Cyclometalated Ruthenium(II) Complexes Derived from α-Oligothiophenes as Highly Selective Cytotoxic or Photocytotoxic Agents

Inorg Chem. 2018 Jul 2;57(13):7694-7712. doi: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.8b00689. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


The photophysical and photobiological properties of a new class of cyclometalated ruthenium(II) compounds incorporating π-extended benzo[ h]imidazo[4,5- f]quinoline (IBQ) cyclometalating ligands (C^N) bearing thienyl rings ( n = 1-4, compounds 1-4) were investigated. Their octanol-water partition coefficients (log Po/w) were positive and increased with n. Their absorption and emission energies were red-shifted substantially compared to the analogous Ru(II) diimine (N^N) complexes. They displayed C^N-based intraligand (IL) fluorescence and triplet excited-state absorption that shifted to longer wavelengths with increasing n and N^N-based metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) phosphorescence that was independent of n. Their photoluminescence lifetimes (τem) ranged from 4-10 ns for 1IL states and 12-18 ns for 3MLCT states. Transient absorption lifetimes (τTA) were 5-8 μs with 355 nm excitation, ascribed to 3IL states that became inaccessible for 1-3 with 532 nm excitation (1-3, τTA = 16-17 ns); the 3IL of 4 only was accessible by lower energy excitation, τTA = 3.8 μs. Complex 4 was nontoxic (EC50 > 300 μM) to SK-MEL-28 melanoma cells and CCD1064-Sk normal skin fibroblasts in the dark, while 3 was selectively cytotoxic to melanoma (EC50= 5.1 μM) only. Compounds 1 and 2 were selective for melanoma cells in the dark, with submicromolar potencies (EC50 = 350-500 nM) and selectivity factors (SFs) around 50. The photocytotoxicities of compounds 1-4 toward melanoma cells were similar, but only compounds 3 and 4 displayed significant phototherapeutic indices (PIs; 3, 43; 4, >1100). The larger cytotoxicities for compounds 1 and 2 were attributed to increased cellular uptake and nuclear accumulation, and possibly related to the DNA-aggregating properties of all four compounds as demonstrated by cell-free gel mobility-shift assays. Together, these results demonstrate a new class of thiophene-containing Ru(II) cyclometalated compounds that contain both highly selective chemotherapeutic agents and extremely potent photocytotoxic agents.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry*
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / chemistry*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Ruthenium / chemistry*
  • Singlet Oxygen / metabolism
  • Thiophenes / chemistry*


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Thiophenes
  • Singlet Oxygen
  • Ruthenium