A molecular dyad delivered by biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles for combined PDT and NO-PDT in cancer cells

Bioorg Chem. 2022 Nov:128:106050. doi: 10.1016/j.bioorg.2022.106050. Epub 2022 Jul 22.


The design, synthesis, photochemical properties, and biological evaluation of a novel molecular dyad with double photodynamic action and its formulation within biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) are reported. A BODIPY-based singlet oxygen (1O2) photosensitizer (PS) and a nitric oxide (NO) photodonor (NOPD) based on an amino-nitro-benzofurazan moiety have been covalently joined in a new molecular dyad, through a flexible alkyl spacer. Excitation of the dyad with visible light in the range 400-570 nm leads to the concomitant generation of the cytotoxic 1O2 and NO with effective quantum yields, being ΦΔ = 0.49 ± 0.05 and ΦNO = 0.18 ± 0.01, respectively. Besides, the non-fluorescent NOPD unit becomes highly fluorescent after the NO release, acting as an optical reporter for the NO photogenerated. The dyad is not soluble in water medium but can be effectively entrapped in water-dispersible, biodegradable polymeric NPs made of mPEG-PCL, ca. 66 nm in diameter. The polymeric nano-environment affects in an opposite way the photochemical performances of the dyad, reducing ΦΔ to 0.16 ± 0.02 and increasing ΦNO to 0.92 ± 0.03, respectively. The NPs effectively deliver the photoactive cargo into the cytoplasm of HepG2 hepatocellular carcinoma cells. A remarkable level of cell mortality is observed for the loaded NPs at very low concentrations of the dyad (1-5 µM) and very low light doses (≤0.8 J cm-2) more likely as the result of the combined photodynamic action of 1O2 and NO.

Keywords: Light; Multimodal therapy; Nitric oxide; Photodynamic therapy; Polymer nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Nanoparticles* / chemistry
  • Neoplasms*
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / chemistry
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Water


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Polymers
  • Water
  • Nitric Oxide