Fluorinated triphenylphosphonium analogs improve cell selectivity and in vivo detection of mito-metformin

iScience. 2022 Nov 26;25(12):105670. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105670. eCollection 2022 Dec 22.


Triphenylphosphonium (TPP+) conjugated compounds selectively target cancer cells by exploiting their hyperpolarized mitochondrial membrane potential. To date, studies have focused on modifying either the linker or the cargo of TPP+-conjugated compounds. Here, we investigated the biological effects of direct modification to TPP+ to improve the efficacy and detection of mito-metformin (MMe), a TPP+-conjugated probe we have shown to have promising preclinical efficacy against solid cancer cells. We designed, synthesized, and tested trifluoromethyl and methoxy MMe analogs (pCF3-MMe, mCF3-MMe, and pMeO-MMe) against multiple distinct human cancer cells. pCF3-MMe showed enhanced selectivity toward cancer cells compared to MMe, while retaining the same signaling mechanism. Importantly, pCF3-MMe allowed quantitative monitoring of cellular accumulation via 19F-NMR in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, adding trifluoromethyl groups to TPP+ reduced toxicity in vivo while retaining anti-tumor efficacy, opening an avenue to de-risk these next-generation TPP+-conjugated compounds.

Keywords: Pharmaceutical science; biochemistry; biological sciences; chemistry.