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Biological effects of simple changes in functionality on rhodium metalloinsertors

Royal Society of London
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Medicine


DNA mismatch repair (MMR) is crucial to ensuring the fidelity of the genome. The inability to correct single base mismatches leads to elevated mutation rates and carcinogenesis. Using metalloinsertors–bulky metal complexes that bind with high specificity to mismatched sites in the DNA duplex–our laboratory has adopted a new chemotherapeutic strategy through the selective targeting of MMR-deficient cells, that is, those that have a propensity for cancerous transformation. Rhodium metalloinsertors display inhibitory effects selectively in cells that are deficient in the MMR machinery, consistent with this strategy. However, a highly sensitive structure–function relationship is emerging with the development of new complexes that highlights the importance of subcellular localization. We have found that small structural modifications, for example a hydroxyl versus a methyl functional group, can yield profound differences in biological function. Despite similar binding affinities and selectivities for DNA mismatches, only one metalloinsertor shows selective inhibition of cellular proliferation in MMR-deficient versus -proficient cells. Studies of whole-cell, nuclear and mitochondrial uptake reveal that this selectivity depends upon targeting DNA mismatches in the cell nucleus.

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