Half- Sandwich cyclopentadienylruthenium(II) Complexes: A New Antimalarial Chemotype

A small library of “half-sandwich” cyclopentadienylruthenium(II) compounds of general formula [(η5-C5R5)Ru(PPh3)(N-N)][PF6], a scaffold hitherto unfeatured in the toolbox of antiplasmodials, was screened for activity against the blood stage of CQ-sensitive 3D7-GFP, CQ-resistant Dd2 and artemisinin-resistant IPC5202 Plasmodium falciparum strains, and the liver stage of P. berghei. The best performing compounds displayed dual-stage activity, with single-digit nM IC50 values against blood stage malaria parasites, nM activity against liver stage parasites, and residual cytotoxicity against mammalian cells (HepG2, Huh7). Parasitic absorption/distribution of 7-nitrobenzoxadiazole-appended fluorescent compounds Ru4 and Ru5 was investigated by confocal fluorescence microscopy, revealing parasite-selective absorption in infected erythrocytes and nuclear accumulation of both compounds. The lead compound Ru2 impaired asexual parasite differentiation, exhibiting fast parasiticidal activity against both ring and trophozoite stages of a synchronized P. falciparum 3D7 strain. These results point to cyclopentadienylruthenium(II) complexes as a highly promising chemotype for the development of dual-stage antiplasmodials.