Photoactivatable Odorants for Chemosensory Research

Sangram Gore, Kirill Ukhanov, Cyril Herbivo, Naeem Asad, Yuriy V. Bobkov, Jeffrey R. Martens, Timothy M. Dore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The chemosensory system of any animal relies on a vast array of detectors tuned to distinct chemical cues. Odorant receptors and the ion channels of the TRP family are all uniquely expressed in olfactory tissues in a species-specific manner. Great effort has been made to characterize the molecular and pharmacological properties of these proteins. Nevertheless, most of the natural ligands are highly hydrophobic molecules that are not amenable to controlled delivery. We sought to develop photoreleasable, biologically inactive odorants that could be delivered to the target receptor or ion channel and effectively activated by a short light pulse. Chemically distinct ligands eugenol, benzaldehyde, 2-phenethylamine, ethanethiol, butane-1-thiol, and 2,2-dimethylethane-1-thiol were modified by covalently attaching the photoremovable protecting group (8-cyano-7-hydroxyquinolin-2-yl)methyl (CyHQ). The CyHQ derivatives were shown to release the active odorant upon illumination with 365 and 405 nm light. We characterized their bioactivity by measuring activation of recombinant TRPV1 and TRPA1 ion channels expressed in HEK 293 cells and the electroolfactogram (EOG) response from intact mouse olfactory epithelium (OE). Illumination with 405 nm light was sufficient to robustly activate TRP channels within milliseconds of the light pulse. Photoactivation of channels was superior to activation by conventional bath application of the ligands. Photolysis of the CyHQ-protected odorants efficiently activated an EOG response in a dose-dependent manner with kinetics similar to that evoked by the vaporized odorant amyl acetate (AAc). We conclude that CyHQ-based, photoreleasable odorants can be successfully implemented in chemosensory research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2516-2528
Number of pages13
JournalACS Chemical Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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