Issue 12, 2019

A dinuclear ruthenium(ii) phototherapeutic that targets duplex and quadruplex DNA


With the aim of developing a sensitizer for photodynamic therapy, a previously reported luminescent dinuclear complex that functions as a DNA probe in live cells was modified to produce a new iso-structural derivative containing RuII(TAP)2 fragments (TAP = 1,4,5,8-tetraazaphenanthrene). The structure of the new complex has been confirmed by a variety of techniques including single crystal X-ray analysis. Unlike its parent, the new complex displays Ru → L-based 3MLCT emission in both MeCN and water. Results from electrochemical studies and emission quenching experiments involving guanosine monophosphate are consistent with an excited state located on a TAP moiety. This hypothesis is further supported by detailed DFT calculations, which take into account solvent effects on excited state dynamics. Cell-free steady-state and time-resolved optical studies on the interaction of the new complex with duplex and quadruplex DNA show that the complex binds with high affinity to both structures and indicate that its photoexcited state is also quenched by DNA, a process that is accompanied by the generation of the guanine radical cation sites as photo-oxidization products. Like the parent complex, this new compound is taken up by live cells where it primarily localizes within the nucleus and displays low cytotoxicity in the absence of light. However, in complete contrast to [{RuII(phen)2}2(tpphz)]4+, the new complex is therapeutically activated by light to become highly phototoxic toward malignant human melanoma cell lines showing that it is a promising lead for the treatment of this recalcitrant cancer.

Graphical abstract: A dinuclear ruthenium(ii) phototherapeutic that targets duplex and quadruplex DNA

Associated articles

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
Edge Article
14 Nov 2018
14 Feb 2019
First published
18 Feb 2019
This article is Open Access

All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry
Creative Commons BY license

Chem. Sci., 2019,10, 3502-3513

A dinuclear ruthenium(II) phototherapeutic that targets duplex and quadruplex DNA

S. A. Archer, A. Raza, F. Dröge, C. Robertson, A. J. Auty, D. Chekulaev, J. A. Weinstein, T. Keane, A. J. H. M. Meijer, J. W. Haycock, S. MacNeil and J. A. Thomas, Chem. Sci., 2019, 10, 3502 DOI: 10.1039/C8SC05084H

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. You can use material from this article in other publications without requesting further permissions from the RSC, provided that the correct acknowledgement is given.

Read more about how to correctly acknowledge RSC content.

Social activity