A Generalizable Optogenetic Strategy to Regulate Receptor Tyrosine Kinases during Vertebrate Embryonic Development

Vishnu V. Krishnamurthy, Jia Fu, Teak Jung Oh, John Khamo, Jing Yang, Kai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Ligand-independent activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) allows for dissecting out the receptor-specific signaling outcomes from the pleiotropic effects of the ligands. In this regard, RTK intracellular domains (ICD) are of interest due to their ability to recapitulate signaling activity in a ligand-independent manner when fused to chemical or optical dimerizing domains. A common strategy for synthetic activation of RTKs involves membrane tethering of dimerizer–RTK ICD fusions. Depending on the intrinsic signaling capacity, however, this approach could entail undesirable baseline signaling activity in the absence of stimulus, thereby diminishing the system's sensitivity. Here, we observed toxicity in early Xenopus laevis embryos when using such a conventional optogenetic design for the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR). To surpass this challenge, we developed a cytoplasm-to-membrane translocation approach, where FGFR ICD is recruited from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane by light, followed by its subsequent activation via homo-association. This strategy results in the optical activation of FGFR with low background activity and high sensitivity, which allows for the light-mediated formation of ectopic tail-like structures in developing X. laevis embryos. We further generalized this strategy by developing optogenetic platforms to control three neurotrophic tropomyosin receptor kinases, TrkA, TrkB, and TrkC. We envision that these ligand-independent optogenetic RTKs will provide useful toolsets for the delineation of signaling sub-circuits in developing vertebrate embryos.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3149-3158
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Volume432
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Keywords

  • RTK signaling
  • Xenopus laevis
  • differentiation
  • ectopic tail
  • optogenetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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