Water-soluble Azobenzene Photoswitches for Controlling Biological Systems


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Photoswitches are small molecules that reversibly change their shape and properties upon
irradiation with light of different colors. Since these molecules can be manipulated with nonharmful
light from the outside at any given location and time, photoswitches are a powerful
tool to study different biological targets and for the development of novel light-responsive
therapeutics. The major challenges for the application of photoswitches in biological setting
are their insolubility in water as well as the fact that the aqueous environment often has a
negative impact on the properties of the photoswitch. In addition, many known photoswitches
respond to UV light which is damaging to tissue. Those challenges have inspired great efforts
to redesign the photoswitch molecules to fully respond to exclusively visible light while also
featuring water solubility. In my thesis I focused on developing water-soluble photoswitches
and applying them to manipulate biological systems. The synthesized photoswitches were
used to harness the cell-destroying activity of a biological toxin resulting, in a system which
could destroy cancer cells upon illumination with light of a specific color. Furthermore, a
photoswitch was incorporated into a peptide known to play a crucial role in
neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s disease, to shed light on the mechanism of
the disease. Furthermore, this thesis reports several photoswitches which are both watersoluble
and completely responsive to visible light thus bringing them one step closer towards
applications in living organisms.
Originele taal-2English
KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
Toekennende instantie
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Feringa, Ben L., Supervisor
  • Szymanski, Wiktor, Supervisor
Datum van toekenning19-apr-2022
Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
StatusPublished - 2022

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