Photosensitizer-mediated mitochondria-targeting nanosized drug carriers: Subcellular targeting, therapeutic, and imaging potentials

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Abstract

Mitochondria-targeting drug carriers have considerable potential because of the presence of many molecular drug targets in the mitochondria and their pivotal roles in cellular viability, metabolism, maintenance, and death. To compare the mitochondria-targeting abilities of triphenylphosphonium (TPP) and pheophorbide a (PhA) in nanoparticles (NPs), this study prepared mitochondria-targeting NPs using mixtures of methoxy poly(ethylene glycol)-(SS-PhA)2 [mPEG-(SS-PhA)2 or PPA] and TPP-b-poly(ε-caprolactone)-b-TPP [TPP-b-PCL-b-TPP or TPCL], which were designated PPAn-TPCL4-n (0 ≤ n ≤ 4) NPs. With increasing TPCL content, the formed PPAn-TPCL4-n NPs decreased in size from 33 nm to 18 nm and increased in terms of positive zeta-potentials from −12 mV to 33 mV. Although the increased TPCL content caused some dark toxicity of the PPAn-TPCL4-n NPs due to the intrinsic positive character of TPCL, the NPs showed strong light-induced killing effects in tumor cells. In addition, the mitochondrial distribution of the PPAn-TPCL4-n NPs was analyzed and imaged by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy, respectively. Thus, the PhA-containing NPs specifically targeted the mitochondria, and light stimulation caused PhA-mediated therapeutic effects and imaging functions. Expanding the capabilities of these nanocarriers by incorporating other drugs should enable multiple potential applications (e.g., targeting, therapy, and imaging) for combination and synergistic treatments.

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