Optical Control of a Biological Reaction–Diffusion System

Philipp Glock, Johannes Broichhagen, Simon Kretschmer, Philipp Blumhardt, Jonas Mücksch, Dirk Trauner, Petra Schwille

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patterns formed by reaction and diffusion are the foundation for many phenomena in biology. However, the experimental study of reaction–diffusion (R–D) systems has so far been dominated by chemical oscillators, for which many tools are available. In this work, we developed a photoswitch for the Min system of Escherichia coli, a versatile biological in vitro R–D system consisting of the antagonistic proteins MinD and MinE. A MinE-derived peptide of 19 amino acids was covalently modified with a photoisomerizable crosslinker based on azobenzene to externally control peptide-mediated depletion of MinD from the membrane. In addition to providing an on–off switch for pattern formation, we achieve frequency-locked resonance with a precise 2D spatial memory, thus allowing new insights into Min protein action on the membrane. Taken together, we provide a tool to study phenomena in pattern formation using biological agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2362-2366
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 23 2018


  • chemical oscillators
  • optical control
  • pattern formation
  • photoswitches
  • synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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