Dynamics of Oxygen-Independent Photocleavage of Blebbistatin as a One-Photon Blue or Two-Photon Near-Infrared Light-Gated Hydroxyl Radical Photocage

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Nov 21;140(46):15957-15968. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b10235. Epub 2018 Nov 9.


Development of versatile, chemically tunable photocages for photoactivated chemotherapy (PACT) represents an excellent opportunity to address the technical drawbacks of conventional photodynamic therapy (PDT) whose oxygen-dependent nature renders it inadequate in certain therapy contexts such as hypoxic tumors. As an alternative to PDT, oxygen free mechanisms to generate cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) by visible light cleavable photocages are in demand. Here, we report the detailed mechanisms by which the small molecule blebbistatin acts as a one-photon blue light-gated or two-photon near-infrared light-gated photocage to directly release a hydroxyl radical (OH) in the absence of oxygen. By using femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy and chemoselective ROS fluorescent probes, we analyze the dynamics and fate of blebbistatin during photolysis under blue light. Water-dependent photochemistry reveals a critical process of water-assisted protonation and excited state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT) that drives the formation of short-lived intermediates, which surprisingly culminates in the release of OH but not superoxide or singlet oxygen from blebbistatin. CASPT2//CASSCF calculations confirm that hydrogen bonding between water and blebbistatin underpins this process. We further determine that blue light enables blebbistatin to induce mitochondria-dependent apoptosis, an attribute conducive to PACT development. Our work demonstrates blebbistatin as a controllable photocage for OH generation and provides insight into the potential development of novel PACT agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't