A Light-Operated Molecular Cable Car for Gated Ion Transport

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2021 Jun 25;60(27):14836-14840. doi: 10.1002/anie.202102838. Epub 2021 May 6.


Inspired by the nontrivial and controlled movements of molecular machines, we report an azobenzene-based molecular shuttle PR2, which can perform light-gated ion transport across lipid membranes. The amphiphilicity and membrane-spanning molecular length enable PR2 to insert into the bilayer membrane and efficiently transport K+ (EC50 =4.1 μm) through the thermally driven stochastic shuttle motion of the crown ether ring along the axle. The significant difference in shuttling rate between trans-PR2 and cis-PR2 induced by molecular isomerization enables a light-gated ion transport, i.e., ON/OFF in situ regulation of transport activity and single-channel current. This work represents an example of using a photoswitchable molecular machine to realize gated ion transport, which demonstrates the value of molecular machines functioning in biomembranes.

Keywords: artificial ion transport; host-guest system; light-gating; molecular machine; rotaxanes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't