Carbon dot-protoporphyrin IX conjugates for improved drug delivery and bioimaging

Jose Aguilar Cosme, Helen E. Bryant, Frederik Claeyssens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses photosensitisers such as protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) to target tumours via the release of toxic singlet oxygen when irradiated. The effectivity of the treatment is limited by the innate properties of the photosensitizers; they typically exhibit inefficient accumulation in target tissue and high dark toxicity. Carbon dots (CDs) are biocompatible fluorescent nanoparticles which can improve PpIX cellular uptake and solubility. In this work, we present conjugates synthesised by host-guest encapsulation (PpIX@CD) and amide cross-linking (PpIX-CD). Characterization demonstrated conjugates have a loading efficiency of 34–48% and similar singlet oxygen production to PpIX. PpIX-containing CDs showed a 2.2 to 3.7-fold decrease in dark toxicity. PpIX-CD and PpIX@CD showed equivalent light-induced toxicity to PpIX in concentrations >1 μg/ml, leading to a 3.2 to 4.1-fold increase in photo-toxicity index (PI). The less soluble fraction of cross-linked conjugates (PpIX-CD)p did not show significant difference from PpIX. Confocal light scanning microscopy demonstrated rapid intracellular uptake and accumulation of conjugates. Our results demonstrate the variations between cross-linking strategies in CD-based conjugates, highlighting their potential as carriers in drug delivery and bioimaging applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0220210
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Carbon dot-protoporphyrin IX conjugates for improved drug delivery and bioimaging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this