Spectroscopy, binding to liposomes and production of singlet oxygen by porphyrazines with modularly variable water solubility

Alan Sholto, Sangwan Lee, Brian M. Hoffman, Anthony G.M. Barrett, Benjamin Ehrenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Three novel classes of porphyrazine-like structures were synthesized to form modular structures in which lipophilicity and water solubility can be tuned. Subtle modification of solubility is an important criterion in selecting a compound for biological photosensitization. The general structure takes the form H2[pz(AnB4-n)], where the core is a porphyrazine (pz) group, A is a pyrrole ring with two sulfide linkages (SR moieties) and B is a pyrrole fused with a 4,7-bis(isopropyloxy)benzo group, with n = 4, 3 and 2. These molecules possess their longest wavelength absorption band between 700 and 810 nm, hence laser beams of higher tissue penetration depth could be used to illuminate them in photodynamic therapy (PDT). Armed with absorption bands in the far-red and near-infrared (near-IR), and a capability to tune the solubility, these molecules could make for better sensitizers because of optimized uptake by lipidic membranes and better optical properties. We tested several derivatives of the A4, A3B and A 2B2 structures for their singlet oxygen quantum yields in methanol and in liposomes, using 9,10-dimethyl anthracene (DMA) as a singlet oxygen target. Singlet oxygen quantum yields in liposomes ranged from 0.01 to 0.44, with the A2B2 group showing the most promise. In the binding assay to find the equilibrium binding constant, Kb, we detected fluorescence changes due to a change in environment. Peripheral long-chain moieties (the R group in the SR moieties) dominate lipid binding. These moieties range in the hydrophobicity that they induce from C 8H17 and benzene, which rendered the molecule totally insoluble in water, to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and carboxylate groups, which imparted water solubility. Each molecule had between 4 and 8 such identical chains. Chains bearing an ether or ester link resulted in measurable equilibrium constants, with a higher Kb for ether substituents. Results for Kb ranged from 0.23 to 26.52 (mg mL-1)-1. A delicate balance exists between water solubility and good partitioning to membranes. In general, a higher oxygen-to-carbon ratio in the chains improves binding. Fewer chains and a centrally coordinated zinc ion further improve binding and singlet oxygen production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-773
Number of pages10
JournalPhotochemistry and Photobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Biochemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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