Optical control of neuronal activities with photoswitchable nanovesicles

Hejian Xiong, Kevin A. Alberto, Jonghae Youn, Jaume Taura, Johannes Morstein, Xiuying Li, Yang Wang, Dirk Trauner, Paul A. Slesinger, Steven O. Nielsen, Zhenpeng Qin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Precise modulation of neuronal activity by neuroactive molecules is essential for understanding brain circuits and behavior. However, tools for highly controllable molecular release are lacking. Here, we developed a photoswitchable nanovesicle with azobenzene-containing phosphatidylcholine (azo-PC), coined ‘azosome’, for neuromodulation. Irradiation with 365 nm light triggers the trans-to-cis isomerization of azo-PC, resulting in a disordered lipid bilayer with decreased thickness and cargo release. Irradiation with 455 nm light induces reverse isomerization and switches the release off. Real-time fluorescence imaging shows controllable and repeatable cargo release within seconds (< 3 s). Importantly, we demonstrate that SKF-81297, a dopamine D1-receptor agonist, can be repeatedly released from the azosome to activate cultures of primary striatal neurons. Azosome shows promise for precise optical control over the molecular release and can be a valuable tool for molecular neuroscience studies. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1041
Number of pages9
JournalNano Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • azobenzene
  • controlled release
  • liposome
  • neuromodulation
  • photoswitch


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