Efficient induction of apoptosis in HeLa cells by a novel cationic porphycene photosensitizer

Rubén Ruiz-González, Pilar Acedo, David Sánchez-García, Santi Nonell, Magdalena Cañete, Juan Carlos Stockert, Angeles Villanueva

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22 Cites (Scopus)


In the present study we analyze the photobiological properties of 2,7,12-tris(α-pyridinio-p-tolyl)-17-(p-(methoxymethyl)phenyl) porphycene (Py3MeO-TBPo) in Hela cells, in order to assess its potential as a new photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy of cultured tumor cells. Using 0.5 μM Py3MeO-TBPo, flow cytometry studies demonstrated an increase of intracellular drug levels related to the incubation time, reaching a maximum at 18 h. LysoTracker® Green (LTG) and MitoTracker® Green (MTG) probes were used to identify the subcellular localization. Upon exposure to ultraviolet excitation, red porphycene fluorescence was detected as red granules in the cytoplasm that colocalized with LTG. No significant toxic effects were detected for Py3MeO-TBPo in the dark at concentrations below 1 μM. In contrast, Py3MeO-TBPo combined with red-light irradiation induced concentration- and fluence-dependent HeLa cells inactivation. Besides, all photodynamic protocols assayed induced a clear effect of cell detachment inhibition after trypsin treatment. Both apoptotic and necrotic cell death mechanisms can occur in HeLa cells depending on the experimental protocol. After 18 h incubation with 0.5 μM Py 3MeO-TBPo and subsequent red light irradiation (3.6 J/cm 2), a high number of cells die by apoptosis, as evaluated by morphological alterations, immunofluorescent relocalization of Bax from cytosol to mitochondria, and TUNEL assay. Likewise, immunofluorescence techniques showed that cytochrome c is released from mitochondria into cytosol in cells undergoing apoptosis, which occurs immediately after relocation of Bax in mitochondria. The highest amount of apoptosis appeared 24 h after treatment (70%) and this cell death occurred without cell detachment to the substrate. In contrast, with 0.75 μM Py3MeO-TBPo and 3.6 J/cm2 irradiation, morphological changes showed a preferential necrotic cell death. Singlet oxygen was identified as the cytotoxic agent involved in cell photoinactivation. Moreover, cell cultures pre-exposed to the singlet oxygen scavenger sodium azide showed pronounced protection against the loss of viability induced by Py3MeO-TBPo and light. Different changes in distribution and organization of cytoskeletal elements (microtubules and actin microfilaments) as well as the protein vinculin, after apoptotic and necrotic photodynamic treatments have been analyzed. Neither of these two cell death mechanisms (apoptosis or necrosis) induced cell detachment. In summary, Py 3MeO-TBPo appears to meet the requirements for further scrutiny as a very good photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy: it is water soluble, has a high absorption in the red spectral region (where light penetration in tissue is higher), and is able to induce effective high apoptotic rate (70%) related to the more widely studied photosensitizers.

Idioma originalAnglès
Pàgines (de-a)401-414
Nombre de pàgines14
RevistaEuropean Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - 2013


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