Design of a Highly Bistable Photoswitchable Tethered Ligand for Rapid and Sustained Manipulation of Neurotransmission

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Jun 20;140(24):7445-7448. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b03942. Epub 2018 Jun 6.


Photoswitchable neurotransmitter receptors are powerful tools for precise manipulation of neural signaling. However, their applications for slow or long-lasting biological events are constrained by fast thermal relaxation of cis-azobenzene. We address this issue by modifying the ortho positions of azobenzene used in the tethered ligand. In cultured cells and intact brain tissue, conjugating inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors with one of the derivatives, dMPC1, allows bidirectional receptor control with 380 and 500 nm light. Moreover, the receptors can be locked in either an active or an inactive state in darkness after a brief pulse of light. This strategy thus enables both rapid and sustained manipulation of neurotransmission, allowing optogenetic interrogation of neural functions over a broad range of time scales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azo Compounds / chemical synthesis
  • Azo Compounds / chemistry
  • Azo Compounds / metabolism*
  • Azo Compounds / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / chemical synthesis
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / chemistry
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / metabolism*
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Optogenetics / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Azo Compounds
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, GABA-A