Phosphatidic acid (PA) is both a central phospholipid biosynthetic intermediate and a multifunctional lipid second messenger produced at several discrete subcellular locations. Organelle-specific PA pools are believed to play distinct physiological roles, but tools with high spatiotemporal control are lacking for unraveling these pleiotropic functions. Here, we present an approach to precisely generate PA on demand on specific organelle membranes. We exploited a microbial phospholipase D (PLD), which produces PA by phosphatidylcholine hydrolysis, and the CRY2–CIBN light-mediated heterodimerization system to create an optogenetic PLD (optoPLD). Directed evolution of PLD using yeast membrane display and IMPACT, a chemoenzymatic method for visualizing cellular PLD activity, yielded a panel of optoPLDs whose range of catalytic activities enables mimicry of endogenous, physiological PLD signaling. Finally, we applied optoPLD to elucidate that plasma membrane, but not intracellular, pools of PA can attenuate the oncogenic Hippo signaling pathway. OptoPLD represents a powerful and precise approach for revealing spatiotemporally defined physiological functions of PA.

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