Polypyridyl-Based Copper Phenanthrene Complexes: A New Type of Stabilized Artificial Chemical Nuclease

Nicoló Zuin Fantoni, Zara Molphy, Creina Slator, Georgia Menounou, Gianluca Toniolo, George Mitrikas, Vickie McKee, Chryssostomos Chatgilialoglu, Andrew Kellett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The building of robust and versatile inorganic scaffolds with artificial metallo-nuclease (AMN) activity is an important goal for bioinorganic, biotechnology, and metallodrug research fields. Here, a new type of AMN combining a tris-(2-pyridylmethyl)amine (TPMA) scaffold with the copper(II) N,N′-phenanthrene chemical nuclease core is reported. In designing these complexes, the stabilization and flexibility of TPMA together with the prominent chemical nuclease activity of copper 1,10-phenanthroline (Phen) were targeted. A second aspect was the opportunity to introduce designer phenazine DNA intercalators (e.g., dipyridophenazine; DPPZ) for improved DNA recognition. Five compounds of formula [Cu(TPMA)(N,N′)]2+ (where N,N′ is 2,2-bipyridine (Bipy), Phen, 1,10-phenanthroline-5,6-dione (PD), dipyridoquinoxaline (DPQ), or dipyridophenazine (DPPZ)) were developed and characterized by X-ray crystallography. Solution stabilities were studied by continuous-wave EPR (cw-EPR), hyperfine sublevel correlation (HYSCORE), and Davies electron–nuclear double resonance (ENDOR) spectroscopies, which demonstrated preferred geometries in which phenanthrene ligands were coordinated to the copper(II) TPMA core. Complexes with Phen, DPQ, and DPPZ ligands possessed enhanced DNA binding activity, with DPQ and DPPZ compounds showing excellent intercalative effects. These complexes are effective AMNs and analysis with spin-trapping scavengers of reactive oxygen species and DNA repair enzymes with glycosylase/endonuclease activity demonstrated a distinctive DNA oxidation activity compared to classical Sigman- and Fenton-type reagents.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChemistry: A European Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)221-237
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • chemical nuclease
  • copper
  • DNA damage
  • DNA repair
  • phenazine


Dive into the research topics of 'Polypyridyl-Based Copper Phenanthrene Complexes: A New Type of Stabilized Artificial Chemical Nuclease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this