Photobiomodulation and photodynamic therapy-induced switching of autophagy and apoptosis in human dermal fibroblasts

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2022 Sep:234:112539. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2022.112539. Epub 2022 Aug 8.


Nowadays, photobiomodulation (PBM) in combination with chemotherapy or other therapeutic approaches is an attractive adjuvant modality for cancer treatment. Targeted destruction of cancer cells is one of the main advantages of photodynamic therapy (PDT). We have shown in previous studies that the combination of PBM at 808 nm and hypericin-mediated PDT increases PDT efficacy in human glioblastoma cells U87 MG. The study presented here shows significant differences between U87 MG and non-cancerous human dermal fibroblasts (HDF) cells treated by PBM and PDT. This study focuses on mitochondria because PBM mainly affects these organelles. We demonstrated that an interplay between mitochondrial and autophagic proteins plays a crucial role in the response of HDF cells to PBM and PDT. Fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, and Western blot analysis were used to examine the autophagic profile of HDF cells after these treatments. An increase in ubiquitin, SQSTM1, LC3BII, and cytochrome c was accompanied by a decrease in M6PR, ATG16L1, and Opa1 in HDF cells exposed to PBM and PDT. Overall, we observed that the switching of autophagy and apoptosis is dose-dependent and also occurs independently of PBM in HDF cells after hypericin-mediated PDT. However, PBM might preferentially induce autophagy in noncancer cells, which might escape apoptosis under certain conditions.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Human dermal fibroblast; Hypericin; Mitochondria; Photobiomodulation; Photodynamic therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Fibroblasts
  • Humans
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use


  • Photosensitizing Agents