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Chemistry. 2018 Jul 11;24(39):9812-9819. doi: 10.1002/chem.201801112. Epub 2018 Jun 21.

Self-assembly of Fluorescent Dehydroberberine Enhances Mitochondria-Dependent Antitumor Efficacy.

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State Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Science, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China.
State key Laboratory of Drug Research and Key Laboratory of Receptor Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 555 Zu Chong Zhi Road, Shanghai, 201203, China.


Selective imaging and inducing mitochondrial dysfunction in tumor cells using mitochondria-targeting probes has become as a promising approach for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Here, we report the design of a fluorescent berberine analog, dehydroberberine (DH-BBR), as a new mitochondria-targeting probe capable of self-assembling into monodisperse organic nanoparticles (DTNPs) upon integration with a lipophilic counter anion, allowing for enhanced fluorescence imaging and treatment of tumors in living mice. X-ray crystallography revealed that the self-assembly process was attributed to a synergy of different molecular interactions, including π-π stacking, O⋅⋅⋅π interaction and electrostatic interaction between DH-BBR and counter anions. We demonstrated that DTNPs could efficiently enter tumor tissue following intravenous injection and enhance mitochondrial delivery of DH-BBR via an electrostatic interaction driven anion exchange process. Selective accumulation in the mitochondria capable of emitting strong fluorescence and causing mitochondrial dysfunction was achieved, enabling efficient inhibition of tumor growth in living mice. This study demonstrates promise for applying lipophilic anions to control molecular self-assembly and tune antitumor activity of mitochondria-targeting probes, which can facilitate to improve cancer treatment in vivo.


antitumor; cell imaging; dehydroberberine; mitochondria; self-assembly

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