Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Nanoactuator for Neuronal Optoporation. ACS nano Pfeffer, M. E., DiFrancesco, M. L., Marchesi, A., Galluzzi, F., Moschetta, M., Rossini, A., Francia, S., Franz, C. M., Fok, Y., Valotteau, C., Paternò, G. M., Redondo Morata, L., Vacca, F., Mattiello, S., Magni, A., Maragliano, L., Beverina, L., Mattioli, G., Lanzani, G., Baldelli, P., Colombo, E., Benfenati, F. 2024


    Light-driven modulation of neuronal activity at high spatial-temporal resolution is becoming of high interest in neuroscience. In addition to optogenetics, nongenetic membrane-targeted nanomachines that alter the electrical state of the neuronal membranes are in demand. Here, we engineered and characterized a photoswitchable conjugated compound (BV-1) that spontaneously partitions into the neuronal membrane and undergoes a charge transfer upon light stimulation. The activity of primary neurons is not affected in the dark, whereas millisecond light pulses of cyan light induce a progressive decrease in membrane resistance and an increase in inward current matched to a progressive depolarization and action potential firing. We found that illumination of BV-1 induces oxidation of membrane phospholipids, which is necessary for the electrophysiological effects and is associated with decreased membrane tension and increased membrane fluidity. Time-resolved atomic force microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations performed on planar lipid bilayers revealed that the underlying mechanism is a light-driven formation of pore-like structures across the plasma membrane. Such a phenomenon decreases membrane resistance and increases permeability to monovalent cations, namely, Na+, mimicking the effects of antifungal polyenes. The same effect on membrane resistance was also observed in nonexcitable cells. When sustained light stimulations are applied, neuronal swelling and death occur. The light-controlled pore-forming properties of BV-1 allow performing "on-demand" light-induced membrane poration to rapidly shift from cell-attached to perforated whole-cell patch-clamp configuration. Administration of BV-1 to ex vivo retinal explants or in vivo primary visual cortex elicited neuronal firing in response to short trains of light stimuli, followed by activity silencing upon prolonged light stimulations. BV-1 represents a versatile molecular nanomachine whose properties can be exploited to induce either photostimulation or space-specific cell death, depending on the pattern and duration of light stimulation.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acsnano.4c01672

    View details for PubMedID 38687909

  • Insight on the Intracellular Supramolecular Assembly of DTTO: A Peculiar Example of Cell-Driven Polymorphism ADVANCED MATERIALS Aloisio, L., Moschetta, M., Boschi, A., Fleitas, A., Zangoli, M., Venturino, I., Vurro, V., Magni, A., Mazzaro, R., Morandi, V., Candini, A., D'Andrea, C., Paterno, G., Gazzano, M., Lanzani, G., Di Maria, F. 2023: e2302756


    The assembly of supramolecular structures within living systems is an innovative approach for introducing artificial constructs and developing biomaterials capable of influencing and/or regulating the biological responses of living organisms. By integrating chemical, photophysical, morphological, and structural characterizations, it is shown that the cell-driven assembly of 2,6-diphenyl-3,5-dimethyl-dithieno[3,2-b:2',3'-d]thiophene-4,4-dioxide (DTTO) molecules into fibers results in the formation of a "biologically assisted" polymorphic form, hence the term bio-polymorph. Indeed, X-ray diffraction reveals that cell-grown DTTO fibers present a unique molecular packing leading to specific morphological, optical, and electrical properties. Monitoring the process of fiber formation in cells with time-resolved photoluminescence, it is established that cellular machinery is necessary for fiber production and a non-classical nucleation mechanism for their growth is postulated. These biomaterials may have disruptive applications in the stimulation and sense of living cells, but more crucially, the study of their genesis and properties broadens the understanding of life beyond the native components of cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/adma.202302756

    View details for Web of Science ID 001049844100001

    View details for PubMedID 37364565

  • A membrane intercalating metal-free conjugated organic photosensitizer for bacterial photodynamic inactivation CHEMICAL SCIENCE Magni, A., Mattiello, S., Beverina, L., Mattioli, G., Moschetta, M., Zucchi, A., Paterno, G., Lanzani, G. 2023; 14 (30): 8196-8205


    Photodynamic inhibition (PDI) of bacteria represents a powerful strategy for dealing with multidrug-resistant pathogens and infections, as it exhibits minimal development of antibiotic resistance. The PDI action stems from the generation of a triplet state in the photosensitizer (PS), which subsequently transfers energy or electrons to molecular oxygen, resulting in the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS are then able to damage cells, eventually causing bacterial eradication. Enhancing the efficacy of PDI includes the introduction of heavy atoms to augment triplet generation in the PS, as well as membrane intercalation to circumvent the problem of the short lifetime of ROS. However, the former approach can pose safety and environmental concerns, while achieving stable membrane partitioning remains challenging due to the complex outer envelope of bacteria. Here, we introduce a novel PS, consisting of a metal-free donor-acceptor thiophene-based conjugate molecule (BV-1). It presents several advantageous features for achieving effective PDI, namely: (i) it exhibits strong light absorption due to the conjugated donor-acceptor moieties; (ii) it exhibits spontaneous and stable membrane partitioning thanks to its amphiphilicity, accompanied by a strong fluorescence turn-on; (iii) it undergoes metal-free intersystem crossing, which occurs preferentially when the molecule resides in the membrane. All these properties, which we rationalized via optical spectroscopies and calculations, enable the effective eradication of Escherichia coli, with an inhibition concentration that is below that of current state-of-the-art treatments. Our approach holds significant potential for the development of new PS for controlling bacterial infections, particularly those caused by Gram-negative bacteria.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/d3sc01168b

    View details for Web of Science ID 001025517900001

    View details for PubMedID 37538813

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10395270

  • Photostimulation mechanism of an amphiphilic azobenzene Vurro, V., Magni, A., Aloisio, L., Lanzani, G. SOC ITALIANA FISICA. 2023
  • Membrane Order Effect on the Photoresponse of an Organic Transducer MEMBRANES Vurro, V., Moschetta, M., Bondelli, G., Sardar, S., Magni, A., Sesti, V., Paterno, G., Bertarelli, C., D'Andrea, C., Lanzani, G. 2023; 13 (5)


    Non-genetic photostimulation, which allows for control over cellular activity via the use of cell-targeting phototransducers, is widely used nowadays to study and modulate/restore biological functions. This approach relies on non-covalent interactions between the phototransducer and the cell membrane, thus implying that cell conditions and membrane status can dictate the effectiveness of the method. For instance, although immortalized cell lines are traditionally used in photostimulation experiments, it has been demonstrated that the number of passages they undergo is correlated to the worsening of cell conditions. In principle, this could impact cell responsivity against exogenous stressors, including photostimulation. However, these aspects have usually been neglected in previous experiments. In this work, we investigated whether cell passages could affect membrane properties (such as polarity and fluidity). We applied optical spectroscopy and electrophysiological measurements in two different biological models: (i) an epithelial immortalized cell line (HEK-293T cells) and (ii) liposomes. Different numbers of cell passages were compared to a different morphology in the liposome membrane. We demonstrated that cell membranes show a significant decrease in ordered domains upon increasing the passage number. Furthermore, we observed that cell responsivity against external stressors is markedly different between aged and non-aged cells. Firstly, we noted that the thermal-disordering effect that is usually observed in membranes is more evident in aged cells than in non-aged ones. We then set up a photostimulation experiment by using a membrane-targeted azobenzene as a phototransducer (Ziapin2). As an example of a functional consequence of such a condition, we showed that the rate of isomerization of an intramembrane molecular transducer is significantly impaired in aged cells. The reduction in the photoisomerization rate translates in cells with a sustained reduction of the Ziapin2-related hyperpolarization of the membrane potential and an overall increase in the molecule fluorescence. Overall, our results suggest that membrane stimulation strongly depends on membrane order, highlighting the importance of cell passage during the characterization of the stimulation tools. This study can shine light on the correlation between aging and the development of diseases driven by membrane degradation as well as on the different cell responsivities against external stressors, such as temperature and photostimulation.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/membranes13050538

    View details for Web of Science ID 000997663900001

    View details for PubMedID 37233599

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10220526

  • Azobenzene photoisomerization probes cell membrane viscosity PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS Magni, A., Bondelli, G., Paterno, G. M., Sardar, S., Sesti, V., D'Andrea, C., Bertarelli, C., Lanzani, G. 2022; 24 (15): 8716-8723


    The viscosity of cell membranes is a crucial parameter that affects the diffusion of small molecules both across and within the lipid membrane and that is related to several diseases. Therefore, the possibility to measure quantitatively membrane viscosity on the nanoscale is of great interest. Here, we report a complete investigation of the photophysics of an amphiphilic membrane-targeted azobenzene (ZIAPIN2) and we propose its use as a viscosity probe for cell membranes. We exploit ZIAPIN2 trans-cis photoisomerization to develop a molecular viscometer and to assess the viscosity of Escherichia coli bacteria membranes employing time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. Fluorescence lifetime measurements of ZIAPIN2 in E. coli bacteria suspensions correctly indicate that the membrane viscosity decreases as the temperature of the sample increases. Given the non-homogeneity and the anisotropy of cell membranes, as supported by the photophysical characterization of the probe within the lipid bilayer, we shed new light on the intricate membrane rheology.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/d1cp05881a

    View details for Web of Science ID 000777591200001

    View details for PubMedID 35373231