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α-Diimines as Versatile, Derivatizable Ligands in Ruthenium(II) p -Cymene Anticancer Complexes

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Biancalana Lorenzo, Batchelor Lucinda K., Funaioli Tiziana, Zacchini Stefano, Bortoluzzi Marco, Pampaloni Guido, Dyson Paul J., Marchetti Fabio,
Project Modulation of the site specificity of binding of metal-based drugs to chromatin
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Inorganic Chemistry
Volume (Issue) 57(11)
Page(s) 6669 - 6685
Title of proceedings Inorganic Chemistry
DOI 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.8b00882


: α-Diimines are among the most robust and versatile ligands available in synthetic coordination chemistry, possessing finely tunable steric and electronic properties. A series of novel cationic ruthenium(II) p-cymene complexes bearing simple α-diimine ligands, [(η6-p-cymene)RuCl{κ2N-(HCNR)2}]NO3 (R = Cy, [1]NO3; R = 4-C6H10OH, [2]NO3; R = 4- C6H4OH, [3]NO3), were prepared in near-quantitative yields as their nitrate salts. [2]NO3 displays high water solubility. The potential of the α-diimine ligand in [3]NO3 as a carrier of bioactive molecules was investigated via esterification reactions with the hydroxyl groups. Thus, the double-functionalized derivatives [(η6-p-cymene)RuCl{κ2N-(HCN(4-C6H4OCO-R))2}]NO3 (R = aspirinate, [5]NO3; valproate, [6]NO3) and also [4]Cl (R = Me) were obtained in good-to-high yields. UV−vis and multinuclear NMR spectroscopy and cyclic voltammetric studies in aqueous solution revealed only minor ruthenium chloride hydrolytic cleavage, biologically accessible reduction potentials, and pH-dependent behavior of [3]NO3. Density functional theory analysis was performed in order to compare the Ru−Cl bond strength in [1]+ with the analogous ethylenediamine complex, showing that the higher stability observed in the former is related to the electron-withdrawing properties of the α- diimine ligand. In vitro cytotoxicity studies were performed against tumorigenic (A2780 and A2780cisR) and nontumorigenic (HEK-293) cell lines, with the complexes bearing simple α-diimine ligands ranging from inactive to IC50 values in the low micromolar range. The complexes functionalized with bioactive components, i.e., [5]NO3 and [6]NO3, exhibited a marked increase in the cytotoxicity with respect to the precursor [3]NO3.