Researchers from the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London, in collaboration with scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, have developed an optogenetic method that, for the first time, can rapidly and reversibly manipulate protein localisation in individually targeted cells in living vertebrate embryos. The results have recently been published in the journal ‘Developmental Cell’.
Proteins are involved in virtually all cell functions, and many proteins occupy distinct locations within cells to execute their function. While the inactivation of specific genes or the expression of a specific protein in a tissue in which it is normally not expressed can reveal the involvement of proteins in biological processes, more subtle manipulation of proteins is needed to interrogate their precise roles. For example, to understand how the asymmetric organization of the cell membrane, cytoskeleton and intracellular organelles are established and why the asymmetries are important, it would be helpful to manipulate protein localization within cells.
Over the last decade, optogenetic experimental approaches, i.e. the use of light to control the activity of cellular proteins, have had widespread success in cell culture and in single-celled organisms. However, there is a need to adapt current technologies to multicellular organisms such as vertebrate embryos.
In this new study, the researchers succeeded in adapting a specific light-controlled protein system so that it would be expressed in living zebrafish embryos. Moreover, the team showed that this system is an efficient method to accurately, rapidly, and reversibly recruit proteins to specific subcellular regions within a vertebrate embryo.
Clare Buckley, lead author
Jon Clarke, senior co-author of the study