Stable anticancer gold(III)-porphyrin complexes: Effects of porphyrin structure

Raymond Wai Yin Sun, Carrie Ka Lei Li, Edmond Dik Lung Ma, Jessie Jing Yan, Chun Nam Lok, Chung Hang Leung, Nianyong Zhu, Chi Ming Che*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


In the design of physiologically stable anticancer gold(III) complexes, we have employed strongly chelating porphyrinato ligands to stabilize a gold(III) ion [Chem. Commun. 2003, 1718; Coord. Chem. Rev. 2009, 253, 1682]. In this work, a family of gold(III) tetraarylporphyrins with porphyrinato ligands containing different peripheral substituents on the meso-aryl rings were prepared, and these complexes were used to study the structure-bioactivity relationship. The cytotoxic IC50 values of [Au(Por)]+ (Por = porphyrinato ligand), which range from 0.033 to > 100 μM, correlate with their lipophilicity and cellular uptake. Some of them induce apoptosis and display preferential cytotoxicity toward cancer cells than to normal noncancerous cells. A new gold(III)-porphyrin with saccharide conjugation [Au(4-glucosylTPP)]Cl (2a; H2(4-glucosyl-TPP) = weso-tetrakis(4-β-D-glucosylphenyl) porphyrin) exhibits significant cytostatic activity to cancer cells (IC 50= 1.29.0 μM) without causing cell death and is much less toxic to lung fibroblast cells (IC50 > 100 μM). The gold(III)-porphyrin complexes induce S-phase cellcycle arrest of cancer cells as indicated by flow cytometric analysis, suggesting that the anticancer activity may be, in part, due to termination of DNA replication. The gold(III)-porphyrin complexes can bind to DNA in vitro with binding constants in the range of 4.9 x 105 to 4.1 x 106 dm3mol-1as determined by absorption titration. Complexes 2a and [Au(TMPyP)]Cl5 (4a; [H2TMPyP]4+ =meso-tetrakis(N-methylpyridinium-4-yl) porphyrin) interact with DNA in a manner similar to the DNA intercalator ethidium bromide as revealed by gel mobility shift assays and viscosity measurements. Both of them also inhibited the topoisomerase I induced relaxation of supercoiled DNA. Complex 4a, a gold(III) derivative of the known G-quadruplex-interactive porphyrin [H2TMPyP]4+, can similarly inhibit the amplification of a DNA substrate containing G-quadruplex structures in a polymerase chain reaction stop assay. In contrast to these reported complexes, complex 2 a and the parental gold(III)-porphyrin la do not display a significant inhibitory effect (<10%) on telomerase. Based on the results of protein expression analysis and computational docking experiments, the anti-apoptotic bcl-2 protein is a potential target for those gold(III)-porphyrin complexes with apoptosis-inducing properties. Complex 2a also displays prominent anti-angiogenic properties in vitro. Taken together, the enhanced stabilization of the gold(III) ion and the ease of structural modification render porphyrins an attractive ligand system in the development of physiologically stable gold(III) complexes with anticancer and anti-angiogenic activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3097-3113
Number of pages17
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Antitumor agents
  • Bioinorganic chemistry
  • DNA
  • G quadruplexes
  • Porphyrinoids


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