Illuminating cell signalling with optogenetic tools

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2014 Aug;15(8):551-8. doi: 10.1038/nrm3837. Epub 2014 Jul 16.


The light-based control of ion channels has been transformative for the neurosciences, but the optogenetic toolkit does not stop there. An expanding number of proteins and cellular functions have been shown to be controlled by light, and the practical considerations in deciding between reversible optogenetic systems (such as systems that use light-oxygen-voltage domains, phytochrome proteins, cryptochrome proteins and the fluorescent protein Dronpa) are well defined. The field is moving beyond proof of concept to answering real biological questions, such as how cell signalling is regulated in space and time, that were difficult or impossible to address with previous tools.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Cryptochromes / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / chemistry
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Lighting / methods*
  • Optogenetics / methods*
  • Phytochrome B / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Signal Transduction*


  • CRY2 protein, human
  • Cryptochromes
  • Ion Channels
  • Phytochrome B