Ferritin nanocages loaded with gold ions induce oxidative stress and apoptosis in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells

Dalton Trans. 2017 Nov 14;46(44):15354-15362. doi: 10.1039/c7dt02370g.


Two anticancer gold(iii) compounds, Au2phen and Auoxo4, were encapsulated within a ferritin nanocage. The gold-compound loaded proteins were characterized by UV-Vis spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and circular dichroism. X-ray crystallography shows that the compounds degrade upon encapsulation and gold(i) ions bind Ft within the cage, close to the side chains of Cys126. The gold-encapsulated nanocarriers are cytotoxic to human cancer cells. Au(i)-loaded Ft, obtained upon the encapsulation of Au2phen within the cage, induces oxidative stress activation, which finally leads to apoptosis in MCF-7 cells.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Binding Sites
  • Coordination Complexes / chemical synthesis
  • Coordination Complexes / chemistry
  • Coordination Complexes / metabolism
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Ferritins / chemistry*
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Ions / chemistry
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nanostructures / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Spectrophotometry


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Coordination Complexes
  • Ions
  • Gold
  • Ferritins