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Novel optogenetic tool

September 2015. Cyclic GMP (cGMP) is an important cellular messenger acting in processes such as visual perception, regulation of blood pressure, induced cell death, but also in regulation of penile erection. For example, the drug Viagra causes accumulation of cGMP in cells. Researchers at Goethe Universität Frankfurt (research group of Prof. Alexander Gottschalk) were able, together with colleagues from the University of Würzburg, to establish a novel light-sensitive protein from the aquatic fungus Blastocladiella emersonii as a so-called ‚optogenetic‘ tool, which can directly form the messenger cGMP upon illumination of cells expressing it. Using this protein, called CyclOp, mechanisms of cGMP-mediated signal transduction, but also the function of sensory neurons, e.g. for smell or for light, can be directly induced and studied in live animals. For example, oxygen-sensory neurons of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans responded to light as if they had detected a rise in ambient oxygen. Thus, CyclOp enables a better understanding of how natural signals are transduced into cellular signals within these cells. The light-activated enzyme CyclOp has unique molecular properties that qualify it as a valuable addition to the 'optogenetic toolbox‘ of cell- and neurobiologists. This work was published on 8 September 2015 in the journal Nature Communications (link).


Alexander Gottschalk
Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
Institute of Biochemistry
Goethe University Frankfurt
Max von Laue Straße 15, 60438 Frankfurt/Germany


Full reference:
S. Gao, J. Nagpal, M. Schneider, V. Kozjak-Pavlovic, G. Nagel, A. Gottschalk. (2015) Optogenetic manipulation of cGMP in cells and animals by the tightly light-regulated guanylyl-cyclase opsin CyclOp. Nature Communications 6, article 8046, DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS9046 (link)