Cytotoxic and Photocytotoxic Effects of Cercosporin on Human Tumor Cell Lines

Photochem Photobiol. 2019 Jan;95(1):387-396. doi: 10.1111/php.12997. Epub 2018 Sep 27.


Cercosporin is a naturally occurring perylenequinone. Although other perylenequinones have been extensively studied as photosensitizers in photodynamic therapy of cancer (PDT), cercosporin has been studied in this light only within the remits of phytopathology. Herein, we investigated the photocytotoxicity of cercosporin against two glioblastoma multiforme (T98G and U87) and one breast adenocarcinoma (MCF7) human cell lines. Cercosporin was found to be a potent singlet oxygen producer upon 532 nm excitation, while its cell loading was similar for MCF7 and U87, but approximately threefold higher for T98G cells. The subcellular localization of cercosporin was in all cases in both mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum. Light irradiation of cercosporin-incubated cells around 450 nm showed that T98G cells were more susceptible to cercosporin PDT, mainly due to their higher cercosporin uptake. Metabolic studies before and 1 h following cercosporin PDT showed that cercosporin PDT instigated a bioenergetic collapse in both the respiratory and glycolytic activities of all cell lines. In the dark, cercosporin exhibited a synergistic cytotoxicity with copper only in the most respiratory cell lines (MCF7 and T98G). Cercosporin is a potent photosensitizer, but with a short activation wavelength, mostly suitable for superficial PDT treatments, especially when it is necessary to avoid perforations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Perylene / analogs & derivatives*
  • Perylene / metabolism
  • Perylene / pharmacology
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / metabolism
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Perylene
  • cercosporin
  • Protein Kinase C