Influence of the number and distribution of NLS peptides on the photosensitizing activity of multimeric porphyrin-NLS

Authors: Sibrian-Vazquez, Martha; Jensen, Timothy J.; Vicente, M. Graca H.; Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry; (2010); 10.1039/b917280g

Porphyrin-peptide conjugates bearing multiple nuclear localization sequences (NLS) could show increased tumor cell uptake and affinity for nuclear receptors, and consequently increased photodynamic activity. Previous studies suggest that an increase number of NLS might enhance the nuclear uptake of proteins and other macromolecules. We report the syntheses and investigation of a series of multimeric porphyrin-NLS conjugates bearing two, three or four peptides with the minimum sequence PKKKRKV, linked via PEG or 5-carbon linkers, and with different distributions at the porphyrin periphery. Our results show that the tumor cell uptake and phototoxicity of these conjugates is mainly determined by their amphiphilic character, and not the number of NLS residues per molecule, contrary to previous studies. The mono- and di-substituted photosensitizers bearing one or two PEG linkers and up to three peptide sequences were found to be the most phototoxic toward human carcinoma HEp2 cells, while the tetra-NLS conjugates symmetrically substituted around the porphyrin ring accumulated the least within cells and were non-phototoxic. All conjugates localized intracellularly within endosomal vesicles and lysosomes, probably as a result of an endocytic mechanism of uptake; as a consequence no nuclear uptake was detected by fluorescence microscopy.