Azobenzene is a photo-isomerizing molecule whose end-to-end distance changes upon external illumination. When combined with site-specific reactive groups, it can be used as molecular tweezers to remote-control the structure and function of protein targets. The present study gives a brief overview over the rational design strategies that use an azobenzene-based photoswitchable cross-linker to engineer ON/OFF switches into functional proteins or to reprogram proteins for novel functions. The re-engineered proteins may be used as remote controls for cellular pathways, as light-gated drug delivery platforms or as light-powered machinery of synthetic cells and micro-scaled factories.

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