Intramitochondrial co-assembly between ATP and nucleopeptides induces cancer cell apoptosis†
Mitochondria are essential intracellular organelles involved in many cellular processes, especially adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. Since cancer cells require high ATP levels for proliferation, ATP elimination can be a unique target for cancer growth inhibition. We describe a newly developed mitochondria-targeting nucleopeptide (MNP) that sequesters ATP by self-assembling with ATP inside mitochondria. MNP interacts strongly with ATP through electrostatic and hydrogen bonding interactions. MNP exhibits higher binding affinity for ATP (−637.5 kJ mol−1) than for adenosine diphosphate (ADP) (−578.2 kJ mol−1). To improve anticancer efficacy, the small-sized MNP/ADP complex formed large assemblies with ATP inside cancer cell mitochondria. ATP sequestration and formation of large assemblies of the MNP/ADP–ATP complex inside mitochondria caused physical stress by large structures and metabolic disorders in cancer cells, leading to apoptosis. This work illustrates a facile approach to developing cancer therapeutics that relies on molecular assemblies.