A 1H NMR Assay for Measuring the Photostationary States of Photoswitchable Ligands

  • Matthew R. Banghart
  • Dirk Trauner
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 995)


Incorporation of photoisomerizable chromophores into small molecule ligands represents a general approach for reversibly controlling protein function with light. Illumination at different wavelengths produces photostationary states (PSSs) consisting of different ratios of photoisomers. Thus optimal implementation of photoswitchable ligands requires knowledge of their wavelength sensitivity. Using an azobenzene-based ion channel blocker as an example, this protocol describes a 1H NMR assay that can be used to precisely determine the isomeric content of photostationary states (PSSs) as a function of illumination wavelength. Samples of the photoswitchable ligand are dissolved in deuterated water and analyzed by UV/VIS spectroscopy to identify the range of illumination wavelengths that produce PSSs. The PSSs produced by these wavelengths are quantified using 1H NMR spectroscopy under continuous irradiation through a monochromator-coupled fiber-optic cable. Because aromatic protons of azobenzene trans and cis isomers exhibit sufficiently different chemical shifts, their relative abundances at each PSS can be readily determined by peak integration. Constant illumination during spectrum acquisition is essential to accurately determine PSSs from molecules that thermally relax on the timescale of minutes or faster. This general protocol can be readily applied to any photoswitch that exhibits distinct 1H NMR signals in each photoisomeric state.

Key words

Azobenzene Photoswitch Photoisomerization Photostationary state NMR 



The authors would like to thank Jessica Harvey for contributing to the synthesis of MAQ, Rudi Nunlist of the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry NMR facility for assisting with the NMR experiments, and Enrique Chang, formerly at Till Photonics for coordinating customization of the Polychrome V used in these experiments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew R. Banghart
    • 1
  • Dirk Trauner
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NeurobiologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryLudwig-Maximillians-Universität-University of MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Center for Integrated Protein ScienceLudwig-Maximillians-Universität-University of MunichMunichGermany

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