A high-throughput real-time in vitro assay using mitochondrial targeted roGFP for screening of drugs targeting mitochondria.

Redox Biology  2019 Jan | https://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2018.10.013  

Aneesh Chandrasekharan, Shankara Narayanan Varadarajan, Asha Lekshmi, Santhik Subhasingh Lupitha, Pramod Darvin, Leena Chandrasekhar, Prakash Rajappan Pillai, T.R.Santhoshkumar, M. Radhakrishna Pillai

Abstract

Most toxic compounds including cancer drugs target mitochondria culminating in its permeabilization. Cancer drug-screening and toxicological testing of compounds require cost-effective and sensitive high-throughput methods to detect mitochondrial damage. Real-time methods for detection of mitochondrial damage are less toxic, allow kinetic measurements with good spatial resolution and are preferred over end-stage assays. Cancer cell lines stably expressing genetically encoded mitochondrial-targeted redox-GFP2 (mt-roGFP) were developed and validated for its suitability as a mitochondrial damage sensor. Diverse imaging platforms and flow-cytometry were utilized for ratiometric analysis of redox changes with known toxic and cancer drugs. Key events of cell death and mitochondrial damage were studied at single-cell level coupled with mt-roGFP. Cells stably expressing mt-roGFP and H2B-mCherry were developed for high-throughput screening (HTS) application. Most cancer drugs while inducing mitochondrial permeabilization trigger mitochondrial-oxidation that can be detected at single-cell level with mt-roGFP. The image-based assay using mt-roGFP outperformed other quantitative methods of apoptosis in ease of screening. Incorporation of H2B-mCherry ensures accurate and complete automated segmentation with excellent Z value. The results substantiate that most cancer drugs and known plant-derived antioxidants trigger cell-death through mitochondrial redox alterations with pronounced ratio change in the mt-roGFP probe. Real-time analysis of mitochondrial oxidation and mitochondrial permeabilization reveal a biphasic ratio change in dying cells, with an initial redox surge before mitochondrial permeabilization followed by a drastic increase in ratio after complete mitochondrial permeabilization. Overall, the results prove that mitochondrial oxidation is a reliable indicator of mitochondrial damage, which can be readily determined in live cells using mt-roGFP employing diverse imaging techniques. The assay described is highly sensitive, easy to adapt to HTS platforms and is a valuable resource for identifying cytotoxic agents that target mitochondria and also for dissecting cell signaling events relevant to redox biology.

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