Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 2629–2640 | Cite as

Optogenetic switches for light-controlled gene expression in yeast

  • Francisco Salinas
  • Vicente Rojas
  • Verónica Delgado
  • Eduardo Agosin
  • Luis F. Larrondo


Light is increasingly recognized as an efficient means of controlling diverse biological processes with high spatiotemporal resolution. Optogenetic switches are molecular devices for regulating light-controlled gene expression, protein localization, signal transduction and protein-protein interactions. Such molecular components have been mainly developed through the use of photoreceptors, which upon light stimulation undergo conformational changes passing to an active state. The current repertoires of optogenetic switches include red, blue and UV-B light photoreceptors and have been implemented in a broad spectrum of biological platforms. In this review, we revisit different optogenetic switches that have been used in diverse biological platforms, with emphasis on those used for light-controlled gene expression in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The implementation of these switches overcomes the use of traditional chemical inducers, allowing precise control of gene expression at lower costs, without leaving chemical traces, and positively impacting the production of high-value metabolites and heterologous proteins. Additionally, we highlight the potential of utilizing this technology beyond laboratory strains, by optimizing it for use in yeasts tamed for industrial processes. Finally, we discuss how fungal photoreceptors could serve as a source of biological parts for the development of novel optogenetic switches with improved characteristics. Although optogenetic tools have had a strong impact on basic research, their use in applied sciences is still undervalued. Therefore, the invitation for the future is to utilize this technology in biotechnological and industrial settings.


Light Optogenetic switch Yeast Fungal photoreceptors Synthetic biology 



We are grateful to all members of Larrondo’s lab for their constructive comments on this review and Michael Handford (Universidad de Chile) for language support. No yeast cells were harmed during the writing of this article. This work was supported by Millennium Nucleus for Fungal Integrative and Synthetic Biology (MN-FISB, grant no. NC120043), CONICYT/FONDECYT to L.F.L. (grant no. 1131030) and CONICYT/FONDECYT to E.A. (grant no. 1130822). F.S. was supported by CONICYT/FONDECYT postdoctoral fellowship (grant no. 3150156) and V.D. by CONICYT/PhD Scholarship (grant no. 6313018).

Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Salinas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vicente Rojas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Verónica Delgado
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eduardo Agosin
    • 2
    • 3
  • Luis F. Larrondo
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Genética Molecular y Microbiología, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Millennium Nucleus for Fungal Integrative and Synthetic Biology (MN-FISB)SantiagoChile
  3. 3.Department of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, School of EngineeringPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile

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