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11/20 - Seminar (chemical biology): Dirk Trauner, LMU Munich

Dirk Trauner - Trauner Group website
Department of Chemistry
LMU Munich
Host: Dorothea Fiedler

"Optochemical Genetics"

Transmembrane receptors allow a cell to communicate with its environment in response to a variety of input signals. These can be changes in the concentration of ligands (e.g. hormones or neurotransmitters), temperature, pressure (e.g. via acoustic waves or touch), transmembrane potential, or light intensity. Many important receptors have now been characterized in atomic detail and our understanding of their functional properties has markedly increased in recent years. As a consequence, these sophisticated molecular machines can be reprogrammed to respond to unnatural input signals. For instance, voltage-gated and ligand-gated ion channels, as well as GPCRs, can be endowed with synthetic photoswitches. The resulting artificial photoreceptors can be used to optically control neurons with exceptional temporal and spatial precision. They work well in animals and might find applications in the restoration of vision and the control of analgesia and anesthesia. The combination of synthetic photoswitches and receptor proteins contributes to the field of optogenetics and adds a new functional dimension to chemical genetics. As such, we propose to call it "optochemical genetics".