Iron(II) complexes Fe(L)(2)](2+) as perchlorate (1-3) and chloride (1a-3a) salts, where L is 4'-phenyl-2,2':6',2 `'-terpyridine (phtpy in 1, 1a), 4'-(9-anthracenyl)-2,2':6',2 `'-terpyridine (antpy in 2, 2a) and 4'-(1-pyrenyl)-2,2':6',2 `'-terpyridine (pytpy in 3, 3a), were prepared and their photocytotoxicity studied. The diamagnetic complexes 1-3 having an FeN6 core showed an Fe(III)-Fe(II) redox couple near 1.0 V vs. saturated calomel electrode in MeCN-0.1 M tetrabutylammonium perchlorate. Complexes 2 and 3, in addition, displayed a quasi-reversible ligand-based redox process near 0.0 V. The redox and spectral properties are rationalized from the theoretical studies. The complexes bind to DNA in a partial intercalative mode. The pytpy complex efficiently photo-cleaves DNA in green light via superoxide and hydroxyl radical formation. The antpy and pytpy complexes exhibited a remarkable photocytotoxic effect in HeLa cancer cells (IC50, similar to 9 mu M) in visible light (400-700 nm), while remaining essentially nontoxic in dark (IC50, similar to 90 mu M). Formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside the HeLa cells was evidenced from the fluorescence enhancement of dichlorofluorescein upon treatment with the pytpy complex followed by photo-exposure. The antpy and pytpy complexes were used for cellular imaging. Confocal imaging and dual staining study using propidium iodide (PI) showed nuclear localization of the complexes. (c) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.