Generation of photoswitchable peptide ligands by phage display

Photoswitchable ligands are used to control and study complex biological systems such as folding of proteins and peptides, enzymatic reactions or neuronal signaling. They are typically developed by conjugating photochromic compounds to known ligands so that exposure to light results in the change of the binding affinity of the ligand. Many light-responsive ligands are based on azobenzene, a molecule that undergoes a pronounced change in geometry upon photoisomerization from trans to cis in picoseconds. Currently, photoswitchable ligands are available only to a limited number of targets and their development by rational design is complex. Furthermore, they show low affinity and a relatively small change in binding affinity between the cis and trans conformation. In my PhD work, I aimed at overcoming these shortcomings by establishing an in vitro evolution method to generate light-controlled peptide ligands to targets of choice. Combining the expertise on phage display technology of the Heinis' lab and the knowledge about azobenzene photoswitches of the Wegner's lab, I screened large combinatorial libraries of cyclic peptides containing an azobenzene-based linker for the generation of light controlled ligands. [...]

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