Ditopic binuclear copper(II) complexes for DNA cleavage

Israel Carreira-Barral (Corresponding author), Miguel Riopedre-Fernández, Andrés de Blas, Jesús Mosquera, M. Eugenio Vázquez, Carlos Platas-Iglesias, David Esteban-Gómez (Corresponding author)

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Herein we present the synthesis of two ligands containing two di(2-picolyl)amine (DPA) units linked by either a 1,1′-(pyridine-2,6-diyl)bis(3-ethylurea) (L1) or a 1,1′-(1,3-phenylene)bis(3-ethylurea) (L2) spacer. The corresponding binuclear CuII and ZnII complexes were prepared and isolated. The X-ray structures of the L1 ligand and the [Cu2L1Cl2]2+ complex evidence an unusual cis/trans conformation of one of the urea groups stabilized by an intramolecular hydrogen bond with the nitrogen atom of the pyridyl spacer. The CuII complexes form rather strong ternary complexes with phosphorylated anions. The [Cu2L1]4+ complex presents a rather high affinity for pyrophosphate (logK11 = 8.19 at pH 7, 25 °C), while [Cu2L2]4+ stands out because of its strong binding to AMP2− (logK11 = 9.3 at pH 7, 25 °C). The interaction of the CuII complexes with deoxyribonucleic acid from calf thymus (ct-DNA) was monitored using circular dichroism (CD) and luminescence spectroscopies. These studies revealed a quite strong interaction of the complexes with ct-DNA (Kb = (6.4 ± 0.7) × 103 for [Cu2L1]4+ and Kb = (6.3 ± 1.0) × 103 for [Cu2L2]4+). Competition experiments carried out in the presence of methyl green and BAPPA (N1,N3-Bis(4-amidinophenyl)propane-1,3-diamine) as major and minor groove competitors, respectively, confirm that the interaction of both complexes with DNA takes place through the minor groove, in agreement with docking studies. The [Cu2L2]4+ complex is quite efficient in promoting the cleavage of the double-stranded pUC19 plasmid DNA, by favoring the conversion of the supercoiled form to the nicked form following a hydrolytic mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110995
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Inorganic Biochemistry
Issue numberApril 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Anion recognition
  • Binuclear copper complexes
  • DFT calculations
  • Ditopic receptors
  • DNA cleavage


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