Hypoxic tumours are a major problem for cancer photodynamic therapy. Here, we show that photoredox catalysis can provide an oxygen-independent mechanism of action to combat this problem. We have designed a highly oxidative Ir(iii) photocatalyst, [Ir(ttpy)(pq)Cl]PF 6 (PF 6, where ‘ttpy’ represents 4′-(p-tolyl)-2,2′:6′,2′′-terpyridine and ‘pq’ represents 3-phenylisoquinoline), which is phototoxic towards both normoxic and hypoxic cancer cells. Complex 1 photocatalytically oxidizes 1,4-dihydronicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH)—an important coenzyme in living cells—generating NAD • radicals with a high turnover frequency in biological media. Moreover, complex 1 and NADH synergistically photoreduce cytochrome c under hypoxia. Density functional theory calculations reveal π stacking in adducts of complex 1 and NADH, facilitating photoinduced single-electron transfer. In cancer cells, complex 1 localizes in mitochondria and disrupts electron transport via NADH photocatalysis. On light irradiation, complex 1 induces NADH depletion, intracellular redox imbalance and immunogenic apoptotic cancer cell death. This photocatalytic redox imbalance strategy offers a new approach for efficient cancer phototherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)