A rhodium(III)-based inhibitor of autotaxin with antiproliferative activity

Tian Shu Kang, Wanhe Wang, Hai Jing Zhong, Jia Xin Liang, Chung Nga Ko, Jin Jian Lu, Xiu Ping Chen, Dik Lung Ma*, Chung Hang Leung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. Autotaxin (ATX), also known as ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 2 (ENPP2), regulates physiological and pathological functions of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), and is thus an important therapeutic target.

Methods: We synthesized ten metal-based complexes and a novel cyclometalated rhodium(III) complex 1 was identified as an ATX enzymatic inhibitor using multiple methods, including ATX enzymatic assay, thermal shift assay, western immunoblotting and so on.

Results: Protein thermal shift assays showed that 1 increased the melting temperature (Tm) of ATX by 3.5 °C. 1 also reduced ATX-LPA mediated downstream survival signal pathway proteins such as ERK and AKT, and inhibited the activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). 1 also exhibited strong anti-proliferative activity against A2058 melanoma cells (IC50 = 0.58 μM). Structure-activity relationship indicated that both the rhodium(III) center and the auxiliary ligands of complex 1 are important for bioactivity.

Conclusions: 1 represents a promising scaffold for the development of small-molecule ATX inhibitors for anti-tumor applications. To our knowledge, complex 1 is the first metal-based ATX inhibitor reported to date.

General significance: Rhodium complexes will have the increased attention in therapeutic and bioanalytical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-263
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anticancer
  • Autotaxin
  • Inhibitor
  • Melanoma
  • Rhodium complex


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