The optical control over biological function with small photoswitchable molecules has gathered significant attention in the last decade. Herein, we describe the design and synthesis of a small library of photoswitchable peptidomimetics based upon human atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), in which the photochromic amino acid [3-(3-aminomethyl)phenylazo]phenylacetic acid (AMPP) is incorporated into the peptide backbone. The endogeneous hormone ANP signals via the natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPR-A) through raising intracellular cGMP concentrations, and is involved in blood pressure regulation and sodium homeostasis, as well as lipid metabolism and pancreatic function. The cis- and trans-isomers of one of our peptidomimetics, termed TOP271, exhibit a four-fold difference in NPR-A mediated cGMP synthesis in vitro. Despite this seemingly small difference, TOP271 enables large, optically-induced conformational changes ex vivo and transforms the NPR-A into an endogenous photoswitch. Thus, application of TOP271 allows the reversible generation of cGMP using light and remote control can be afforded over vasoactivity in explanted murine aortic rings, as well as pancreatic beta cell function in islets of Langerhans. This study demonstrates the broad applicability of TOP271 to enzyme-dependent signalling processes, extends the toolbox of photoswitchable molecules to all classes of transmembrane receptors and utilizes photopharmacology to deduce receptor activation on a molecular level.
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