our pilot customers are already successfully using optogenetic flow cytometry. Our very first pilot customer just published a very exciting story using optogenetics to control T cell receptor ligand binding. 

optogenetic control shows that kinetic proofreading regulates the activity of the T cell receptor

The pivotal task of the immune system is to distinguish between self and foreign antigens. The kinetic proofreading model (KPR) proposes that T cells discriminate self from foreign ligands by the different ligand binding half-lives to the T cell receptor (TCR). It is challenging to test KPR as the available experimental systems fall short of only altering the binding half-lives and keeping other parameters of the ligand-TCR interaction unchanged. We engineered an optogenetic system using the plant photoreceptor phytochrome B to selectively control the dynamics of ligand binding to the TCR by light. Combining experiments with mathematical modeling we find that the ligand-TCR interaction half-life is the decisive factor for activating downstream TCR signaling, substantiating the KPR hypothesis.

Omid Sascha Yousefi, Matthias Guenther, Maximilian Hoerner, Julia Chalupsky, Maximilian Wess, Simon M. Brandl, Robert W. Smith, Christian Fleck, Tim Kunkel, Matias D. Zurbriggen, Thomas Hoefer, Wilfried Weber, Wolfgang W. A. Schamel



LED Thermo Flow - Combining Optogenetics with Flow Cytometry.

Optogenetic tools allow isolated, functional investigations of almost any signaling molecule within complex signaling pathways. A major obstacle is the controlled delivery of light to the cell sample and hence the most popular tools for optogenetic studies are microscopy-based cell analyses and in vitro experiments. The flow cytometer has major advantages over a microscope, including the ability to rapidly measure thousands of cells at single cell resolution. However, it is not yet widely used in optogenetics. Here, we present a device that combines the power of optogenetics and flow cytometry: the LED Thermo Flow. This device illuminates cells at specific wavelengths, light intensities and temperatures during flow cytometric measurements. It can be built at low cost and be used with most common flow cytometers. To demonstrate its utility, we characterized the photoswitching kinetics of Dronpa proteins in vivo and in real time. This protocol can be adapted to almost all optically controlled substances and substantially expands the set of possible experiments. More importantly, it will greatly simplify the discovery and development of new optogenetic tools.

Kathrin Brenker,  Kerstin Osthof, Jianying Yang, Michael Reth


more publications that we recommend

optogenetics is a fast moving research area with exciting developments on a daily basis. Here, we assemble some of our favourite papers and reviews!

Optogenetic Immunomodulation: Shedding Light on Antitumor Immunity.

Immunomodulatory therapies constitute a new pillar of anticancer therapy. Currently, cancer immunotherapy is associated with on-target, off-tumor cytotoxicity or immune-related adverse events. Thus, smarter immunotherapies with enhanced safety and precise control over the anticancer immune response are needed.

Optoimmunoengineering will confer light sensitivity to the immune signaling network to enable remote and noninvasive control of both innate and adaptive immune responses with high spatiotemporal precision.

Optogenetics can be made wireless by implanting miniature light-delivery devices into peripheral lymph nodes or by using red-shifted variants of optical actuators that are capable of penetrating deeper into biological tissues. Next-generation injectable, aqueous, soluble nano-optical systems are emerging for in vivo applications of optogenetics in the immune system.

PengTan, LianHe, GangHan, YubinZhou


Targeted calcium influx boosts cytotoxic T lymphocyte function in the tumour microenvironment.

Adoptive cell transfer utilizing tumour-targeting cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) is one of the most effective immunotherapies against haematological malignancies, but significant clinical success has not yet been achieved in solid tumours due in part to the strong immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment. Here, we show that suppression of CTL killing by CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cell (Treg) is in part mediated by TGFβ-induced inhibition of inositol trisphosphate (IP3) production, leading to a decrease in T cell receptor (TCR)-dependent intracellular Ca2+ response. Highly selective optical control of Ca2+ signalling in adoptively transferred CTLs enhances T cell activation and IFN-γ production in vitro, leading to a significant reduction in tumour growth in mice. Altogether, our findings indicate that the targeted optogenetic stimulation of intracellular Ca2+ signal allows for the remote control of cytotoxic effector functions of adoptively transferred T cells with outstanding spatial resolution by boosting T cell immune responses at the tumour sites.

Kyun-Do Kim, Seyeon Bae, Tara Capece, Hristina Nedelkovska, Rafael G. de Rubio, Alan V. Smrcka, Chang-Duk Jun, Woojin Jung, Byeonghak Park, Tae-il Kim & Minsoo Kim


doi: 10.1038/ncomms15365


Photoactivatable CRISPR-Cas9 for optogenetic genome editing.

We describe an engineered photoactivatable Cas9 (paCas9) that enables optogenetic control of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in human cells. paCas9 consists of split Cas9 fragments and photoinducible dimerization domains named Magnets. In response to blue light irradiation, paCas9 expressed in human embryonic kidney 293T cells induces targeted genome sequence modifications through both nonhomologous end joining and homology-directed repair pathways. Genome editing activity can be switched off simply by extinguishing the light. We also demonstrate activation of paCas9 in spatial patterns determined by the sites of irradiation. Optogenetic control of targeted genome editing should facilitate improved understanding of complex gene networks and could prove useful in biomedical applications.

Yuta Nihongaki, Fuun Kawano, Takahiro Nakajima & Moritoshi Sato




Near-infrared photoactivatable control of Ca2+ signaling and optogenetic immunomodulation.

The application of current channelrhodopsin-based optogenetic tools is limited by the lack of strict ion selectivity and the inability to extend the spectra sensitivity into the near-infrared (NIR) tissue transmissible range. Here we present an NIR-stimulable optogenetic platform (termed 'Opto-CRAC') that selectively and remotely controls Ca2+ oscillations and Ca2+-responsive gene expression to regulate the function of non-excitable cells, including T lymphocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. When coupled to upconversion nanoparticles, the optogenetic operation window is shifted from the visible range to NIR wavelengths to enable wireless photoactivation of Ca2+-dependent signaling and optogenetic modulation of immunoinflammatory responses. In a mouse model of melanoma by using ovalbumin as surrogate tumor antigen, Opto-CRAC has been shown to act as a genetically-encoded 'photoactivatable adjuvant' to improve antigen-specific immune responses to specifically destruct tumor cells. Our study represents a solid step forward towards the goal of achieving remote and wireless control of Ca2+-modulated activities with tailored function.

Lian He, Yuanwei Zhang, Guolin Ma, Peng Tan, Zhanjun Li, Shengbing Zang, Xiang Wu, Ji Jing, Shaohai Fang, Lijuan Zhou, Youjun Wang,Yun Huang, Patrick G Hogan, Gang Han, Yubin Zhou


Optogenetic control of intracellular signaling pathways.

Cells employ a plethora of signaling pathways to make their life-and-death decisions. Extensive genetic, biochemical, and physiological studies have led to the accumulation of knowledge about signaling components and their interactions within signaling networks. These conventional approaches, although useful, lack the ability to control the spatial and temporal aspects of signaling processes. The recently emerged optogenetic tools open exciting opportunities by enabling signaling regulation with superior temporal and spatial resolution, easy delivery, rapid reversibility, fewer off-target side effects, and the ability to dissect complex signaling networks. Here we review recent achievements in using light to control intracellular signaling pathways and discuss future prospects for the field, including integration of new genetic approaches into optogenetics.

KaiZhang, BianxiaoCu


Optogenetic control of signaling in mammalian cells.

Molecular signals are sensed by their respective receptors and information is transmitted and processed by a sophisticated intracellular network controlling various biological functions. Optogenetic tools allow the targeting of specific signaling nodes for a precise spatiotemporal control of downstream effects. These tools are based on photoreceptors such as phytochrome B (PhyB), cryptochrome 2, or light-oxygen-voltage-sensing domains that reversibly bind to specific interaction partners in a light-dependent manner. Fusions of a protein of interest to the photoreceptor or their interaction partners may enable the control of the protein function by light-mediated dimerization, a change of subcellular localization, or due to photocaging/-uncaging of effectors. In this review, we summarize the photoreceptors and the light-based mechanisms utilized for the modulation of signaling events in mammalian cells focusing on non-neuronal applications. We discuss in detail optogenetic tools and approaches applied to control signaling events mediated by second messengers, Rho GTPases and growth factor-triggered signaling cascades namely the RAS/RAF and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathways. Applying the latest generation of optogenetic tools allows to control cell fate decisions such as proliferation and differentiation or to deliver therapeutic substances in a spatiotemporally controlled manner.