Role of apoptosis in photodynamic sensitivity of human tumour cell lines

Seema Gupta, B. S. Dwarakanath, K. Muralidhar, Viney Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) using a photosensitizer, such as haematoporphyrin derivative (HpD), in conjunction with visible light is a promising new modality to treat localized cancer. Cell death caused by PDT (through the generation of reactive oxygen species) can occur either by apoptosis (interphase death or as a secondary event following mitosis) and/or necrosis depending on the cell type, concentration and intracellular localization of the sensitizer, and the light dose. Since, apoptosis induced by PDT treatment plays an important role in determining the photodynamic efficacy, in the present work we have investigated the role of apoptotic cell death in relation to the observed differences in sensitivity to HpD-PDT between a human glioma cell line (BMG-1) carrying wild-type tumour suppressor gene p53 and a human squamous carcinoma cell line (4451) with mutated p53. HpD (photosan-3; PS-3) -PDT induced apoptosis was studied by: [A] flow-cytometric analysis of DNA content (sub G0/G1 population); [B] phosphatidylserine externalization (Annexin-V +ve cells); [C] cell size and cytoskeleton reorganization (light-scatter analysis); and [D] fluorescence microscopy (morphological features). PS-3-PDT induced a significantly higher level of apoptosis in BMG-1 cells as compared to 4451 cells. This was dependent on the concentration of PS-3 as well as post-irradiation time in both the cell lines. At 2.5 μg/ml of PS-3 the fraction of BMG-1 cells undergoing apoptosis (60%) was nearly 6 folds higher than 4451 cells (10%). In BMG-1 cells the induction of apoptosis increased with PS-3 concentration up to 5 μg/ml (>80%). However, a decrease was observed at a concentration of 10 μg/ml, possibly due to a shift in the mode of cell death from apoptosis to necrosis. In 4451 cells, on the other hand, the increase in apoptosis could be observed even up to 10 μg/ml of PS-3 (60%). Present results show that the higher sensitivity to PS-3-PDT in glioma cells arise on account of a higher level of apoptosis and suggest that induction of apoptosis is an important determinant of photodynamic sensitivity in certain cell types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalIndian Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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