Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Photoswitchable Serotonins for Optical Control of the 5-HT2A Receptor



The serotonin receptor family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and ligand-gated ion channels play central roles in neuromodulation and are critical drug targets for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Optical control of serotonin receptor subtypes has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the spatiotemporal dynamics of receptor function both at the cellular level and within neural circuits. While other neuromodulatory receptors have been successfully rendered photoswitchable, reversible photocontrol of serotonin receptors has not been achieved, representing a major gap in GPCR photopharmacology. Herein, by designing and screening a family of azobenzene-conjugated serotonin analogues, we developed the first photopharmacological tools that allow for such control. Azo5HT-2 shows light-dependent 5-HT2AR agonism, inducing receptor-mediated calcium signaling in the light-activated cis-form. Based on computational docking and test compound analysis, we also synthesize and test photoswitchable orthogonal, remotely-tethered ligands (PORTLs). BG-Azo5HTn PORTLs provide rapid, reversible and repeatable optical control following conjugation to SNAP-tagged 5-HT2AR. Overall, this study both introduces new tools for the optical control of 5-HT2ARs and provides a foundation for the broad extension of photopharmacology to the serotonin receptor family.


Thumbnail image of Morstein et al. Submitted 08-02-21.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Morstein et al. SI Submitted 08-02-20.pdf
Supporting Infomattion
Supplementary Figures and Schemes, synthetic procedures, spectra; details on cell culture, molecular cloning and gene expression, fluorescence imaging, and ligand docking.