Differentiation-inducing factor-3 (DIF-3), found in the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, and its derivatives, such as butoxy-DIF-3 (Bu-DIF-3), are potent anti-tumor agents. To investigate the activity of DIF-like molecules in tumor cells, we recently synthesized a green fluorescent DIF-3 derivative, BODIPY-DIF-3G, and analyzed its bioactivity and cellular localization. In this study, we synthesized a red (orange) fluorescent DIF-3 derivative, BODIPY-DIF-3R, and compared the cellular localization and bioactivities of the two BODIPY-DIF-3s in HeLa human cervical cancer cells. Both fluorescent compounds penetrated the extracellular membrane within 0.5 h and localized mainly to the mitochondria. In formalinfixed cells, the two BODIPY-DIF-3s also localized to the mitochondria, indicating that the BODIPY-DIF-3s were incorporated into mitochondria independently of the mitochondrial membrane potential. After treatment for 3 days, BODIPY-DIF-3G, but not BODIPY-DIF-3R, induced mitochondrial swelling and suppressed cell proliferation. Interestingly, the swollen mitochondria were stainable with BODIPY-DIF-3G but not with BODIPY-DIF-3R. When added to isolated mitochondria in vitro, BODIPY-DIF-3G increased dose-dependently the rate of O2 consumption, but BODIPY-DIF-3R did not. These results suggest that the bioactive BODIPY-DIF-3G suppresses cell proliferation, at least in part, by altering mitochondrial activity, whereas the non-bioactive BODIPY-DIF-3R localizes to the mitochondria but does not affect mitochondrial activity or cell proliferation.
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