Charron DM, Yousefalizadeh G, Buzza HH, Rajora MA, Chen J, Stamplecoskie KG, Zheng G

Porphyrin aggregates have attractive photophysical properties for phototherapy and optical imaging, including quenched photosensitization, efficient photothermal conversion, and unique absorption spectra. Although hydrophobic porphyrin photosensitizers have long been encapsulated into liposomes for drug delivery, little is known about the membrane properties of liposomes with large amphiphilic porphyrin compositions. In this paper, a porphyrin-lipid conjugate was incorporated into liposomes formed of saturated or unsaturated lipids to study the membrane composition-dependent formation of highly ordered porphyrin J-aggregates and disordered aggregates. Porphyrin-lipid readily phase-separates in saturated membranes, forming J-aggregates that are destabilized during the ripple phase below the main thermal transition. Porphyrin-lipid J-aggregates are photostable with a photothermal efficiency of 54 ± 6%, comparable to gold. Even at high porphyrin-lipid compositions, porphyrin J-aggregates coexist with a minority population of disordered aggregates, which are photodynamically active despite being fluorescently quenched. For photothermal applications, liposome formulations that encourage porphyrin-lipid phase separation should be explored for maximum J-aggregation.