Intracellular uptake and behavior of two types zinc protoporphyrin (ZnPP) micelles, SMA-ZnPP and PEG-ZnPP as anticancer agents; unique intracellular disintegration of SMA micelles

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SMA-ZnPP and PEG-ZnPP are micellar drugs, encapsulating zinc protoporphyrin IX (ZnPP) with styrene maleic acid copolymer (SMA) and covalent conjugate of ZnPP with polyethylene glycol (PEG) respectively. Their intracellular uptake rate and subcellular localization were investigated. We found SMA-ZnPP showed higher and more efficient (about 2.5 times) intracellular uptake rate than PEG-ZnPP, although both SMA-ZnPP and PEG-ZnPP micelles were localized at endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and inhibited the target enzyme heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) similarly. Both micellar ZnPP were taken up into the tumor cells by endocytosis. Furthermore SMA-ZnPP and PEG-ZnPP were examined for their drug releasing mechanisms. Liberation of ZnPP from the SMA micelle appears to depend on cellular amphiphilic components such as lecithin, while that for PEG-ZnPP depends on hydrolytic cleavage. These results indicate that these micelle formulations make water insoluble ZnPP to water soluble practical anticancer agents.Graphical abstracts

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