Protein cluster formation under blue light


protein cluster formation

Researchers have developed a new tool, called CRY2clust, to trigger protein cluster formation in response to blue light. This new technique has a much faster response rate and higher sensitivity to lighter than existent methods. This new tool could advance our understanding on innumerable molecular and cellular mechanisms.

CRY2clust based on a photoreceptor protein called cryptochrome 2 (CRY2), derived from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. CRY2 mediates plant growth and development, and more specifically, known as CRY2 Photolyase Homology Region (CRY2PHR). The protein assembles in response to the blue portion of the sunlight.


CRY2PHR’s features have made it into a tool for optogenetics, an innovative technique based on biology and optics that allows the artificial control biological events with laser light.

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For example, protein of interest bound to CRY2PHR come together in the presence of blue light and disassemble when the light is turned off, resulting in different biological effects.

However, scientists have reported that the efficiency of this system varies dramatically depending on the type of target proteins bound to CRY2PHR, limiting its use.

The new optogenetic tool developed by IBS researchers, consists of CRY2PHR plus 9 amino acid residues maximize its performance.

In comparison with other CRY2-derived optogenetic systems CRY2clust triggers quicker protein association and dissociation. When light turned on and off it is functional at lower blue light intensity (90 microwatt/mm2).

The team applied CRY2clust successfully to two available optogenetic tools, OptoSTIM1 and Raf1. In 2015, IBS researchers created a light-controlled regulator of calcium channels, OptoSTIM1, and used it to improve mouse memory. In both cases, substituting CRY2PHR with CRY2clust increased the speed and performance of the systems.

“We have presented a new dynamic optogenetic tool to study protein homo-oligodimerization, that is clustering, which could be useful for the biologist’s toolkit,” said Prof. HEO Won Do, the leading author of this study.

More information: [Nature Communications]