Synthetic photochromic compounds can be designed to control a variety of proteins and their biochemical functions in living cells, but the high spatiotemporal precision and tissue penetration of two-photon stimulation have never been investigated in these molecules. Here we demonstrate two-photon excitation of azobenzene-based protein switches and versatile strategies to enhance their photochemical responses. This enables new applications to control the activation of neurons and astrocytes with cellular and subcellular resolution.
Light-regulated drugs allow remotely photoswitching biological activity and enable plausible therapies based on small molecules. However, only freely diffusible photochromic ligands have been shown to work directly in endogenous receptors and methods for covalent attachment depend on genetic manipulation. Here we introduce a chemical strategy to covalently conjugate and photoswitch the activity of endogenous proteins and demonstrate its application to the kainate receptor channel GluK1. The approach is based on photoswitchable ligands containing a short-lived, highly reactive anchoring group that is targeted at the protein of interest by ligand affinity. These targeted covalent photoswitches (TCPs) constitute a new class of light-regulated drugs and act as prosthetic molecules that photocontrol the activity of GluK1-expressing neurons, and restore photoresponses in degenerated retina. The modularity of TCPs enables the application to different ligands and opens the way to new therapeutic opportunities.
Stroke-like episodes (SLE) occur in phosphomannomutase deficiency (PMM2-CDG), and may complicate the course of channelopathies related to Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) caused by mutations in CACNA1A (encoding CaV2.1 channel). The underlying pathomechanisms are unknown. We analyze clinical variables to detect risk factors for SLE in a series of 43 PMM2-CDG patients. We explore the hypothesis of abnormal CaV2.1 function due to aberrant N-glycosylation as a potential novel pathomechanism of SLE and ataxia in PMM2-CDG by using whole-cell patch-clamp, N-glycosylation blockade and mutagenesis. Nine SLE were identified. Neuroimages showed no signs of stroke. Comparison of characteristics between SLE positive versus negative patients’ group showed no differences. Acute and chronic phenotypes of patients with PMM2-CDG or CACNA1A channelopathies show similarities. Hypoglycosylation of both CaV2.1 subunits (α1A and α2α) induced gain-of-function effects on channel gating that mirrored those reported for pathogenic CACNA1A mutations linked to FHM and ataxia. Unoccupied N-glycosylation site N283 at α1A contributes to a gain-of-function by lessening CaV2.1 inactivation. Hypoglycosylation of the α2δ subunit also participates in the gain-of-function effect by promoting voltage-dependent opening of the CaV2.1 channel. CaV2.1 hypoglycosylation may cause ataxia and SLEs in PMM2-CDG patients. Aberrant CaV2.1 N-glycosylation as a novel pathomechanism in PMM2-CDG opens new therapeutic possibilities.
A new azobenzene-based photoswitch, 2, has been designed to enable optical control of ionotropic glutamate receptors in neurons via sensitized two-photon excitation with NIR light. In order to develop an efficient and versatile synthetic route for this molecule, a modular strategy is described which relies on the use of a new linear fully protected glutamate derivative stable in basic media. The resulting compound undergoes one-photon trans-cis photoisomerization via two different mechanisms: direct excitation of its azoaromatic unit and irradiation of the pyrene sensitizer, a well-known two-photon sensitive chromophore. Moreover, 2 presents large thermal stability of its cis isomer, in contrast to other two-photon responsive switches relying on the intrinsic nonlinear optical properties of push-pull substituted azobenzenes. As a result, the molecular system developed herein is a very promising candidate for evoking large photoinduced biological responses during the multiphoton operation of neuronal glutamate receptors with NIR light, which require accumulation of the protein-bound cis state of the switch upon repeated illumination.
Cannabinoid CB1 receptors (CBR) and serotonergic 2A receptors (5HTR) form heteromers in the brain of mice where they mediate the cognitive deficits produced by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. However, it is still unknown whether the expression of this heterodimer is modulated by chronic cannabis use in humans. In this study, we investigated the expression levels and functionality of CBR-5HTR heteromers in human olfactory neuroepithelium (ON) cells of cannabis users and control subjects, and determined their molecular characteristics through adenylate cyclase and the ERK 1/2 pathway signaling studies. We also assessed whether heteromer expression levels correlated with cannabis consumption and cognitive performance in neuropsychological tests. ON cells from controls and cannabis users expressed neuronal markers such as βIII-tubulin and nestin, displayed similar expression levels of genes related to cellular self-renewal, stem cell differentiation, and generation of neural crest cells, and showed comparable Na currents in patch clamp recordings. Interestingly, CBR-5HTR heteromer expression was significantly increased in cannabis users and positively correlated with the amount of cannabis consumed, and negatively with age of onset of cannabis use. In addition, a negative correlation was found between heteromer expression levels and attention and working memory performance in cannabis users and control subjects. Our findings suggest that cannabis consumption regulates the formation of CBR-5HTR heteromers, and may have a key role in cognitive processing. These heterodimers could be potential new targets to develop treatment alternatives for cognitive impairments.
TRPV4 cation channel activation by cytochrome P450-mediated derivatives of arachidonic acid (AA), epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs), constitute a major mechanisms of endothelium-derived vasodilatation. Besides, TRPV4 mechano/osmosensitivity depends on phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activation and subsequent production of AA and EETs. However, the lack of evidence for a direct interaction of EETs with TRPV4 together with claims of EET-independent mechanical activation of TRPV4 has cast doubts on the validity of this mechanism. We now report: 1) The identification of an EET-binding pocket that specifically mediates TRPV4 activation by 5′,6′-EET, AA and hypotonic cell swelling, thereby suggesting that all these stimuli shared a common structural target within the TRPV4 channel; and 2) A structural insight into the gating of TRPV4 by a natural agonist (5′,6′-EET) in which K535 plays a crucial role, as mutant TRPV4-K535A losses binding of and gating by EET, without affecting GSK1016790A, 4α-phorbol 12,13-didecanoate and heat mediated channel activation. Together, our data demonstrates that the mechano- and osmotransducing messenger EET gates TRPV4 by a direct action on a site formed by residues from the S2-S3 linker, S4 and S4-S5 linker.
Optical activation of neurons requires genetic manipulation or the use of chemical photoactivators with undesirable side effects. As a solution to these disadvantages, here, we demonstrate optically evoked neuronal activity in mouse cortical neurons in acute slices and in vivo by nonlinear excitation of gold nanoparticles. In addition, we use this approach to stimulate individual epitheliomuscular cells and evoke body contractions in Hydra vulgaris. To achieve this, we use a low-power pulsed near-infrared excitation at the double-wavelength of the plasmon resonance of gold nanoparticles, which enables optical sectioning and allows for high spatial precision and large penetration depth. The effect is explained by second-harmonic Mie scattering, demonstrating light absorption by a second-order nonlinear process, which enables photothermal stimulation of the cells. Our approach also minimizes photodamage, demonstrating a major advancement towards precise and harmless photoactivation for neuroscience and human therapeutics.
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