Staff member


Carlo Matera

Postdoctoral Researcher
Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches
cmatera@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 037 205
Staff member publications

Agnetta, L., Bermudez, M., Riefolo, F., Matera, C., Claro, E., Messerer, R., Littmann, T., Wolber, G., Holzgrabe, U., Decker, M., (2019). Fluorination of photoswitchable muscarinic agonists tunes receptor pharmacology and photochromic properties Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 62, (6), 3009-3020

Red-shifted azobenzene scaffolds have emerged as useful molecular photoswitches to expand potential applications of photopharmacological tool compounds. As one of them, tetra-ortho-fluoro azobenzene is well compatible for the design of visible-light-responsive systems, providing stable and bidirectional photoconversions and tissue-compatible characteristics. Using the unsubstituted azobenzene core and its tetra-ortho-fluorinated analogue, we have developed a set of uni- and bivalent photoswitchable toolbox derivatives of the highly potent muscarinic acetylcholine receptor agonist iperoxo. We investigated the impact of the substitution pattern on receptor activity and evaluated the different binding modes. Compounds 9b and 15b show excellent photochemical properties and biological activity as fluorination of the azobenzene core alters not only the photochromic behavior but also the pharmacological profile at the muscarinic M1 receptor. These findings demonstrate that incorporation of fluorinated azobenzenes not just may alter photophysical properties but can exhibit a considerably different biological profile that has to be carefully investigated.


Riefolo, F., Matera, C., Garrido-Charles, A., Gomila, A., Sortino, R., Agnetta, L., Claro, E., Masgrau, R., Holzgrabe, U., Batlle, M., Decker, M., Guasch, E., Gorostiza, P., (2019). Optical control of cardiac function with a photoswitchable muscarinic agonist Journal of the American Chemical Society 141, (18), 7628-7636

Light-triggered reversible modulation of physiological functions offers the promise of enabling on-demand spatiotemporally controlled therapeutic interventions. Optogenetics has been successfully implemented in the heart, but significant barriers to its use in the clinic remain, such as the need for genetic transfection. Herein, we present a method to modulate cardiac function with light through a photoswitchable compound and without genetic manipulation. The molecule, named PAI, was designed by introduction of a photoswitch into the molecular structure of an M2 mAChR agonist. In vitro assays revealed that PAI enables light-dependent activation of M2 mAChRs. To validate the method, we show that PAI photoisomers display different cardiac effects in a mammalian animal model, and demonstrate reversible, real-time photocontrol of cardiac function in translucent wildtype tadpoles. PAI can also effectively activate M2 receptors using two-photon excitation with near-infrared light, which overcomes the scattering and low penetration of short-wave-length illumination, and offers new opportunities for intravital imaging and control of cardiac function.


Matera, C., Gomila, A. M. J., Camarero, N., Libergoli, M., Soler, C., Gorostiza, P., (2019). Photochromic antifolate for light-activated chemotherapy Proceedings of SPIE 17th International Photodynamic Association World Congress , SPIE (Cambridge, USA) 11070, 110709H

Although cytotoxic chemotherapy is one of the primary pharmacological treatments for chronic hyperproliferative diseases such as cancer and psoriasis, its efficacy and tolerability are in many cases dramatically limited by off-target toxicity. A promising approach to improve these therapies is to activate the drugs exclusively at their desired place of action. In fact, in those diseases that would benefit from a highly localized treatment, a precise spatiotemporal control over the activity of a chemotherapeutic agent would allow reducing the concentration of active compound outside the targeted region, improving the tolerability of the treatment. Light is a powerful tool in this respect: it offers unparalleled opportunities as a non-invasive regulatory signal for pharmacological applications because it can be delivered with high precision regarding space, time, intensity and wavelength. Photopharmacology represents a new and emerging approach in this regard since the energy of light is used to change the structure of the drug and hence to switch its pharmacological activity on and off on demand. We describe here phototrexate, the first light-regulated inhibitor of the human DHFR. Enzyme and cell viability assays demonstrated that phototrexate behaves as a potent antifolate in its cis configuration, obtained under UVA illumination, and that it is nearly inactive in its dark-relaxed trans form. Experiments in zebrafish confirmed that phototrexate can disrupt folate metabolism in a light-dependent fashion also in vivo. Overall, phototrexate represents a potential candidate towards the development of an innovative photoactivated antifolate chemotherapy.

Keywords: Cancer, Dermatology, Methotrexate, Photoactivated chemotherapy, Photodynamic therapy, Phototherapy, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis


Matera, Carlo, Gomila-Juaneda, Alexandre, Camarero, Núria, Libergoli, Michela, Soler, Concepció, Gorostiza, Pau, (2018). A photoswitchable antimetabolite for targeted photoactivated chemotherapy Journal of the American Chemical Society 140, (46), 15764-15773

The efficacy and tolerability of systemically administered anticancer agents are limited by their off-target effects. Precise spatiotemporal control over their cytotoxic activity would allow improving chemotherapy treatments, and light-regulated drugs are well suited to this purpose. We have developed phototrexate, the first photoswitchable inhibitor of the human dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), as a photochromic analog of methotrexate, a widely prescribed chemotherapeutic drug to treat cancer and psoriasis. Quantification of the light-regulated DHFR enzymatic activity, cell proliferation, and in vivo effects in zebrafish show that phototrexate behaves as a potent antifolate in its photoactivated cis configuration, and that it is nearly inactive in its dark-relaxed trans form. Thus, phototrexate constitutes a proof-of-concept to design light-regulated cytotoxic small molecules, and a step forward to develop targeted anticancer photochemotherapies with localized efficacy and reduced adverse effects.

Keywords: Photopharmacology, Photodynamic therapy, Antiproliferative, Arthritis, Psoriasis, Nanomedicine


Quadri, M., Matera, C., Silnovi, Pismataro, M. C., Horenstein, N. A., Stokes, C., Papke, R. L., Dallanoce, C., (2017). Identification of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor silent agonists based on the spirocyclic quinuclidine-Δ2-isoxazoline scaffold: Synthesis and electrophysiological evaluation ChemMedChem XXIV National Meeting in Medicinal Chemistry (NMMC 2016) , Wiley Online Library (Perugia, Spain) 12, (16), 1335-1348

Compound 11 (3-(benzyloxy)-1′-methyl-1′-azonia-4H-1′-azaspiro[isoxazole-5,3′-bicyclo[2.2.2]octane] iodide) was selected from a previous set of nicotinic ligands as a suitable model compound for the design of new silent agonists of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Silent agonists evoke little or no channel activation but can induce the α7 desensitized Ds state, which is sensitive to a type II positive allosteric modulator, such as PNU-120596. Introduction of meta substituents into the benzyloxy moiety of 11 led to two sets of tertiary amines and quaternary ammonium salts based on the spirocyclic quinuclidinyl-Δ2-isoxazoline scaffold. Electrophysiological assays performed on Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing human α7 nAChRs highlighted four compounds that are endowed with a significant silent-agonism profile. Structure–activity relationships of this group of analogues provided evidence of the crucial role of the positive charge at the quaternary quinuclidine nitrogen atom. Moreover, the present study indicates that meta substituents, in particular halogens, on the benzyloxy substructure direct specific interactions that stabilize a desensitized conformational state of the receptor and induce silent activity

Keywords: Agonists, Cycloaddition, Nitrogen heterocycles, Receptors, Spiro compounds