Kevin M. Knopf, Brendan L. Murphy, Jeremy M. Baskin, Martin P. Barr, Samantha N. MacMillan, Justin J. Wilson, Eszter Boros
Seven rhenium(I) complexes of the general formula fac-[Re(CO)3(NN)(OH2)]+ where NN = 2,2′-bipyridine (8), 4,4′-dimethyl-2,2′-bipyridine (9), 4,4′-dimethoxy-2,2′-bipyridine (10), dimethyl 2,2′-bipyridine-4,4′-dicarboxylate (11), 1,10-phenanthroline (12), 2,9-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthroline (13), or 4,7-diphenyl-1,10-phenanthroline (14), were synthesized and characterized by 1H NMR spectroscopy, IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and X-ray crystallography. With the exception of 11, all complexes exhibited 50% growth inhibitory concentration (IC50) values that were less than 20 μM in HeLa cells, indicating that these compounds represent a new potential class of anticancer agents. Complexes 9, 10, and 13 were as effective in cisplatin-resistant cells as wild-type cells, signifying that they circumvent cisplatin resistance. The mechanism of action of the most potent complex, 13, was explored further by leveraging its intrinsic luminescence properties to determine its intracellular localization. These studies indicated that 13 induces cytoplasmic vacuolization that is lysosomal in nature. Additional in vitro assays indicated that 13 induces cell death without causing an increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species or depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential. Further studies revealed that the mode of cell death does not fall into one of the canonical categories such as apoptosis, necrosis, paraptosis, and autophagy, suggesting that a novel mode of action may be operative for this class of rhenium compounds. The in vivo biodistribution and metabolism of complex 13 and its 99mTc analogue 13* were also evaluated in naı̈ve mice. Complexes 13 and 13* exhibited comparable biodistribution profiles with both hepatic and renal excretion. High-performance liquid chromatography inductively coupled plasma mass-spectrometry (HPLC-ICP-MS) analysis of mouse blood plasma and urine postadministration showed considerable metabolic stability of 13, rendering this potent complex suitable for in vivo applications. These studies have shown the biological properties of this class of compounds and demonstrated their potential as promising theranostic anticancer agents that can circumvent cisplatin resistance.