Engineering Synthetic Proteins to Generate Ca2+ Signals in Mammalian Cells

Qudrat, Anam 1 ;  Truong, Kevin 1, 2

1. Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto; 2. Edward S. Rogers, Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto

The versatility of Ca2+ signals allows it to regulate diverse cellular processes such as migration, apoptosis, motility and exocytosis. In some receptors (e.g., VEGFR2), Ca2+ signals are generated upon binding their ligand(s) (e.g., VEGF-A). Here, we employed a design strategy to engineer proteins that generate a Ca2+ signal upon binding various extracellular stimuli by creating fusions of protein domains that oligomerize to the transmembrane domain and the cytoplasmic tail of the VEGFR2. To test the strategy, we created chimeric proteins that generate Ca2+ signals upon stimulation with various extracellular stimuli (e.g., rapamycin, EDTA or extracellular free Ca2+). By coupling these chimeric proteins that generate Ca2+ signals with proteins that respond to Ca2+ signals, we rewired, for example, dynamic cellular blebbing to increases in extracellular free Ca2+. Thus, using this design strategy, it is possible to engineer proteins to generate a Ca2+ signal to rewire a wide range of extracellular stimuli to a wide range of Ca2+-activated processes.