Optogenetic control of the Bone Morphogenetic Protein signalling pathway through engineered blue light-sensitive receptors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) are members of the Transforming Growth Factor β (TGFβ) superfamily and have crucial roles during development; including mesodermal patterning and specification of renal, hepatic and skeletal tissues. In vitro developmental models currently rely upon costly and unreliable recombinant BMP proteins that do not enable dynamic or precise perturbation of the BMP signalling pathway. Here, we develop a novel optogenetic BMP signalling system (optoBMP) that enables rapid induction of the canonical BMP signalling pathway through illumination with blue light. We demonstrate the utility of the optoBMP system in multiple human cell lines to initiate signal transduction through phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of SMAD1/5, leading to upregulation of BMP target genes including Inhibitors of DNA binding ID2 and ID4. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the optoBMP system can be used to fine-tune activation of the BMP signalling pathway through variable light stimulation. Optogenetic control of BMP signalling will enable dynamic and high-throughput intervention across a variety of applications in cellular and developmental systems.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Early online date21 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2020