Pentamidine is similar to rhodamine-123 in chemical structure and state of electron charge, and rhodamine-123 was previously shown to be a hyperthermic sensitizer under appropriate cell culture conditions. The present experiments were carried out to determine whether pentamidine would potentiate hyperthermic cell killing and, if so, under what cultural conditions. Exposure of HeLa cells to pentamidine (80 μM) up to 4 h was not cytotoxic in culture medium in the presence or absence of glucose at 37°C and pH 7.4. Cells in the glucose-deprived medium became progressively sensitive to killing as temperature and drug concentration were increased. On the other hand, there was a moderate level of enhanced cell killing in the glucose-fed medium at 42°C. The enhanced effects of heat by the drug were most pronounced under alkaline pH of the culture medium. The cell kill under acidic pH was far less than that observed at neutral or alkaline pH; these effects may be a result of decreased cellular uptake of pentamidine. Together with our previous results on rhodamine-123 and glycolytic inhibitors, the present data with pentamidine are consistent with the concept that deprivation of cellular energy increases sensitivity to cell killing by heat.

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