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Photoactivatable pharmacological agents have revolutionized neuroscience, but the palette of available compounds is limited. We describe a general method for caging tertiary amines by using a stable quaternary ammonium linkage that elicits a red shift in the activation wavelength. We prepared a photoactivatable nicotine (PA-Nic), uncageable via one- or two-photon excitation, that is useful to study nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in different experimental preparations and spatiotemporal scales.