Signaling, Deconstructed: Using Optogenetics to Dissect and Direct Information Flow in Biological Systems.
Cells receive enormous amounts of information from their environment. How they act on this information-by migrating, expressing genes, or relaying signals to other cells-comprises much of the regulatory and self-organizational complexity found across biology. The "parts list" involved in cell signaling is generally well established, but how do these parts work together to decode signals and produce appropriate responses? This fundamental question is increasingly being addressed with optogenetic tools: light-sensitive proteins that enable biologists to manipulate the interaction, localization, and activity state of proteins with high spatial and temporal precision. In this review, we summarize how optogenetics is being used in the pursuit of an answer to this question, outlining the current suite of optogenetic tools available to the researcher and calling attention to studies that increase our understanding of and improve our ability to engineer biology.