Photocatalytic Superoxide Radical Generator that Induces Pyroptosis in Cancer Cells

Le Yu, Yunjie Xu, Zhongji Pu, Heemin Kang, Mingle Li, Jonathan L. Sessler, Jong Seung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Pyroptosis, a newly characterized form of immunogenic cell death, is attracting increasing attention as a promising approach to cancer immunotherapy. However, biocompatible strategies to activate pyroptosis remain rare. Here, we show that a photocatalytic superoxide radical (O2-•) generator, NI-TA, triggers pyroptosis in cancer cells. NI-TA was designed to take advantage of an intramolecular triplet-ground state splitting energy modulation approach. Detailed studies revealed that the pyroptosis triggered by NI-TA under conditions of photoexcitation proceeds through a caspase-3/gasdermin E (GSDME) pathway rather than via canonical processes involving caspase-1/gasdermin-D (GSDMD). NI-TA was found to function via a partial-O2-recycling mode of action and to trigger cell pyroptosis and provide for effective cancer cell ablation even under conditions of hypoxia (≤2% O2). In the case of T47D 3D multicellular spheroids, good antitumor efficiency and stemness inhibition are achieved. This work highlights how photocatalytic chemistry may be leveraged to develop effective pyroptosis-inducing agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11326-11337
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun 29

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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