Anticancer Cyclometalated Iridium(III) Complexes with Planar Ligands: Mitochondrial DNA Damage and Metabolism Disturbance

Jian Jun Cao, Yue Zheng, Xiao Wen Wu, Cai Ping Tan, Mu He Chen, Na Wu, Liang Nian Ji, Zong Wan Mao

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97 Citations (Scopus)


Emerging studies have shown that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a potential target for cancer therapy. Herein, six cyclometalated Ir(III) complexes Ir1-Ir6 containing a series of extended planar diimine ligands have been designed and assessed for their efficacy as anticancer agents. Ir1-Ir6 show much higher cytotoxicity than cisplatin and they can effectively localize to mitochondria. Among them, complexes Ir3 and Ir4 with dipyrido[3,2-a:2′,3′-c]phenazine (dppz) ligands can bind to DNA tightly in vitro, intercalate to mtDNA in situ, and induce mtDNA damage. Ir3- and Ir4-impaired mitochondria exhibit decline of mitochondrial membrane potential, disability of adenosine triphosphate generation, disruption of mitochondrial energetic and metabolic status, which subsequently cause protective mitophagy, G0/G1 phase cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis. In vivo antitumor evaluations also show that Ir4 can inhibit tumor xenograft growth effectively. Overall, our work proves that targeting the mitochondrial genome may present an effective strategy to develop metal-based anticancer agents to overcome cisplatin resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3311-3322
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

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