University of Limerick
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Tracking the cellular uptake and phototoxicity of Ru(ii)-polypyridyl-1,8-naphthalimide Tröger's base conjugates

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posted on 2024-05-21, 11:13 authored by Sandra A. Bright, MariaLuisa Erby, Fergus E. Poynton, Daniel Monteyne, David Pérez-Morga, Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson, D. Clive Williams, Robert B. P. Elmes

Ruthenium(II) complexes are attracting significant research attention as a promising class of photo-sensitizers (PSs) in photodynamic therapy (PDT). Having previously reported the synthesis of two novel Ru(II)-polypyridyl-1,8-naphthalimide Tro¨ger’s base compounds 1 and 2 with interesting photophysical properties, where the emission from either the Ru(II) polypyridyl centres or the naphthalimide moieties could be used to monitor binding to nucleic acids, we sought to use these compounds to investigate further and in more detail their biological profiling, which included unravelling their mechanism of cellular uptake, cellular trafficking and cellular responses to photoexcitation. Here we demonstrate that these compounds undergo rapid time dependent uptake in HeLa cells that involved energy dependent, caveolae and lipid raft-dependent mediated endocytosis, as demonstrated by confocal imaging, and transmission and scanning electron microscopy. Following endocytosis, both compounds were shown to localise to mostly lysosomal and Golgi apparatus compartments with some accumulation in mitochondria but no localisation was found to the nucleus. Upon photoactivation, the compounds increased ROS production and induced ROS-dependent apoptotic cell death. The photo-activated compounds subsequently induced DNA damage and altered tubulin, but not actin structures, which was likely to be an indirect effect of ROS production and induced apoptosis. Furthermore, by changing the concentration of the compounds or the laser used to illuminate the cells, the mechanism of cell death could be changed from apoptosis to necrosis. This is the first detailed biological study of Ru(II)-polypyridyl Tro¨ger’s bases and clearly suggests caveolae-dependent endocytosis is responsible for cell uptake – this may also explain the lack of nuclear uptake for these compounds and similar results observed for other Ru(II)-polypyridyl complexes. These conjugates are potential candidates for further development as PDT agents and may also be useful in mechanistic studies on cell uptake and trafficking.


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RSC Chemcial Biology, 2024, 5, pp. 344-359


Royal Society of Chemistry

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