Conformational photoswitching of a synthetic peptide foldamer bound within a phospholipid bilayer

Science. 2016 Apr 29;352(6285):575-80. doi: 10.1126/science.aad8352. Epub 2016 Mar 31.


The dynamic properties of foldamers, synthetic molecules that mimic folded biomolecules, have mainly been explored in free solution. We report on the design, synthesis, and conformational behavior of photoresponsive foldamers bound in a phospholipid bilayer akin to a biological membrane phase. These molecules contain a chromophore, which can be switched between two configurations by different wavelengths of light, attached to a helical synthetic peptide that both promotes membrane insertion and communicates conformational change along its length. Light-induced structural changes in the chromophore are translated into global conformational changes, which are detected by monitoring the solid-state (19)F nuclear magnetic resonance signals of a remote fluorine-containing residue located 1 to 2 nanometers away. The behavior of the foldamers in the membrane phase is similar to that of analogous compounds in organic solvents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Light
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / radiation effects
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / radiation effects
  • Phospholipids / chemistry*
  • Phospholipids / radiation effects
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Peptides
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phospholipids
  • 1,2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine