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Pritzl, Stefanie D.; Konrad, David B.; Ober, Martina F.; Richter, Alexander F.; Frank, James A.; Nickel, Bert; Trauner, Dirk and Lohmüller, Theobald (2021): Optical Membrane Control with Red Light Enabled by Red-Shifted Photolipids. In: Langmuir, Vol. 38, No. 1: pp. 385-393

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Photoswitchable phospholipids, or photolipids, that harbor an azobenzene group in their lipid tails are versatile tools to manipulate and control lipid bilayer properties with light. So far, the limited ultraviolet-A/blue spectral range in which the photoisomerization of regular azobenzene operates has been a major obstacle for biophysical or photopharmaceutical applications. Here, we report on the synthesis of nano- and micrometer-sized liposomes from tetra-ortho-chloro azobenzene-substituted phosphatidylcholine (termed red-azo-PC) that undergoes photoisomerization on irradiation with tissue-penetrating red light (>= 630 nm). Photo-switching strongly affects the fluidity and mechanical properties of lipid membranes, although small-angle X-ray scattering and dynamic light scattering measurements reveal only a minor influence on the overall bilayer thickness and area expansion. By controlling the photostationary state and the photoswitching efficiency of red-azo-PC for specific wavelengths, we demonstrate that shape transitions such as budding or pearling and the division of cell-sized vesicles can be achieved. These results emphasize the applicability of red-azo-PC as a nanophotonic tool in synthetic biology and for biomedical applications.

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