Salicylate and several structurally analogous compounds enhance merocyanine 540 (MC540)-photosensitized killing of leukemia cells (M. A. Anderson, B. Kalyanaraman, and J. B. Feix, Cancer Res., 53: 806–809, 1993). In this work, we show that salicylic acid enhances the binding of MC540 prior to illumination, as well as the light-stimulated uptake of MC540 by target L1210 murine and K562 human leukemia cells. Acetylsalicylic acid, 2,3- and 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acids, and sodium benzoate also enhance MC540 uptake. The irradiation dose responses for loss of cell survival and enhanced MC540 uptake are well correlated, both being shifted to earlier time points in the presence of salicylate. Salicylic acid also enhanced photodynamic cell killing of A549 lung carcinoma and NIH:OVCAR-3 ovarian carcinoma cells, two cell types which are relatively resistant to MC540-mediated photosensitization. Cellular uptake of the anionic, potential-sensitive oxonol dye, bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid)-trimethine oxonol, is also increased by salicylate in a dose-dependent fashion. In contrast, cellular uptake of the cationic cyanine dye, 3,3′-dihexyloxacarbocyanine, is unaffected by salicylate. These studies suggest that increased uptake of MC540 is the basis of salicylate enhancement and that changes in plasma membrane potentials may play a mechanistic role in the potentiation of MC540 binding and cell killing.


This work was supported by USPHS Grants CA49089 and RR01008.

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