Loading of an anti-cancer drug into mesoporous silica nano-channels and its subsequent release to DNA
Mesoporous silica nano-channel (MCM-41) based molecular switching of a biologically important anticancer drug, namely, ellipticine (EPT) has been utilized to probe its efficient loading onto MCM-41, and its subsequent release to intra-cellular biomolecules, like DNA. By exploiting various spectroscopic techniques (like, steady state fluorescence, time-resolved fluorescence and circular dichroism), it has been shown that EPT can be easily translocated from MCM-41 to DNA without using any external stimulant. Blue emission of EPT in a polar aprotic solvent, i.e., dichloromethane (DCM), completely switches to green upon loading inside MCM-41 due to the conversion from a neutral to a protonated form of the drug inside nano-pores. Powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD), N2 gas adsorption and confocal fluorescence microscopy results confirm the adsorption of EPT inside the nano-pores of MCM-41. Here, the lysozyme (Lyz) protein has been utilized as a pore blocker of MCM-41 in order to prevent premature drug release. Interestingly, EPT is released to DNA even from the EPT–MCM–Lyz composite system, and results in intensification of green fluorescence. Electron microscopy results reveal the formation of a distinctive garland kind of morphology involving MCM-41 and DNA probably through non-covalent interactions, and this is believed to be responsible for the DNA assisted release of drug molecules from silica nano-pores. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) imaging revealed that EPT–MCM is successfully internalized into the HeLa cervical cancer cells and localized into the nucleus. Cell viability assay results infer that EPT–MCM and EPT–MCM–Lyz showed much improved efficacy in HeLa cancer cells compared to free ellipticine.