Selective toxicity of rhodamine 123 in carcinoma cells in vitro

Theodore J. Lampidis, Samuel D. Bernal, Ian C. Summerhayes, Lan Bo Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


The study of mitochondria in situ has recently been facilitated through the use of rhodamine 123, a mitochondrial-specific fluorescent dye. It has been found to be nontoxic when applied for short periods to a variety of cell types and has thus become an invaluable tool for examining mitochondrial morphology and function in the intact living cell. In this report, however, we demonstrate that with continuous exposure, rhodamine 123 selectively kills carcinoma as compared to normal epithelial cells grown in vitro. At doses of rhodamine 123 which were toxic to carcinoma cells, the conversion of mitochondrial-specific to cytoplasmic-nonspecific localization of the drug was observed prior to cell death. At 10 μg/ml, >50% cell death occurred within 7 days in all nine of the carcinoma cell types and lines of different origin studied, while six of six normal epithelial cell types and lines remained unaffected. Cotreating carcinoma cells with 2-deoxyglucose and rhodamine 123 enhanced the inhibition of growth by rhodamine 123 alone in clonogenic survival assays. The observation of the selective toxicity of rhodamine 123 appears to be unique in view of the absence of selective toxicity reported in vitro for the various antitumor agents currently in clinical use. Preliminary results with rhodamine 123 in animal tumor systems indicate antitumor activity for carcinomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-720
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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