New optogenetics switch could increase understanding of cell signaling

An aquatic fungal protein, when exposed to light via optogenetics, produces a cellular signal involved in vision, male erection, etc.

In 2005, Frankfurt scientists working with Prof. Alexander Gottschalk succeeded in transferring the protein to the translucent nematode C. elegans in order to control its movements with light. Together with the lab of Georg Nagel at the University of Würzburg, Gottschalk has now added another tool to the optogenetics toolbox: The protein 'CyclOp' from the aquatic fungus blastocladiella emersonii.

Read full article on ScienceDaily.

BioOptics World's take:

Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany) researchers and colleagues have discovered that a protein from the aquatic fungus blastocladiella emersonii, when exposed to light via optogenetics, produces the messenger protein cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), a cellular signal involved in vision, regulating blood pressure, induced cell death, and male erection. Introducing the fungal protein (called CyclOp) to an organism allows study of cGMP-dependent signal pathways within the cell, which allows optogenetics to go further than previous research.

"The light-activated enzyme CyclOp has outstanding molecular properties, which qualify it as a valuable addition to the optogenetics toolbox for cell biologists and neurobiologists," explains Prof. Alexander Gottschalk from the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) at Goethe University.

Gottschalk and his research team introduced CyclOp into oxygen-sensing cells to determine the role that cGMP plays within them. To do so, they exposed CyclOp to light, leading to intracellular generation of cGMP. The cells responded by acting as if they had detected an increase in the oxygen level. In this way, researchers can use CyclOp to get a better understanding of how the natural signal for these cells is turned into a cellular response.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Nature Communications; for more information, please visit

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