Optogenetics and Light-Induced Processes in Synthetic Biology

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 26 February 2025 | Viewed by 268

Special Issue Editor

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Guest Editor
Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali (DiSTeBA), Università del Salento Campus Ecotekne, S.P. 6 Lecce-Monteroni, 73100 Lecce, Italy
Interests: origins of life; synthetic biology; artificial life; synthetic cells; drug delivery; bio-chem-ICTs; autopoiesis and cognition
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The physiology and behavior of light-dependent mechanisms are well known in nature. They include, for instance, vision, photomorphogenesis, phototropism, and phototaxis across diverse organisms. Light is perceived by sensory photoreceptor proteins (sensitive to different wavelength ranges, such as the near-ultraviolet, visible, or near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum). In turn, these molecular photoreceptors translate photon absorption  into changes in biological activity for the cell and for the whole organism.

Such very relevant phenomenology can be exploited to engineer biological systems, in top-down or bottom-up fashion, to exploit the grand capacity of light to control biological behavior. Indeed, these approaches are fast growing in bioengineering and synthetic biology and have become enabling methodologies for basic research and biotechnological approaches alike. In particular, we can here recall so-called “optogenetics”, which can be tentatively defined as the use of light-sensitive genetically encoded elements, which fulfill diverse functions.

Light (and more generally, any electromagnetic radiation) is an attractive factor for biological research and bioproduction because of the (i) ability for spatio-temporal application; (ii) easily tuned power; (iii) low invasivity of light inputs; (iv) orthogonality with respect to non-photosensitive cells compared to the addition of chemical inducers (and wavelength specificity as well); and (v) comparative low cost in large-scale bioprocesses.

In recent years, a large number of studies have been devoted to the design and construction of light-controlled systems, convincingly showing the versatility and the power of such approaches. The light control of gene expression has been used for triggering processes like signalling, recombination, initiation of translation, production of chemicals and peptides, apoptosis, intracellular transport, and cell differentiations. Additional cases refer to the protein localization distribution, protein degradation, protein homo- and hetero-dimerization, alteration of metal-binding protein, and also protein coacervation. Complex processes including biofilm formation, cell differentiation and morphogenesis have been considered.

For this Special Issue, we welcome contributions of any type (original articles, reviews, methods/protocols, perspectives, etc.) primarily focused on the use of light for driving and/or controlling synthetic biological parts, devices, systems and processes, highlighting such a strategy in synthetic biology.

Dr. Pasquale Stano
Guest Editor

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