Yunkang Tong, Mingle Li, Haiqiao Huang, Saran Long, Wen Sun, Jianjun Du, Jiangli Fan, Lei Wang, Bin Liu, and Xiaojun Peng*
Dalian University of Technology
Ultrasound-triggered remote control of biomolecular functions in cells provides unique advantages for us to interrogate nature. However, strategies to design therapeutic ultrasound-responsive functional molecules remain elusive, and rare ultrasound-cleavable chemical bonds have been developed to date. Herein, therapeutic ultrasound (1 MHz)-induced scission of urea bonds for drug release is demonstrated for the first time. Such a transformation has been verified to be initiated by hydroxyl radicals generated in the interior of cavitation bubbles, occurring specifically at the cavitation bubble–liquid interface. A series of urea-bond-containing prodrugs based on methylene blue (MB), namely MBUs, are designed. Upon sonication with low-intensity therapeutic ultrasound, the urea bonds linked with primary amines can be selectively cleaved, and free MB is released in a physiologically relevant environment, accompanied by recovered absorbance, fluorescence, and photosensitivity. Moreover, an FDA-approved alkylating agent (i.e., melphalan) bearing urea bond is also developed (MBU-Mel), successfully achieving ultrasound-triggered drug release in deep-seated cancer cells (mimic with 1 cm pigskin), showing the scalability of our ultrasound-responsive molecule platform in bioactive molecules release. This may set the starting point for therapeutic ultrasound-induced drug release, making a forward step in “sonopharmacology”.