Lights up on organelles: Optogenetic tools to control subcellular structure and organization

Therese C. Kichuk, César Carrasco-López, José L. Avalos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Since the neurobiological inception of optogenetics, light-controlled molecular perturbations have been applied in many scientific disciplines to both manipulate and observe cellular function. Proteins exhibiting light-sensitive conformational changes provide researchers with avenues for spatiotemporal control over the cellular environment and serve as valuable alternatives to chemically inducible systems. Optogenetic approaches have been developed to target proteins to specific subcellular compartments, allowing for the manipulation of nuclear translocation and plasma membrane morphology. Additionally, these tools have been harnessed for molecular interrogation of organelle function, location, and dynamics. Optogenetic approaches offer novel ways to answer fundamental biological questions and to improve the efficiency of bioengineered cell factories by controlling the assembly of synthetic organelles. This review first provides a summary of available optogenetic systems with an emphasis on their organelle-specific utility. It then explores the strategies employed for organelle targeting and concludes by discussing our perspective on the future of optogenetics to control subcellular structure and organization. This article is categorized under: Metabolic Diseases > Molecular and Cellular Physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1500
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Systems Biology and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Cell Biology


  • bioengineering
  • control
  • optogenetics
  • organelles
  • subcellular


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