Theranostics 2020; 10(1):166-178. doi:10.7150/thno.36999 This issue

Research Paper

pH-responsive perylenediimide nanoparticles for cancer trimodality imaging and photothermal therapy

Jianhao Li, Chang Liu, Yiseng Hu, Chendong Ji, Shuolin Li, Meizhen Yin

State Key Laboratory of Chemical Resource Engineering, Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Soft Matter Science and Engineering, Beijing Laboratory of Biomedical Materials, Beijing University of Chemical Technology, No. 15 the North Third Ring Road East, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100029, PR China

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Li J, Liu C, Hu Y, Ji C, Li S, Yin M. pH-responsive perylenediimide nanoparticles for cancer trimodality imaging and photothermal therapy. Theranostics 2020; 10(1):166-178. doi:10.7150/thno.36999. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Organic chromophores have been well developed for multimodality imaging-guided photothermal therapy (PTT) due to their outstanding optical properties and excellent designability. However, the theranostic efficiencies of most currently available organic chromophores are restricted intrinsically, owing to their poor photostability or complex synthesis procedures. These drawbacks not only increase their cost of synthesis, but also cause side effects in PTT.

Method: We presented a facile strategy for constructing a near-infrared (NIR)-absorbing perylenediimide structured with pH-responsive piperazine ring at the bay region. The chromophore was conjugated with carboxyl-end-capped PEG as side chains that can self-assemble into nanoparticles (NPs) in aqueous solution. The NIR optical properties and photothermal conversation ability of PPDI-NPs were investigated. We then studied the imaging-guided PTT of PPDI-NPs under NIR light illumination in 4T1 cells and mice respectively.

Results: The excellent photostable PPDI-NPs had near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) emission and high photothermal conversion efficiency in acidic microenvironment. Importantly, PPDI-NPs can be utilized for the precise detection of tumors by NIRF/photoacoustic/thermal trimodality imaging. Efficient PTT of PPDI-NPs was applied in vitro and in vivo with high biosafety.

Conclusion: In summary, we developed pH-responsive perylenediimide nanoparticles as multifunctional phototheranostic agent with high stability and simple synthesis procedures. This study offers a promising organic chromophore for developing phototheranostics in cancer therapy.

Keywords: Perylenediimides, pH-responsive, Trimodality imaging, Phototheranostics