Amgen Scholars Program

Links and Functions

Breadcrumb Navigation


Prof. Dr. Dirk Trauner

Head of the Trauner research group


Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, LMU Munich


Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Department Chemie und Biochemie
Butenandtstr. 5-13, Haus F
81377 München

Phone: +49 (0)89 / 2180-77800


Research Focus

(Source: The Trauner Research Group webpage)

The Trauner group is interested in chemical synthesis, natural product chemistry, neuroscience, cell biology, and photopharmacology.

Chemical Synthesis and Natural Product Chemistry

A substantial part of our research program is dedicated to chemical synthesis and natural product chemistry. We are convinced that the vast majority of natural products have not yet been found and that a wealth of interesting chemistry and biology awaits discovery. As synthetic organic chemists, we are intrigued by the structural beauty and functional sophistication of these molecules. Through total synthesis, we gain insight into their mechanism of action and biosynthetic origin. In addition, the total synthesis of complex natural products provides an ideal platform for the invention or discovery of new synthetic methodology or the validation of modern reactions in a challenging environment.

Neuroscience and Photopharmacology

Neuroscience is one of the most exciting areas of research and synthetic chemistry can contribute much to its further development. Until recently, the molecular basis of neuronal activity was relatively little understood. With the emergence of numerous X-ray crystal structures of ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), this situation has changed dramatically and systems can now be rationally designed that were out of reach a few years ago. Our current focus lies on the functional manipulation of endogenous ion channels and GPCRs with synthetic photoswitches, usually azobenzenes. The artificial photoreceptors so obtained can be inserted into neurons and other cell types and can be used to control various biological pathways with light (Photopharmacology). One of our major biological goals is the restoration of vision in the blind using synthetic photoswitches.

The reach of photopharmacology, however, will go well beyond applications in neuroscience and sensory physiology. It is already clear that this approach is particular useful to controlling the highly dynamic systems that underlie cell motility, cell division and (unwanted) proliferation. As such, photopharmacology provides powerful tools for cell biology and could open a new direction in targeted cancer chemotherapy.

Primary Technique(s):

Chemical Synthesis: multistep chemical synthesis, catalysis incl. biocatalysis, glove-box chemistry, photochemistry, microwave and high-pressure chemistry (13 kbar).

Purification and Analysis: crystallization and X-ray analysis (our speciality), preparative and analytical HPLC, LCMS, "walk-on" 400 MHz NMR with cryoprobe (Bruker).

Protein Biochemistry: protein engineering, expression, purification (Äkta), crystallization and X-ray analysis.

Electrophysiology: whole-cell voltage and current clamp recordings (HEK293, dissociated neurons), two-electrode voltage clamp recordings (Xenopus oocyte), single-channel recordings (NanIon), slice electrophysiology, field potential recordings (Multichannel Systems).

Molecular and Cellular Biology: Gibson-assembly, transient transfection (HEK293 cells, neurons), fluorescent assays using plate readers (BMG), confocal microscopy, and live cell imaging.