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Towards identifying the mode of action of drugs using live-cell FTIR spectroscopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2725-2735
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Early online date27 Feb 2019
Accepted/In press24 Feb 2019
E-pub ahead of print27 Feb 2019
Published21 Apr 2019


King's Authors


Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) has been shown to be a promising tool for identifying the mode of action of drugs. However, most previous studies have focused on the analysis of fixed or dried cells. The measurement of living cells has the advantage of obtaining time series data, and the in situ approach eliminates the need for fixing or drying the cells. In this study, the potential of live-cell FTIR method for the identification of the mode of action of drugs was demonstrated. Four different drugs were tested, with two of the drugs having the same mode of action (tamoxifen and toremifene) and the other two having different modes of action (imatinib and doxorubicin). Live cells were treated in the four drugs at and below the IC 50 level (i.e. the concentration of drug required to inhibit the growth of cells by 50%), and the changes to their spectra after the addition of drugs were monitored over a 24-hour period. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the spectral data shows that drugs with different modes of action are well-separated, while the drugs with the same mode of action are grouped together. The results also show that at IC 50 , the separation appears to be the clearest at 2 hours for imatinib and tamoxifen/toremifene and 6 hours for doxorubicin. However, at 50% of the IC 50 drug concentration, the separation appears to be the best at longer incubation time, i.e. 24 hours, for all four drugs. In conclusion, live-cell FTIR has shown to be able to distinguish and group spectral signatures of cells treated with drugs of known modes of action after a relatively short time of exposure. Further collection of live-cell data would enable an algorithm to be developed for the prediction of the modes of action of novel drugs, which can help in the preclinical drug screening process.

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