Competition between glutathione and DNA oligonucleotides for ruthenium(II) arene anticancer complexes

Fuyi Wang, Jingjing Xu, Kui Wu, Stefan K. Weidt, C. Logan Mackay, Pat R. R. Langridge-Smith, Peter J. Sadler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The organometallic anticancer complex [η6-bip)Ru(en)Cl]+ (1; bip = biphenyl, en = ethylenediamine) selectively binds to N7 of guanine bases of oligonucleotides and native DNA. However, under physiologically relevant conditions (micromolar Ru concentrations, pH 7, 22 mM NaCl, 310 K), the tripeptide glutathione (γ-L-Glu-L-Cys-Gly; GSH) is kinetically competitive with guanine (as guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate, cGMP) for coordination with complex 1, and gives rise to a ruthenium thiolato adduct. This thiolato adduct can subsequently undergo oxidation to a sulfenate intermediate, providing a facile route for the formation of a final cGMP adduct via the displacement of S-bound glutathione by G N7 (F. Y. Wang, J. J. Xu, A. Habtemariam, J. Bella and P. J. Sadler, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2005, 127, 17734). In this work, the competition between GSH and the single-stranded 14-mer oligonucleotide 5'-TATGTACCATGTAT-3' (I) and duplex III (III = I + II, II = 5'-ATACATGGTACATA) for complex 1 and its analogue [η6-tha)Ru(en)Cl]+ (2, tha = tetrahydroanthracene) under physiologically relevant conditions was investigated using conventional ESI-MS and high resolution ESI-FTICR-MS coupled to conventional HPLC and nanoscale HPLC, respectively. The results indicate that whether there was high excess of GSH or not in the reaction mixtures, the reaction of complex 1 or 2 with single-stranded oligonucleotide I always gave rise to mono-ruthenated oligonucleotide, and the reaction of complex 1 or 2 with duplex III gave rise to the mono-ruthenated duplex oligonucleotide. Furthermore, the ruthenation of duplex III by complex 1 showed no significant discrimination between the complementary strands I and II, but complex 2 appeared to bind preferentially to strand II compared to strand I as revealed by the high resolution FTICR-MS analysis. GSH is highly abundant in cells at millimolar concentrations and is well known to be involved in the deactivation of the clinical drug cisplatin and in platinum resistance. Our findings reveal a potentially contrasting role for GSH in the mechanism of action of these ruthenium anticancer complexes that may contribute to the lack of cross-resistance with platinum drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3188-3195
Number of pages8
JournalDalton Transactions
Issue number9
Early online date18 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013


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