N-Alkylaminoferrocene-Based Prodrugs Targeting Mitochondria of Cancer Cells
Intracellular concentration of reactive oxygen species (e.g., H2O2) in cancer cells is elevated over 10-fold as compared to normal cells. This feature has been used by us and several other research groups to design cancer specific prodrugs, for example, N-alkylaminoferrocene (NAAF)-based prodrugs. Further improvement of the efficacy of these prodrugs can be achieved by their targeting to intracellular organelles containing elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) amounts. For example, we have previously demonstrated that lysosome-targeted NAAF-prodrugs exhibit higher anticancer activity in cell cultures, in primary cells and in vivo (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 15545). Mitochondrion is an organelle, where electrons can leak from the respiratory chain. These electrons can combine with O2, generating O2−• that is followed by dismutation with the formation of H2O2. Thus, ROS can be generated in excess in mitochondria and targeting of ROS-sensitive prodrugs to these organelles could be a sensible possibility for enhancing their efficacy. We have previously reported on NAAF-prodrugs, which after their activation in cells, are accumulated in mitochondria (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 11943). Now we prepared two hybrid NAAF-prodrugs directly accumulated in mitochondria and activated in these organelles. We studied their anticancer activity and mode of action. Based on these data, we concluded that ROS produced by mitochondria is not available in sufficient quantities for activation of the ROS-responsive prodrugs. The reason for this can be efficient scavenging of ROS by antioxidants. Our data are important for the understanding of the mechanism of action of ROS-activatable prodrugs and will facilitate their further development.