Towards identification of essential structural elements of organoruthenium(II)-pyrithionato complexes for anticancer activity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Jerneja Kladnik
  • Jakob Kljun
  • Hilke Burmeister
  • Ingo Ott
  • Iztok Turel

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Ljubljana
  • Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, Chair of Inorganic Chemistry, Aškerčeva 5, SI-1000, Ljubljana, SLOVENIA.


An organoruthenium(II) complex with pyrithione (2-mercaptopyridine N-oxide) 1 a has previously been identified by our group as a compound with promising anticancer potential without cytotoxicity towards non-cancerous cells. To expand the rather limited research on compounds of this type, an array of novel chlorido and 1,3,5-triaza-7-phosphaadamantane (pta) organoruthenium(II) complexes with methyl-substituted pyrithiones has been prepared. After thorough investigation of the aqueous stability of these complexes, their modes of action have been elucidated at the cellular level. Minor structural alterations in the ruthenium-pyrithionato compounds resulted in fine-tuning of their cytotoxicities. The best performing compounds, 1 b and 2 b, with a chlorido or pta ligand bound to ruthenium, respectively, and a methyl group at the 3-position of the pyrithione scaffold, have been further investigated. Both compounds trigger early apoptosis, induce the generation of reactive oxygen species and G1 arrest in A549 cancer cells, and show no strong interaction with DNA. However, only 1 b also inhibits thioredoxin reductase. Wound healing assays and mitochondrial function evaluation have revealed differences between these two compounds at the cellular level.

Bibliographic note

© 2019 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14169-14182
Number of pages14
JournalChemistry: A European Journal
Issue number62
Early online date28 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019


  • cancer, complex, pyrithione, ruthenium, thioredoxin reductase