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Photoactivatable ('caged') pharmacological agents have revolutionized neuroscience but the palette of available ligands is limited. We describe a general method for caging tertiary amines using an unconventional quaternary ammonium linkage that is chemically stable and elicits a desirable red-shift in activation wavelength. A photoactivatable nicotine (PA-Nic) prepared using this strategy could be uncaged via 1- or 2-photon excitation, making it useful for optopharmacology experiments to study nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in different experimental preparations and spatiotemporal scales.

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