Oxidative stress is a cause for numerous diseases and aging processes. Thus, one is keen to tune the level of intracellular stress and to learn from that, and an unusual approach is presented here. The methodology involves multifunctional surfactants. Although their molecular design is non-biological, a fullerenol head group attached covalently to -conjugated dyes, the surfactants possess superior biocompatibility. Using the intrinsic fluorescence signal as a probe it is proven, the amphiphiles become incorporated into the membranes of Caco-2 cells. There, they are able to exhibit additional functions. The compound reduces cellular stress in dark reaction pathways. The antagonistic property is activated under irradiation, the photocatalytic production of ROS, resulting in cell damage and finally to apoptosis. The feature is activated even by NIR-light via a two-photon process. The properties as molecular semiconductors leads to a trojan horse situation and allows programming the spatial distribution of cytotoxicity.
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