Researchers develop world's first light technology to control proteins in living cells

Jun 18, 2014

Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in South Korea have succeeded in developing the world's first technology to control specific protein functions in living cells by using lights, which may be useful in future cancer cell research.

IBS has announced that the Bio-imaging Research Group, led by Won Do Heo, both a group leader from the Center for Cognition and Sociality, and a professor at the College of Life Science and Bioengineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), has developed the Light-Activated Reversible Inhibition by Assembled Trap (LARIAT).

With the LARIAT, when cells are exposed to visible blue light from LED lamps, protein clusters are formed within the . This allows the target proteins trapped inside to inactivate .

The research group has found that this technology allows scientists to inactivate critical biological phenomena, including cell migration and cell division, by using only lights, and without the assistance of chemical drug treatments or genetic modification. The whole process can be managed by simply changing the lighting that the cell is exposed to.

Researchers are hoping that this technology, which could make it possible to cease , can be applied in future cancer cell and signal transduction research.

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With the Light-Activated Reversible Inhibition by Assembled Trap (LARIAT), when cells are exposed to visible blue light from LED lamps, protein clusters are formed within the cells. This allows the target proteins trapped inside to inactivate protein functions.

"We are already conducting research on the spread of cancer, as well as brain science in animal models with the LARIAT," professor Heo says. "I believe this will be a breakthrough in investigating cancer treatments and the function of neurons in a complex neural network, which existing technologies have not been able to do."

The research results will be published in the June issue of Nature's sister journal, Nature Methods, a prestigious journal in the category of biochemical research methods.

Explore further: Video: Why cells turn cancerous

More information: Sangkyu Lee, Hyerim Park, Taeyoon Kyung, Na Yeon Kim, Sungsoo Kim, Jihoon Kim & Won Do Heo, "Reversible protein inactivation by optogenetic trapping in cells." Nature Methods 11, 04 May 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2940

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feath3r
not rated yet Jun 18, 2014
With the LARIAT, when cells are exposed to visible blue light from LED lamps, protein clusters are formed within the cells. This allows the target proteins trapped inside to inactivate protein functions.
The research group has found that this technology allows scientists to inactivate critical biological phenomena, including cell migration and cell division, by using only lights

Does it have to be exposed to just the blue light alone? Or would the blue mixed with other colors cancel out the effect? In other words, is the sunlight inactivating our skin cells?
animah
not rated yet Jun 19, 2014
@feath3r: UV mostly. DNA molecules obsorb photons between 200 and 300nm, with a peak absorption of 260nm.

That's why UV light is used as a bactericide - it forces adjacent nucleotides to form spurious links which blocks DNA replication and leads to cell death (or as the case may be, mutations e.g. skin cancer).

Even something as low as 3mj/cm2 is documented to degrade cells, so I am guessing this is a very low dosage, coarse grained approach to clump up proteins with very basic control of the effects.
feath3r
not rated yet Jun 20, 2014
animah,
I agree with you that UV is harmful to cells, however I don't think this experiment used UV.
The article says,
With the LARIAT, when cells are exposed to visible blue light from LED lamps
So, they used visible light, not UV.

I haven't read their paper, but from their sample pictures on Nature website, it looks like Figure 1 shows the inactivation wearing off after 10 mins. That could explain why sunlight may not inactivate our skin cells long enough to cause a significant damage.

Interesting stuff.
feath3r
not rated yet Jun 20, 2014
Actually I looked at Figure 1 again and I may be wrong. Figure 1(d) shows the inactivation wearing off. Unfortunately the picture does not show its description. I see the description of Figure 1(b) however and it says,
Fluorescence images of a HeLa cell coexpressing CRY2-mCherry and CIB1-mCerulean-MP illuminated with blue light twice at a 10-min interval[\q] So, I think the effect was wearing off because it was showing the clusters after the first burst of blue light instead of the continual exposure of blue light.

Obviously we can stay in sunlight for a long time without any noticeable harm. So, I am not that worried. However, I am curious to know the answer to my original questions.
feath3r
not rated yet Jun 20, 2014
Delete this comment please - this is a duplicate.