Optogenetics: Light Switch Generates Cellular Second Messenger
News Sep 16, 2015
Optogenetics is a quickly expanding field of research which has revolutionized neurobiological and cell biological research around the world. It uses natural or tailored light-sensitive proteins in order to switch nerve cells on and off without electrodes with unprecedented accuracy in respect to time and location. The discovery of the light-gated ion channel channel rhodopsin in algae in 2002 was a key finding for this field. In 2005, Frankfurt scientists working with Prof. Alexander Gottschalk succeeded in transferring the protein to the translucent nematode C. elegans in order to control its movements with light. Together with the lab of Georg Nagel at the University of Würzburg, Gottschalk has now added another tool to the optogenetics toolbox: The protein 'CyclOp' from the aquatic fungus Blastocladiella emersonii.
As the research group under Prof. Alexander Gottschalk reports the CyclOp produces the second messenger cGMP when exposed to light. This important cellular signal is involved in vision, regulating blood pressure, induced cell death and also male erection. The compound Viagra, for example, leads to an increase in the cGMP level in the cells. If CyclOp is introduced to an organism like the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, then one can specifically study cGMP-dependent signal pathways within the cell. This allows optogenetics to go a step beyond previous research.
"The light-activated enzyme CyclOp has outstanding molecular properties which qualify it as a valuable addition to the optogenetics toolbox for cell biologists and neurobiologists", explains Prof. Gottschalk from the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at Goethe University. His research group has introduced the protein into oxygen sensing cells in order to find out what role the second messenger cGMP plays in these cells. To do so, the translucent nematode is exposed to light leading to intracellular generation of cGMP. The cells respond by acting as if they had detected an increase in the oxygen level. In this way the researchers can use CyclOp to get a better understanding of how the natural signal for these cells is turned into a cellular response.
Closer Look at Immune Proteins Provides Insight into Potential Pathogen Protection StrategiesNews
Biologists have resolved the structure of a ring of proteins used by the immune system to summon support when under attack, providing new insight into potential strategies for protection from pathogens.READ MORE
Allergy Amplifier Implicated in Asthma Also Intensifies Food AllergyNews
Scientist who previously reported that a small protein, aptly named histamine-releasing factor, played a pro-inflammatory role in asthma have now shown that it also serves as a “food allergy amplifier”. This work paves the way for blood tests to predict which patients will respond to allergy therapy, and strongly supports the idea that drugs designed to block HRF could prevent food allergy attacks.READ MORE
Electron Backscatter Diffraction Yields Microstructure InsightsNews
Researchers have created an advanced characterization method to closely examine microscale structural characteristics and changes during manufacturing processes using electron backscatter diffraction.READ MORE