Osmium-arene complexes with high potency towards Mycobacterium tuberculosis

James P C Coverdale, Collette S Guy, Hannah E Bridgewater, Russell J Needham, Elizabeth Fullam, Peter J Sadler

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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The treatment of tuberculosis (TB) poses a major challenge as frontline therapeutic agents become increasingly ineffective with the emergence and spread of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). To combat this global health problem, new antitubercular agents with novel modes of action are needed. We have screened a close family of 17 organometallic half-sandwich Os(II) complexes [(arene)Os(phenyl-azo/imino-pyridine)(Cl/I)]+Y- containing various arenes (p-cymene, biphenyl, or terphenyl), and NMe2, F, Cl, or Br phenyl or pyridyl substituents, for activity towards Mtb in comparison with normal human lung cells (MRC5). In general, complexes with a monodentate iodido ligand were more potent than chlorido complexes, and the five most potent iodido complexes (MIC 1.25-2.5 µM) have an electron-donating Me2N or OH substituent on the phenyl ring. As expected, the counter anion Y (PF6-, Cl-, I-) had little effect on the activity. The pattern of potency of the complexes towards Mtb is similar to that towards human cells, perhaps because in both cases intracellular thiols are likely to be involved in their activation and their redox mechanism of action. The most active complex against Mtb is the p-cymene Os(II) NMe2-phenyl-azopyridine iodido complex (2), a relatively inert complex that also exhibits potent activity towards cancer cells. The uptake of Os from complex 2 by Mtb is rapid and peaks after 6 h, with temperature-dependence studies suggesting a major role for active transport. Significance to Metallomics Antimicrobial resistance is a global health problem. New advances are urgently needed in the discovery of new antibiotics with novel mechanisms of action. Half-sandwich organometallic complexes offer a versatile platform for drug design. We show that with an appropriate choice of the arene, an N,N-chelated ligand, and monodentate ligand, half-sandwich organo-osmium(II) complexes can exhibit potent activity towards Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. The patterns of activity of the 17 azo- and imino-pyridine complexes studied here towards Mtb and normal lung cells suggest a common redox mechanism of action involving intracellular thiols.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermfab007
Number of pages8
JournalMetallomics : integrated biometal science
Issue number4
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • azopyridine
  • iminopyridine
  • mycobacteria
  • osmium
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Metals and Alloys


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