Background: Several metal-based molecules that display cytotoxicity against multiple cell lines have
been pursued in an attempt to fight against cancer and to overcome the typical side effects of drugs like cisplatin.
In this scenario, ruthenium complexes have been extensively studied due to their activity in both in vitro and in
vivo biological systems, including various cancer cell strains.
Objective: We aimed to develop a method to synthesize novel [Ru(NO)(bpy)2L2]2+ complexes containing amino
acid ligands by using an alternative Click Chemistry approach, namely the copper azide-alkyne cycloaddition
reaction (CuAAC reaction), to construct nitrosyl/nitrite complexes bearing a modified lysine residue.
Methods: We synthesized a new ligand by Click Chemistry approach and new compounds bearing the
unprecedented ligand. Cytotoxicity was assessed by the classical MTT colorimetric assay. MCF-7 and MDAMB-
231 cells were used as breast cancer cell models. MCF-10 was used as a model of healthy cells.
Results: Amino acid ligands related to N3-Lys(Fmoc) and the new pyLys were successfully synthesized by the
diazotransfer reaction and the CuAAC reaction, respectively. The latter reaction involves coupling between
N3-Lys(Fmoc) and 3ethynylpyridine. Both N3-Lys(Fmoc) and the new pyLys were introduced into the ruthenium
bipyridine complex I, or cis-[RuII(NO)(NO2)(bpy)2]2+, to generate the common nitro-based complex III, which
was further converted to the final complex IV. Results of the MTT assay proved the cytotoxic effect of cis-
[RuII(NO)(pyLysO-)(bpy)2](PF6)2 against the mammalian breast cancer cells MCF-7 and MDA-MB231.
Conclusion: The viability assays revealed that complex IV, bearing a NO group and a modified lysine residue,
was able to release NO and cross tumor cell membranes. In this work, Complex IV was observed to be the most
active ruthenium bipyridine complex against the mammalian breast cancer cells MCF-7 and MDA-MB231: it
was approximately twice as active as cisplatin, whilst complexes I–III proved to be less cytotoxic than complex
IV. Additional tests using healthy MCF 10A cells showed that complexes II–IV were three- to sixfold less toxic
than cisplatin, which suggested that complex IV was selective against cancer cells.