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Bright ion channels and lipid bilayers


, : Bright ion channels and lipid bilayers. Accounts of Chemical Research 46(12): 2910-2923

If we look at a simple organism such as a zebrafish under a microscope, we would see many cells working in harmony. If we zoomed in, we would observe each unit performing its own tasks in a special aqueous environment isolated from the other units by a lipid bilayer approximately 5 nm thick. These confined units are social: they communicate with one another by sensing and responding to the chemical changes in their environment through receptors and ion channels. These channels control the highly specific and selective passage of ions from one side of the cell to the other and are embedded in lipid bilayers. The movement of ions through ion channels supports excitation and electrical signaling in the nervous system. Ion channels have fascinated scientists not only because of their specificity and selectivity, but also for their functions, the serious consequences when they malfunction, and the other potential applications of these molecules. Light is a useful trigger to control and manipulate ion channels externally. With the many state-of-the-art optical technologies available, light offers a high degree of spatial and temporal control, millisecond precision, and noninvasive intervention and does not change the chemical environment of the system of interest. In this Account, we discuss research toward the dynamic control of lipid bilayer assembly and channel function, particularly the transport across the lipid bilayer-ion channel barrier of cells using light. We first summarize the manipulation of ion channel activity with light to modulate the channel's natural activity. Based on the type of photoswitch employed, we can achieve novel functionalities with these channels, and control neural activity. Then we discuss the recent developments in light-induced transport through lipid bilayers. We focus on three different approaches: the incorporation of photoswitchable copolymers into the lipids, the doping of the lipid bilayer with photosensitive amphiphiles and the preparation of the lipid bilayers solely from photoswitchable lipids. These examples reflect the versatility of what we can achieve by manipulating biological systems with light, from triggering the permeability of a specific area of a lipid bilayer to controlling the behavior of a whole organism.

US$19.90

PMID: 23597020

DOI: 10.1021/ar4000357


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