Optical Control of Lipid Rafts with Photoswitchable Ceramides

James Allen Frank, Henri G. Franquelim, Petra Schwille, Dirk Trauner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Ceramide is a pro-apoptotic sphingolipid with unique physical characteristics. Often viewed as a second messenger, its generation can modulate the structure of lipid rafts. We prepared three photoswitchable ceramides, ACes, which contain an azobenzene photoswitch allowing for optical control over the N-acyl chain. Using combined atomic force and confocal fluorescence microscopy, we demonstrate that the ACes enable reversible switching of lipid domains in raft-mimicking supported lipid bilayers (SLBs). In the trans-configuration, the ACes localize into the liquid-ordered (Lo) phase. Photoisomerization to the cis-form triggers a fluidification of the Lo domains, as liquid-disordered (Ld) "lakes" are formed within the rafts. Photoisomerization back to the trans-state with blue light stimulates a rigidification inside the Ld phase, as the formation of small Lo domains. These changes can be repeated over multiple cycles, enabling a dynamic spatiotemporal control of the lipid raft structure with light.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12981-12986
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number39
StatePublished - Oct 5 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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