We examined the effect of the oxygenation level on efficacy of two photosensitizing agents, both of which target lysosomes for photodamage, but via different photochemical pathways. Upon irradiation, the chlorin termed NPe6 forms singlet oxygen in high yield while the bacteriopheophorbide WST11 forms only oxygen radicals (in an aqueous environment). Photokilling efficacy by WST11 in cell culture was impaired when the atmospheric oxygen concentration was reduced from 20% to 1%, while photokilling by NPe6 was unaffected. Studies in a cell-free system revealed that the rates of photobleaching of these agents, as a function of the oxygenation level, were correlated with results described above. Moreover, the rate of formation of oxygen radicals by either agent was more sensitive to the level of oxygenation than was singlet oxygen formation by NPe6. These data indicate that the photochemical process that leads to oxygen radical formation is more dependent on the oxygenation level than is the pathway leading to formation of singlet oxygen.
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