a classical “caging technology”, through the chemical installation of a light-removable protecting group on the biological molecule (small molecule, oligonucleotide, or protein) of interest and rendering it inactive. UV light irradiation then removes the caging group and activates the molecule, enabling control over gene activity with high spatial and temporal resolution.
Recently, the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway has become the target of small molecule inhibitors and activators. RNAi has been well established as a research tool in the sequence-specific silencing of genes in eukaryotic cells and organisms by using exogenous, small, double-stranded RNA molecules of approximately 20 nucleotides. Moreover, a recently discovered post-transcriptional gene regulatory mechanism employs microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of endogenously expressed small RNA molecules, which are processed via the RNAi pathway. The chemical modulation of RNAi has important therapeutic relevance, because a wide range of miRNAs has been linked to a variety of human diseases, especially cancer. Thus, the activation of tumor-suppressive miRNAs and the inhibition of oncogenic miRNAs by small molecules have the potential to provide a fundamentally new approach for the development of cancer therapeutics.
cancer; microRNA; RNA; RNA interference; small molecule
DNA cleavage; enzymes; caging; light; DNA