Receptor-mediated targeting of a photosensitizer by its conjugation to gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues

Shai Rahimipour, Nurit Ben-Aroya, Keren Ziv, Alon Chen, Mati Fridkin, Yitzhak Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Photodynamic therapy uses a combination of light, oxygen, and a photosensitizer to induce the death of malignant cells. To improve the selectivity of a photosensitizer toward cancerous cells that express gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptors, protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) was conjugated to a GnRH agonist, [D-Lys6]GnRH, or to a GnRH antagonist, [D-pGlu1, D-Phe2, D-Trp3, D-Lys 6]GnRH. The condensation of the peptide with PpIX was carried out in a homogeneous solution using benzotriazole-1-yloxytris(pyrrolidinophosphonium) hexafluorophosphate as a coupling reagent. Although these conjugates had lower binding affinity to rat pituitary GnRH receptors than their parent analogues, they fully preserved their agonistic or antagonistic activity in vitro and in vivo. The GnRH agonist conjugate proved to be long-acting in vivo. Thus, 24 h after its administration to rats (2 nmol/rat), serum LH concentrations were significantly higher than in rats treated with the same amount of the parent peptide. The conjugates, notably the agonist, were more phototoxic toward pituitary gonadotrope αT3-1 cell line than was unconjugated PpIX. In contrast to PpIX, the phototoxicity of the conjugates toward αT3-1 cells or to human breast cancer cells (MCF-7 cells that were transfected with human GnRH receptors) was alleviated by co-incubation with the parent peptide, indicating that phototoxicity is receptor-mediated. The selectivity of the GnRH antagonist conjugate to gonadotrope cells in a primary pituitary culture was ∼10 times higher than that of the unconjugated PpIX. Thus, GnRH-based conjugates may affect cancer cells not only by acting as classic GnRH analogues to reduce the plasma levels of steroids by desensitization of the pituitary gland but also by selective photodamage of cells that express GnRH receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3965-3974
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - 11 Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


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