Photoswitchable paclitaxel-based microtubule stabilisers allow optical control over the microtubule cytoskeleton

Adrian Müller-Deku, Joyce C.M. Meiring, Kristina Loy, Yvonne Kraus, Constanze Heise, Rebekkah Bingham, Klara I. Jansen, Xiaoyi Qu, Francesca Bartolini, Lukas C. Kapitein, Anna Akhmanova, Julia Ahlfeld, Dirk Trauner, Oliver Thorn-Seshold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small molecule inhibitors are prime reagents for studies in microtubule cytoskeleton research, being applicable across a range of biological models and not requiring genetic engineering. However, traditional chemical inhibitors cannot be experimentally applied with spatiotemporal precision suiting the length and time scales inherent to microtubule-dependent cellular processes. We have synthesised photoswitchable paclitaxel-based microtubule stabilisers, whose binding is induced by photoisomerisation to their metastable state. Photoisomerising these reagents in living cells allows optical control over microtubule network integrity and dynamics, cell division and survival, with biological response on the timescale of seconds and spatial precision to the level of individual cells within a population. In primary neurons, they enable regulation of microtubule dynamics resolved to subcellular regions within individual neurites. These azobenzene-based microtubule stabilisers thus enable non-invasive, spatiotemporally precise modulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton in living cells, and promise new possibilities for studying intracellular transport, cell motility, and neuronal physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4640
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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