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Spatio-temporally tailoring cell-material interactions is essential for developing smart delivery systems and intelligent biointerfaces. Here we report new photo-activatable cell-material interfacing systems that trigger cellular uptake of various cargoes and cell adhesion towards surfaces. To achieve this, we designed a novel photo-caged peptide which undergoes a structural transition from an antifouling ligand to a cell-penetrating peptide upon photo-irradiation. When the peptide is conjugated to ligands of interest, we demonstrate the photo-activated cellular uptake of a wide range of cargoes, including small fluorophores, proteins, inorganic (e.g., quantum dots and gold nanostars) and organic nanomaterials (e.g., polymeric particles), and liposomes. Using this system, we can remotely regulate drug administration into cancer cells by functionalizing camptothecin-loaded polymeric nanoparticles with our synthetic peptide ligands. Furthermore, we show light-controlled cell adhesion on a peptide-modified surface and 3D spatiotemporal control over cellular uptake of nanoparticles using two-photon excitation. We anticipate that the innovative approach proposed in this work will help to establish new stimuli-responsive delivery systems and biomaterials.

Original publication




Journal article


Chem Sci

Publication Date





1158 - 1167