Optical control of mitochondrial reductive reactions in living cells using an electron donor–acceptor linked molecule†
It has been known for decades that intracellular redox reactions control various vital functions in living systems, which include the synthesis of biomolecules, the modulation of protein functions, and cell signaling. Although there have been several reports on the control of such functions using DNA and RNA, the non-invasive optical control of biological functions is an important ongoing challenge. In this study, a hybrid of an electron donor–acceptor linked molecule based on a ferrocene(Fc)–porphyrin(ZnP)–fullerene(C60) analogue and an elaborately designed nano-carrier, referred to herein as a MITO-Porter, resulted in a successful photoinduced intermolecular electron transfer reaction via the long-lived intramolecular charge separation, leading to site-specific reductive reactions in the mitochondria of living HeLa cells. A Fc-ZnP-C60 linked molecule, 1-Oct, was designed and prepared for taking advantage of the unique photophysical properties with excellent efficiency (i.e. a long lifetime and a high quantum yield) for photoinduced charge separation. The targeted delivery of 1-Oct to mitochondria was accomplished by using a combination of the Fc-ZnP-C60 molecule and a drug delivery nano-carrier, MITO-Porter, that was recently established by our group for intracellular cargo delivery. The successful delivery of 1-Oct by the MITO-Porter permitted the optically-controlled generation of O2− in the mitochondria of HeLa cells and the following induction of apoptosis as a cell signalling response was observed in confocal laser microscopy experiments. The obtained results indicate the use of an electron donor–acceptor system such as this can be a promising tool for the non-invasive triggering of redox-coupled cellular activities in living systems.