Ruthenium(ii) p-cymene complexes of a benzimidazole-based ligand capable of VEGFR2 inhibition: hydrolysis, reactivity and cytotoxicity studies†
The design of Ru or other metal-based anticancer agents may achieve better and faster optimization if the ligands used are also designed to have standalone functions. In this scenario, even after dissociation from the metal complex under adverse conditions, the ligand would have anti-cancer properties. In our work, we have generated a bispyrazole-containing benzimidazole ligand with potency against vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2), which is known to have roles in vasculogenesis/angiogenesis. This ligand was used to obtain ternary Ru(II) p-cymene complexes with the formulations [(η6-p-cymene)Ru(HL)(Cl)](Cl) (1), [(η6-p-cymene)Ru(HL)(Br)](Br) (2) and [(η6-p-cymene)Ru(HL)(I)](I) (3). 1H NMR data supports that hydrolysis of the complex is governed by halide substitution, and the extent of hydrolysis followed the trend 3 > 1 > 2. All the complexes have low affinity towards DNA bases (average Kb ∼ 103 M−1 for CT DNA); however, all the complexes are cytotoxic in nature, with IC50 values less than 15 μM. The presence of excess glutathione (GSH) liberates HL from the complexes in solution. The ability of the Ru complex to impair mitochondrial function and reduce the cellular GSH pool is thought to be the reason that it retains activity in the presence of GSH despite the ability of GSH to degrade the complexes. The chloride analogue 1 shows the best in vitro cytotoxicity against a prostate cancer cell line (LNCaP), with an IC50 of 6.4 μM. The complexes show anti-proliferative activity by the mitochondria-mediated intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Docking studies showed that HL has high affinity towards vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2). The complexes show anti-metastatic activity (in vitro) at almost non-toxic dosages, and the effect is sustained even 48 h after removal of the complexes from the culture media.