Fluorescence lifetime imaging and phasor analysis of intracellular porphyrinic photosensitizers applied with different polymeric formulations.

Spadin, Florentin S; Gergely, Lea P; Kämpfer, Tobias; Frenz, Martin; Vermathen, Martina (2024). Fluorescence lifetime imaging and phasor analysis of intracellular porphyrinic photosensitizers applied with different polymeric formulations. Journal of photochemistry and photobiology. B, Biology, 254(112904), p. 112904. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2024.112904

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The fluorescence lifetime of a porphyrinic photosensitizer (PS) is an important parameter to assess the aggregation state of the PS even in complex biological environments. Aggregation-induced quenching of the PS can significantly reduce the yield of singlet oxygen generation and thus its efficiency as a medical drug in photodynamic therapy (PDT) of diseased tissues. Hydrophobicity and the tendency to form aggregates pose challenges on the development of efficient PSs and often require carrier systems. A systematic study was performed to probe the impact of PS structure and encapsulation into polymeric carriers on the fluorescence lifetime in solution and in the intracellular environment. Five different porphyrinic PSs including chlorin e6 (Ce6) derivatives and tetrakis(m-hydroxyphenyl)-porphyrin and -chlorin were studied in free form and combined with polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) or micelles composed of triblock-copolymers or Cremophor. Following incubation of HeLa cells with these systems, fluorescence lifetime imaging combined with phasor analysis and image segmentation was applied to study the lifetime distribution in the intracellular surrounding. The data suggest that for free PSs, the structure-dependent cell uptake pathways determine their state and emission lifetimes. PS localization in the plasma membrane yielded mostly monomers with long fluorescence lifetimes whereas the endocytic pathway with subsequent lysosomal deposition adds a short-lived component for hydrophilic anionic PSs. Prolonged incubation times led to increasing contributions from short-lived components that derive from aggregates mainly localized in the cytoplasm. Encapsulation of PSs into polymeric carriers led to monomerization and mostly fluorescence emission decays with long fluorescence lifetimes in solution. However, the efficiency depended on the binding strength that was most pronounced for PVP. In the cellular environment, PVP was able to maintain monomeric long-lived species over prolonged incubation times. This was most pronounced for Ce6 derivatives with a logP value around 4.5. Micellar encapsulation led to faster release of the PSs resulting in multiple components with long and short fluorescence lifetimes. The hydrophilic hardly aggregating PS exhibited a mostly stable invariant lifetime distribution over time with both carriers. The presented data are expected to contribute to optimized PDT treatment protocols and improved PS-carrier design for preventing intracellular fluorescence quenching. In conclusion, amphiphilic and concurrent hydrophobic PSs with high membrane affinity as well as strong binding to the carrier have best prospects to maintain their photophysical properties in vivo and serve thus as efficient photodynamic diagnosis and PDT drugs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Applied Physics
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

UniBE Contributor:

Spadin, Florentin Samuel, Frenz, Martin, Vermathen, Martina


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry
600 Technology > 620 Engineering








Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

09 Apr 2024 16:19

Last Modified:

22 Apr 2024 00:16

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Block copolymer micelles Cremophor Drug delivery Fluorescence lifetime imaging PVP Phasor analysis Photosensitizer





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