Kinoshita, M. and Hynynen, K. Mechanism of Porphyrin-Induced Sonodynamic Effect: Possible Role of Hyperthermia. Radiat. Res. 165, 299–306 (2006).

The biological effects of ultrasound have been investigated vigorously for various applications including the thermal coagulation of tissues, the opening of tight junctions, and localized gene or drug introduction. The synergistic cell killing effect of ultrasound and porphyrin derivatives, the so-called sonodynamic effect, holds promise for cancer treatment. Although several models to explain the sonodynamic effect have been proposed, its exact mechanism, especially in vivo, remains unknown. We examined the effect of a porphyrin derivative, protoporphyrin IX, on ultrasound-induced killing of HeLa cells. In some experiments, the intracellular protoporphyrin IX concentration was increased by 5-aminolevulinic acid treatment of the cells. Although extracellular protoporphyrin IX showed an enhanced cell killing effect by microbubble-enhanced ultrasound, intracellular protoporphyrin IX did not. On the other hand, intracellular protoporphyrin IX enhanced the cell killing effect of hyperthermia, which can be produced by ultrasound exposure, in a moderately acidic environment (pH 6.6). Because porphyrin derivatives are generally imported into the intracellular component in vivo, our results suggest that hyperthermia caused by ultrasound may play an important role in the sonodynamic effect induced by porphyrin derivatives.

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