Osmium–arene complexes with high potency towards Mycobacterium tuberculosis

James P C Coverdale, Collette S Guy, Hannah E Bridgewater, Russell J Needham, Elizabeth Fullam, Peter J Sadler

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The treatment of tuberculosis (TB) poses a major challenge as frontline therapeutic agents become increasingly ineffective with the emergence and spread of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). To combat this global health problem, new antitubercular agents with novel modes of action are needed. We have screened a close family of 17 organometallic half-sandwich Os(II) complexes [(arene)Os(phenyl-azo/imino-pyridine)(Cl/I)]+Y– containing various arenes (p-cymene, biphenyl, or terphenyl), and NMe2, F, Cl, or Br phenyl or pyridyl substituents, for activity towards Mtb in comparison with normal human lung cells (MRC5). In general, complexes with a monodentate iodido ligand were more potent than chlorido complexes, and the five most potent iodido complexes (MIC 1.25–2.5 µM) have an electron-donating Me2N or OH substituent on the phenyl ring. As expected, the counter anion Y (PF6–, Cl–, I–) had little effect on the activity. The pattern of potency of the complexes towards Mtb is similar to that towards human cells, perhaps because in both cases intracellular thiols are likely to be involved in their activation and their redox mechanism of action. The most active complex against Mtb is the p-cymene Os(II) NMe2-phenyl-azopyridine iodido complex (2), a relatively inert complex that also exhibits potent activity towards cancer cells. The uptake of Os from complex 2 by Mtb is rapid and peaks after 6 h, with temperature-dependence studies suggesting a major role for active transport.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermfab007
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021


  • azopyridine
  • iminopyridine
  • mycobacteria
  • osmium
  • tuberculosis


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