Photoactivatable adenylyl cyclases (PACs) are proteins that combine the capacity of a photoreceptor with that of an adenylyl cyclase. When ectopically expressed under the control of specific promoters, these naturally occurring proteins become potent transgenic tools that facilitate the increase of cellular cAMP levels by the use of light. Currently, three different PAC transgenes—the euglenoideuPACα and euPACβ, as well as the beggiatoan bPac—are available. These transgenic tools provide cyclase activity capable of increasing cellular cAMP levels up to a hundredfold with either phasic- or tonic-like kinetic characteristics. Here, we consider the functional features of different cyclases and provide operating guidelines to optimize the use of PACs in vivo.
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