Synthesis and biological in vitro evaluation of novel PEG-psoralen conjugates
Bettio, F., Canevari, M., Marzano, C., Bordin, F., Guiotto, A., Greco, F., Duncan, R. and Veronese, F. (2006) Synthesis and biological in vitro evaluation of novel PEG-psoralen conjugates. Biomacromolecules, 7 (12). pp. 3534-3541. ISSN 1525-7797
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1021/bm060760n
Psoralens are well-known photosensitizers, and 8- methoxypsoralen and 4,5',8-trimethylpsoralen are widely used in photomedicine as "psoralens plus UVA therapy" (PUVA), in photopheresis, and in sterilization of blood preparations. In an attempt to improve the therapeutic efficiency of PUVA therapy and photopheresis, four poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-psoralen conjugates were synthesized to promote tumor targeting by the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. Peptide linkers were used to exploit specific enzymatic cleavage by lysosomal proteases. A new psoralen, 4-hydroxymethyl-4', 8-dimethylpsoralen (6), suitable for polymer conjugation was synthesized. The hydroxy group allowed exploring different strategies for PEG conjugation, and linkages with different stability such ester or urethanes were obtained. PEG (5 kDa) was covalently conjugated to the new psoralen derivative using four different linkages, namely, (i) direct ester bond (7), (ii) ester linkage with a peptide spacer (8), (iii) a carbamic linker (9), and (iv) a carbamic linker with a peptide spacer (12). The stability of these new conjugates was assessed at different pHs, in plasma and following incubation with cathepsin B. Conjugates 7 and 8 were rapidly hydrolyzed in plasma, while 9 was stable in buffer and in the presence of cathepsin B. As expected, only the conjugates containing the peptide linker released the drug in presence of cathepsin B. In vitro evaluation of the cytotoxic activity in the presence and absence of light was carried out in two cell lines (MCF-7 and A375 cells). Conjugates 7 and 8 displayed a similar activity to the free drug (probably due to the low stability of the ester linkage). Interestingly, the conjugates containing the carbamate linkage (9 and 12) were completely inactive in the dark (IC50 > 100 mu M in both cell lines). However, antiproliferative activity become apparent after UV irradiation. Conjugate 12 appears to be the most promising for future in vivo evaluation, since it was relatively stable in plasma, which should allow tumor targeting and drug release to occur by cathepsin B-mediated hydrolysis.