Optical Membrane Control with Red Light Enabled by Red-Shifted Photolipids

Stefanie D. Pritzl, David B. Konrad, Martina F. Ober, Alexander F. Richter, James A. Frank, Bert Nickel, Dirk Trauner, Theobald Lohmüller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photoswitchable phospholipids, or "photolipids", that harbor an azobenzene group in their lipid tails are versatile tools to manipulate and control lipid bilayer properties with light. So far, the limited ultraviolet-A/blue spectral range in which the photoisomerization of regular azobenzene operates has been a major obstacle for biophysical or photopharmaceutical applications. Here, we report on the synthesis of nano- and micrometer-sized liposomes from tetra-ortho-chloro azobenzene-substituted phosphatidylcholine (termed red-azo-PC) that undergoes photoisomerization on irradiation with tissue-penetrating red light (≥630 nm). Photoswitching strongly affects the fluidity and mechanical properties of lipid membranes, although small-angle X-ray scattering and dynamic light scattering measurements reveal only a minor influence on the overall bilayer thickness and area expansion. By controlling the photostationary state and the photoswitching efficiency of red-azo-PC for specific wavelengths, we demonstrate that shape transitions such as budding or pearling and the division of cell-sized vesicles can be achieved. These results emphasize the applicability of red-azo-PC as a nanophotonic tool in synthetic biology and for biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-393
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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