Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment combining a photosensitiser, molecular oxygen and visible light of characteristic wavelength to produce cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). Within our centre, a series of phenothiazinium salts were synthesised and initial characterisation studies performed to determine any potential use for PDT. All photosensitisers within the series were shown to have useful spectral properties for PDT, with absorbance λmax above 667 nm. The Log P values of the compounds were shown to range from −0.9 to > +2.0. Furthermore, Log P values were shown to be important in determining the site of subcellular localisation and as such the site of photooxidative damage. Derivatives with a Log P value of greater than +1.0 were shown to initially localise to the lysosomes then relocalise throughout the cytoplasm following illumination, whereas compounds with intermediate Log P values (−0.7 to +1.0) all remained lysosomal. Only methylene blue (Log P
−0.9) was shown to redistribute to the nucleus upon illumination. Following treatment of RIF-1 cells with each phenothiazinium salt for 1 h and subsequent exposure to 665 nm laser light at a fluence rate of 10 mW cm−2
(18 J cm−2), it was determined that the most potent photosensitiser was 260-fold more potent than methylene blue. Furthermore, the PDT efficacy of the photosensitisers was shown to be related to the level of mitochondrial damage induced directly following illumination.
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