Melanomas display increased cytoprotection to hypericin-mediated cytotoxicity through the induction of autophagy


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Photodynamic therapy (PDT) as a regime for melanoma is of limited success due to factors such as the efficacy of the photosensitizer used, penetration depth and the presence of pigment. We characterised a pigmented and an unpigmented melanoma cell line with respect to their phenotypes. Cell viability was assessed after exposure to hypericin, a UVA-activated photosensitizer. Exposure to 3 μM activated hypericin induced a cytoprotective (autophagic) response from both cell lines. However, the pigmented cells accumulated a large amount of glycogen in their cytoplasm. We hypothesise that the treatment induces an initial cytoprotective response through autophagy, but with increased stress results in a different mode of cell death in pigmented melanoma cells from unpigmented cells. These results indicate that hypericin-PDT could be an adjuvant therapy for melanoma.