Ru(II) polypyridyl complexes as photocages for bioactive compounds containing nitriles and aromatic heterocycles
Photocaging allows for precise spatiotemporal control over the release of biologically active compounds with light. Most photocaged molecules employ organic photolabile protecting groups; however, biologically active compounds often contain functionalities such as nitriles and aromatic heterocycles that cannot be caged with organic groups. Despite their prevalence, only a few studies have reported successful caging of nitriles and aromatic heterocycles. Recently, Ru(II)-based photocaging has emerged as a powerful method for the release of bioactive molecules containing these functional groups, in many cases providing high levels of spatial and temporal control over biological activity. This Feature Article discusses recent developments in applying Ru(II)-based photocaging towards biological problems. Our groups designed and synthesized Ru(II)-based platforms for the photoinduced delivery of cysteine protease and cytochrome P450 inhibitors in order to achieve selective control over enzyme inhibition. We also reported Ru(II) photocaging groups derived from higher-denticity ancillary ligands that possess photophysical and photochemical properties distinct from more traditional Ru(II)-based caging groups. In addition, for the first time, we are able to rapidly synthesize and screen Ru(II) polypyridyl complexes that elicit desired properties by solid-phase synthesis. Finally, our work also defined steric and orbital mixing effects that are important factors in controlling photoinduced ligand exchange.