Manipulating cellular processes using optical control of protein-protein interactions

Prog Brain Res. 2012;196:95-117. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-59426-6.00006-9.


Tools for optical control of proteins offer an unprecedented level of spatiotemporal control over biological processes, adding a new layer of experimental opportunity. While use of light-activated cation channels and anion pumps has already revolutionized neurobiology, an emerging class of more general optogenetic tools may have similar transformative effects. These tools consist of light-dependent protein interaction modules that allow control of target protein interactions and localization with light. Such tools are modular and can be applied to regulate a wide variety of biological activities. This chapter reviews the different properties of light-induced dimerization systems, based on plant phytochromes, cryptochromes, and light-oxygen-voltage domain proteins, exploring advantages and limitations of the different systems and practical considerations related to their use. Potential applications of these tools within the neurobiology field, including light control of various signaling pathways, neuronal activity, and DNA recombination and transcription, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Light Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Molecular Imaging*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Opsins / genetics
  • Photic Stimulation


  • Opsins