Selective cell death by photochemically induced pH imbalance in cancer cells

Xiling Yue, Ciceron O. Yanez, Sheng Yao, Kevin D. Belfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Singlet oxygen sensitized photodynamic therapy (PDT) relies on the concentration of oxygen in the tissue to be treated. Most cancer lesions, however, have poor vasculature and, as a result, are hypoxic, significantly hindering PDT efficacies. An oxygen-independent PDT method may circumvent this limitation. To address this, we prepared sulfonium salts that produced a pH drop within HCT 116 cells via the generation of a photoacid within the cytosol. This process was driven by one- or two-photon absorption (1PA or 2PA) of the endocytosed photoacid generators (PAGs). One of these PAGs, which had a significantly lower dark cytotoxicity and was more efficient in generating a photoacid, effectively induced necrotic cell death in the HCT 116 cells. The data suggest that PAGs may be an attractive alternative PDT modality to selectively induce cell death in oxygen-deprived tissue such as tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2112-2115
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 13 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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