AzoCholine enables optical control of alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in neural networks

Arunas Damijonaitis, Johannes Broichhagen, Tatsuya Urushima, Katharina Hüll, Jatin Nagpal, Laura Laprell, Matthias Schönberger, David H. Woodmansee, Amir Rafiq, Martin P. Sumser, Wolfgang Kummer, Alexander Gottschalk, Dirk Trauner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are essential for cellular communication in higher organisms. Even though a vast pharmacological toolset to study cholinergic systems has been developed, control of endogenous neuronal nAChRs with high spatiotemporal precision has been lacking. To address this issue, we have generated photoswitchable nAChR agonists and re-evaluated the known photochromic ligand, BisQ. Using electrophysiology, we found that one of our new compounds, AzoCholine, is an excellent photoswitchable agonist for neuronal α7 nAChRs, whereas BisQ was confirmed to be an agonist for the muscle-type nAChR. AzoCholine could be used to modulate cholinergic activity in a brain slice and in dorsal root ganglion neurons. In addition, we demonstrate light-dependent perturbation of behavior in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-707
Number of pages7
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 20 2015


  • AzoCholine
  • BisQ
  • Photopharmacology
  • cholinergic system
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • photochromic ligand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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