We have studied the distribution properties of haematoporphyrin (HP) and protoporphyrin (PP) in mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum after isolation from rat liver. The photosensitizing efficiency of porphyrin on the Ca2+ influx function of microsomes has been compared with that obtained on Ca2+ uptake in mitochondria. HP and PP are accumulated in microsomes to a greater extent than in mitochondria, both porphyrins binding to membrane protein sites. The Ca2+ influx functions of mitochondria and microsomes, before and after irradiation in the presence of HP or PP, were studied by following the changes in the free Ca2+ concentration in the medium as revealed by the variations in fluorescence intensity of the Ca2+ indicator Calcium Green-1. For the same amount of incorporated porphyrin, the Ca2+ influx function of microsomes is degraded by irradiation more rapidly than that of mitochondria. The protective effect of dithiothreitol suggests that thiol groups in the Ca2+-transporting enzyme are the preferential targets of the photodynamic effect. These results suggest that intracellular Ca2+ movements are altered primarily by the endoplasmic reticulum rather than by mitochondrial damage, in good agreement with other observations made in porphyrin-loaded irradiated cells.

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