Optogenetic tools for cell biological applications

Abhirup Mukherjee, Nicole A. Repina, David V. Schaffer, Ravi S. Kane


In the past decade, light-responsive proteins have emerged as impactful tools for investigating a range of biological functions, from controlling neuronal functions to activating or repressing gene expression and triggering signal transduction. In contrast to traditional approaches for controlling cell signaling, such as gene overexpression or the use of soluble agonists, the field of optogenetics uses light-responsive proteins to control the activity of a desired signaling protein. The advantage of using light is that the timing, location, and intensity of the signal can be dynamically and precisely controlled using optics (1). Furthermore, unlike small molecules or purified proteins used in cell signaling studies, optogenetic techniques have reduced off-target effects and are relatively inexpensive, as light can be easily generated by a light source such as a light-emitting diode (LED) or laser.