Green Light-Controlled Gene Switch for Mammalian and Plant Cells

The quest to engineer increasingly complex synthetic gene networks in mammalian and plant cells requires an ever-growing portfolio of orthogonal gene expression systems. To control gene expression, light is of particular interest due to high spatial and temporal resolution, ease of dosage and simplicity of administration, enabling increasingly sophisticated man–machine interfaces. However, the majority of applied optogenetic switches are crowded in the UVB, blue and red/far-red light parts of the optical spectrum, limiting the number of simultaneously applicable stimuli. This problem is even more pertinent in plant cells, in which UV-A/B, blue, and red light-responsive photoreceptors are already expressed endogenously. To alleviate these challenges, we developed a green light responsive gene switch, based on the light-sensitive bacterial transcription factor CarH from Thermus thermophilus and its cognate DNA operator sequence CarO. The switch is characterized by high reversibility, high transgene expression levels, and low leakiness, leading to up to 350-fold induction ratios in mammalian cells. In this chapter, we describe the essential steps to build functional components of the green light-regulated gene switch, followed by detailed protocols to quantify transgene expression over time in mammalian cells. In addition, we expand this protocol with a description of how the optogenetic switch can be implemented in protoplasts of A. thaliana. © 2021, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.