Anthracenyl Functionalization of Half-Sandwich Carbene Complexes: In Vitro Anticancer Activity and Reactions with Biomolecules

Betty Y.T. Lee, Matthew P. Sullivan, Ena Yano, Kelvin K.H. Tong, Muhammad Hanif, Tomoyo Kawakubo-Yasukochi, Stephen M.F. Jamieson, Tilo Soehnel, David C. Goldstone, Christian G. Hartinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


N-Heterocyclic carbene (NHC) ligands are widely investigated in medicinal inorganic chemistry. Here, we report the preparation and characterization of a series of half-sandwich [M(L)(NHC)Cl2] (M = Ru, Os, Rh, Ir; L = cym/Cp*) complexes with a N-flanking anthracenyl moiety attached to imidazole- and benzimidazole-derived NHC ligands. The anticancer activity of the complexes was investigated in cell culture studies where, in comparison to a Rh derivative with an all-carbon-donor-atom-based ligand (5a), they were found to be cytotoxic with IC50 values in the low micromolar range. The Ru derivative 1a was chosen as a representative for stability studies as well as for biomolecule interaction experiments. It underwent partial chlorido/aqua ligand exchange in DMSO-d6/D2O to rapidly form an equilibrium in aqueous media. The reactions of 1a with biomolecules proceeded quickly and resulted in the formation of adducts with amino acids, DNA, and protein. Hen egg white lysozyme crystals were soaked with 1a, and the crystallographic analysis revealed an interaction with an l-aspartic acid residue (Asp119), resulting in the cleavage of the p-cymene ligand but the retention of the NHC moiety. Cell morphology studies for the Rh analog 3a suggested that the cytotoxicity is exerted via mechanisms different from that of cisplatin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14636-14644
Number of pages9
JournalInorganic chemistry
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 4 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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