Science Paper for Rhodopsin Mimic

Prof Mark Lorch (Dept of Chemistry) is part of a team that has developed and characterised an artificial mimic of a natural light-sensitive molecule used in vision.  The work, published in Science, could lead to new ways of building light-sensitive artificial cells.

The work was led by Professor Jonathan Clayden in Bristol  woking along with collaborators at the Universities of Manchester and Hull.  Together they created an artificial version of rhodopsin. When light hits a rhodopsin molecule in the retina it triggers a cascade of biochemical signals that results in vision. This natural system is extremely sensitive but very delicate and complex. The aim of the team was to develop a simplified version that could be more easily made and handled.

The researchers started with antibiotic molecules that are known to interact with cell membranes. They then redesigned the molecules so that they changed shape when illuminated with specific wavelengths of light.  The team then showed that the shape change could be used to propagate a ‘signal’ through a membrane just like natural light sensitive proteins.

This new artificial mimic of rhodopsin is much smaller and simpler than natures version. Which means it could be used to build light-sensitive artificial cells without the need for the complex structures used in nature.


‘Conformational photoswitching of a synthetic peptide foldamer bound within a phospholipid bilayer’ by Matteo De Poli, Wojciech Zawodny, Ophélie Quinonero, Mark Lorch, Simon J. Webb and Jonathan Clayden in Science

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