Optical Control of Protein Function
Cells are constantly processing environmental cues such as growth factors to make decisions on cell fate, e.g. survival, proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. To ensure proper conversion of a specific environmental input into a distinct cellular output, the activation of intracellular signaling pathways is tightly regulated in space and time. Compared with our understanding of protein players involved in various signaling pathways, much less is understood about how these temporal and spatial aspects affect cell behavior, largely due to the lack of effective tools to precisely regulate signaling pathways in space and time. We use light-gated protein-protein interaction systems to control the activation and inactivation of intracellular signaling pathways. The ability to control signaling pathways by light offers unprecedented precision in temporal and spatial dimensions.