Design of a graphene oxide-BODIPY conjugate for glutathione depletion and photodynamic therapy

Giacomo Reina, Amalia Ruiz, Barbara Richichi, Giacomo Biagiotti, Gina E. Giacomazzo, Lucas Jacquemin, Yuta Nishina, Cécilia Ménard-Moyon, Wafa T. Al-Jamal, Alberto Bianco

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Boron dipyrromethene derivates (BODIPYs) are promising photosensitisers (PSs) for cancer treatment using photodynamic therapy (PDT). This study investigates the functionalisation of graphene oxide (GO) with a BODIPY derivate for glutathione (GSH) depletion and PDT. The functionalisation of GO with a 3,5-dichloro-8-(4-boronophenyl) BODIPY via a diol derivatisation with the phenyl boronic acid moiety at the meso position of the BODIPY core, allowed to preserve the intrinsic properties of GO. We demonstrated that both chlorine atoms were substituted by GSH in the presence of glutathione transferase (GST), inducing a relevant bathochromic shift in the absorption/emission features and thus generating the active PS. Ex vitro assessment using cell lysates containing cytoplasmatic GST revealed the intracellular catalytic mechanism for the nucleophilic substitution of the GO-BODIPY adduct with GSH. Confocal microscopy studies showed important differences in the cellular uptake of free BODIPY and GO-BODIPY and revealed the coexistence of GO-BODIPY, GO-BODIPY-GS, and GO-BODIPY-GS2 species inside vesicles and in the cytoplasm of the cells after 24 h of incubation. In vitro biocompatibility and safety of GO and GO-BODIPY were evaluated in 2D and 3D models of prostate adenocarcinoma cells (PC-3), where no toxicity was observed up to 100 µg ml-1 of GO/GO-BODIPY in all treated groups 24 h post-treatment (cell viability > 90%). Only a slight decrease to 80% at 100 µg ml-1 was observed after 48 h of incubation. We demonstrated the efficacy of a GO adduct containing an α-chlorine-substituted BODIPY for the simultaneous depletion of intracellular GSH and the photogeneration of reactive oxygen species using a halogen white light source (5.4 mW cm-2) with a maximum in the range of 500-800 nm, which significantly reduced cell viability (<50%) after irradiation. Our study provides a new vision on how to apply BODIPY derivates and potentiate the toxicity of PDT in prostate and other types of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number015038
Journal2D Materials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • cancer therapy
  • carbon materials
  • functionalisation
  • photosensitisers
  • reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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