NEUROSCIENCE

A photoswitch for modulating neuronal activity

DiFrancesco, M. L. et al. Nat. Nanotechnol. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-019-0632-6 (2020).

A wide variety of azobenzene-based photoswitches have been developed for manipulating the activity of, for example, enzymes or receptors. Photoswitching involves the light-dependent transcis isomerization of the azobenzene moiety of the photoswitch molecule. The resulting conformational change modulates the activity of the target protein, molecule or structure. DiFrancesco et al. developed a photoswitch, called Ziapin2, that modulates membrane properties in response to blue light. Ziapin2, with amphiphilic properties, readily integrates into cell membranes, with a preference for lipid rafts. In the dark, Ziapin2 in the trans configuration leads to thinning of the membrane, which increases membrane capacitance. Upon illumination, membranes revert to their original state and hyperpolarize, which is followed by a rebound depolarization. When Ziapin2 is used in neurons, illumination elicits action potentials. DiFrancesco et al. demonstrate that Ziapin2 can be applied in vivo, where they elicit activity in the mouse somatosensory cortex upon loading with Ziapin2 and illumination.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nina Vogt.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vogt, N. A photoswitch for modulating neuronal activity. Nat Methods 17, 364 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41592-020-0811-2

Download citation

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing