Background: Radiation therapy remains an important treatment modality in cancer therapy, however, resistance is a major problem for treatment failure. Elevated expression of glutathione is known to associate with radiation resistance. We used glutathione overexpressing small cell lung cancer cell lines, SR3A-13 and SR3A-14, established by transfection with γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS) cDNA, as a model for investigating strategies of overcoming radiation resis-tance. These radiation-resistant cells exhibit upregulated human copper transporter 1 (hCtr1), which also transports cisplatin. This study was initiated to investigate the effect and the underlying mechanism of iron-platinum nanoparticles (FePt NPs) on radiation sensitization in cancer cells. Materials and Methods: Uptakes of FePt NPs in these cells were studied by plasma optical emission spectrometry and transmission electron microscopy. Effects of the combination of FePt NPs and ionizing radiation were investigated by colony formation assay and animal experiment. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were assessed by using fluorescent probes and imaged by a fluorescence-activated-cell-sorting caliber flow cyt-ometer. Oxygen consumption rate (OCR) in mitochondria after FePt NP and IR treatment was investigated by a Seahorse XF24 cell energy metabolism analyzer. Results: These hCtr1-overexpressing cells exhibited elevated resistance to IR and the resistance could be overcome by FePt NPs via enhanced uptake of FePt NPs. Overexpression of hCtr1 was responsible for the increased uptake/transport of FePt NPs as demonstrated by using hCtr1-transfected parental SR3A (SR3A-hCtr1-WT) cells. Increased ROS and drastic mitochondrial damages with substantial reduction of oxygen consumption rate were observed in FePt NPs and IR-treated cells, indicating that structural and functional insults of mitochondria are the lethal mechanism of FePt NPs. Furthermore, FePt NPs also increased the efficacy of radiotherapy in mice bearing SR3A-hCtr1-WT-xenograft tumors. Conclusion: These results suggest that FePt NPs can potentially be a novel strategy to improve radiotherapeutic efficacy in hCtr1-overexpressing cancer cells via enhanced uptake and mitochondria targeting.
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