A bacterial phytochrome-based optogenetic system controllable with near-infrared light

Nat Methods. 2016 Jul;13(7):591-7. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3864. Epub 2016 May 9.


Light-mediated control of protein-protein interactions to regulate cellular pathways is an important application of optogenetics. Here, we report an optogenetic system based on the reversible light-induced binding between the bacterial phytochrome BphP1 and its natural partner PpsR2 from Rhodopseudomonas palustris bacteria. We extensively characterized the BphP1-PpsR2 interaction both in vitro and in mammalian cells and then used this interaction to translocate target proteins to specific cellular compartments, such as the plasma membrane and the nucleus. We showed light-inducible control of cell morphology that resulted in a substantial increase of the cell area. We demonstrated light-dependent gene expression with 40-fold contrast in cultured cells, 32-fold in subcutaneous mouse tissue, and 5.7-fold in deep tissues in mice. Characteristics of the BphP1-PpsR2 optogenetic system include its sensitivity to 740- to 780-nm near-infrared light, its ability to utilize an endogenous biliverdin chromophore in eukaryotes (including mammals), and its spectral compatibility with blue-light-driven optogenetic systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biliverdine / chemistry
  • Female
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Light*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Optogenetics*
  • Phytochrome / chemistry*
  • Protein Engineering
  • Rhodopseudomonas / metabolism*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Phytochrome
  • Biliverdine