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Bis[Pyrrolyl Ru(II)] Triads: a New Class of Photosensitizers for Metal-Organic Photodynamic Therapy

submitted on 18.08.2020, 18:58 and posted on 25.08.2020, 18:50 by Deborah A. Smithen, Susan Monro, Mitch Pinto, John A. Roque III, Roberto M. Diaz-Rodriguez, Huimin Yin, Colin G. Cameron, Alison Thompson, Sherri A. McFarland
A new family of ten dinuclear Ru(II) complexes based on the bis[pyrrolyl Ru(II)] triad scaffold, where two Ru(bpy)2 centers are separated by a variety of organic linkers, was prepared to evaluate the influence of the organic chromophore on the spectroscopic and in vitro photodynamic therapy (PDT) properties of the compounds. The bis[pyrrolyl Ru(II)] triads absorbed strongly throughout the visible region, with several members having molar extinction coefficients (e) ≥104 at 600–620 nm and longer. Phosphorescence quantum yields were generally less than 0.1% and in some cases undetectable. The singlet oxygen quantum yields ranged from 5% to 77% and generally correlated with their photocytotoxicities toward human leukemia (HL-60) cells regardless of the wavelength of light used. Dark cytotoxicities varied ten-fold, with EC50 values in the range of 10–100 µM and phototherapeutic indices (PIs) as large as 5,400 and 260 with broadband visible (28 J cm-2, 7.8 mW cm-2) and 625-nm red (100 J cm-2, 42 mW cm-2) light, respectively. The bis[pyrrolyl Ru(II)] triad with a pyrenyl linker (5h) was especially potent, with an EC50 value of 1 nM and PI >27,000 with visible light and subnanomolar activity with 625-nm light (100 J cm-2, 28 mW cm-2). The lead compound 5h was also tested in a tumor spheroid assay using the HL60 cell line and exhibited greater photocytotoxcicity in this more resistant model (EC50=60 nM and PI>1,200 with 625-nm light) despite a lower dark cytotoxicity. The in vitro PDT effects of 5h extended to bacteria, where submicromolar EC50 values and PIs >300 against S. mutans and S. aureus were obtained with visible light. This activity was attenuated with 625-nm red light, but PIs were still near 50. The ligand-localized 3ππ* state contributed by the pyrenyl linker of 5h likely plays a key role in its phototoxic effects toward cancer cells and bacteria.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

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Immunomodulating Ruthenium Metal Complexes for Melanoma PhotodynamicTherapy

National Cancer Institute

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Email Address of Submitting Author


University of Texas at Arlington



ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

S.A.M. has a potential research conflict of interest due to a financial interest with Theralase Technologies, Inc. and PhotoDynamic, Inc. A management plan has been created to preserve objectivity in research in accordance with UTA policy.

Version Notes

200724 version (submission)