Highly Charged, Cytotoxic, Cyclometalated Iridium(III) Complexes as Cancer Stem Cell Mitochondriotropics

Kristine Laws, Arvin Eskandari, Chunxin Lu, Kogularamanan Suntharalingam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The cancer stem cell (CSC) toxicity and mechanism of action of a series of iridium(III) complexes bearing polypridyl and charged 1-methyl-2-(2-pyridyl)pyridinium ligands, 1–4 is reported. The most effective complex (containing 1,10-phenanthroline), 3, kills CSCs and bulk cancer cells with equal potency (in the micromolar range), indicating that it could potentially remove heterogenous tumour populations with a single dose. Encouragingly, 3 also inhibits mammopshere formation to a similar extent as salinomycin, a well-established anti-CSC agent. This complex induces CSC apoptosis by mitochondrial membrane depolarization, inhibition of mitochondrial metabolism, and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the anti-CSC properties of iridium complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15205-15210
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number57
Early online date27 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018


  • bioinorganic chemistry
  • cancer
  • cyclometallation
  • iridium
  • mitochondria


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