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Br J Cancer. 2001 Sep 1;85(5):727-34.

ALA- and ALA-hexylester-induced protoporphyrin IX fluorescence and distribution in multicell tumour spheroids.

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  • 1Institute of Optics, University of Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Synthesis of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) in intact murine mammary cancer cell spheroids is reported from optical sections obtained using a laser scanning confocal fluorescence microscope. EMT6 spheroids 275-350 microm in diameter were incubated in 0.1-15 mM aminolevulinic acid (ALA) or 0.001-2 mM ALA-hexylester (h-ALA) to test the ability of both pro-drugs to diffuse into the spheroids and induce PpIX production. Spheroids incubated with ALA show significant fluorescence nonuniformity for all concentrations, with the outermost cells exhibiting greater porphyrin fluorescence. Comparable levels of fluorescence throughout the optical section are achieved with approximately 100-fold lower h-ALA concentrations, indicating that the interior cells maintain esterase activity and porphyrin synthesis and that h-ALA diffuses efficiently to the spheroid interior. Fluorescence gradients are less pronounced with h-ALA incubation, in part because of apparent saturation of esterase activity in the spheroid perimeter. Proliferating (Ki67 positive) and quiescent cell populations exhibit remarkably different h-ALA concentration dependencies. The incubation concentration resulting in maximum fluorescence with ALA is 10 mM, while the optimal concentration for h-ALA is 200-fold lower at 0.05 mM. Exceeding these optimal concentrations for both pro-drugs leads to an overall loss of fluorescence.

Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.

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