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Defects in mitochondrial proteostasis contribute to many disorders, including cancer, neurodegeneration, and metabolic and genetic diseases. A strategy aimed at restoring the damaged mitochondrial proteostasis is the mitochondrion-targeting and carrier-free delivery of exogenous functional proteins that can replace the endogenous dysfunctional proteins. The modification of a protein with a photolabile protecting group (PPG, i.e., photocage group) can be activated in situ by response to illumination, leading to release of the protein from its photocage. Here, the Cys and peptide photocages with coumarin were first prepared and characterized for proof of concept. Then, we designed a pair of photocage groups PPG-RhB and PPG-TPP using coumarin and mitochondrion-targeting Rhodamine B (RhB) and triphenylphosphine (TPP), and another pair of organelle-nontarget photocage groups Br-PPG and NO2-PPG for comparison. The proteins modified with these two pairs of photocage groups undergo photolysis in solutions, and can penetrate cell membrane toward their destinations in the carrier-free fashions. The intracellular protein photocages are in situ activated by illumination at 405 nm, and the proteins are released from their photocages in mitochondria and cytoplasm, respectively. This strategy of light-responsive and carrier-free cellular delivery enables mitochondrial and cytoplasmic accumulation of exogenous proteins. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Jiayuan Shi, Huiling Wang, Yuhui Wang, Yujie Peng, Xiaoping Huang, Yunfeng Zhang, Hongen Geng, Yi Wang, Xiang Li, Chunrong Liu, Changlin Liu. Mitochondrion-targeting and in situ photocontrolled protein delivery via photocages. Journal of photochemistry and photobiology. B, Biology. 2023 Jan;238:112624

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PMID: 36521315

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