Lysosomes are acidic organelles that are essential for the degradation of old organelles and engulfed microbes. Furthermore, lysosomes play a key role in cell death. Lipophilic or amphiphilic compounds with a basic moiety can become protonated and trapped within lysosomes, causing lysosomal dysfunction. Therefore, high-throughput screens to detect lysosomotropism, the accumulation of compounds in lysosomes, are desirable. Hence, we developed a 96-well format, high content screening assay that measures lysosomotropism and cytotoxicity by quantitative image analysis. Forty drugs, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiarrhythmics and anticancer agents, were tested for their effects on lysosomotropism and cytotoxicity in H9c2 cells. The assay correctly identified drugs known to cause lysosomotropism and revealed novel information showing that the anticancer drugs, gefitinib, lapatinib, and dasatinib, caused lysosomotropism. Although structurally and pharmacologically diverse, drugs that were lysosomotropic shared certain physicochemical properties, possessing a ClogP>2 and a basic pKa between 6.5 and 11. In contrast, drugs which did not lie in this physicochemical property space were not lysosomotropic. The assay is a robust, rapid screen that can be used to identify lysosomotropic, as well as, cytotoxic compounds, and can be positioned within a screening paradigm to understand the role of lysosomotropism as a contributor to drug-induced toxicity.
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