Optotaxis: Caged Lysophosphatidic Acid Enables Optical Control of a Chemotactic Gradient

Cell Chem Biol. 2016 May 19;23(5):629-634. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2015.11.019. Epub 2016 May 5.


Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a serum-borne lipid mediator that binds to a variety of different G protein-coupled receptors to trigger an exceptionally wide range of biological effects, including cell survival and differentiation, cancer cell migration, and embryonic development. Here we synthesized caged LPA (cgLPA), a "photolysable" coumarin-masked derivative of LPA. We demonstrate that illumination of cgLPA with 405 nm light liberates bioactive LPA on a subsecond scale to evoke Ca(2+) signaling, Rho activation, and cytoskeletal contraction. In addition, we developed an "optotaxis" assay to attract melanoma cells through a stable chemotactic gradient by repeated liberation of LPA through local photolysis of extracellular cgLPA. We expect that this method of light-controlled chemotaxis will be generally applicable to a large variety of small molecules that drive cellular migration or other responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / radiation effects
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis / radiation effects*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lasers*
  • Lysophospholipids / chemistry
  • Lysophospholipids / metabolism*
  • Lysophospholipids / radiation effects
  • Melanoma / chemistry
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Mice


  • Lysophospholipids
  • lysophosphatidic acid
  • Calcium