Insights into the Mechanisms of Aquaporin-3 Inhibition by Gold(III) Complexes: The Importance of Non-Coordinative Adduct Formation

Margot N. Wenzel, Andreia F. Mósca, Valentina Graziani, Brech Aikman, Sophie R. Thomas, Andreia De Almeida, James A. Platts, Nazzareno Re, Cecilia Coletti, Alessandro Marrone, Graça Soveral, Angela Casini

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33 Scopus citations


Following our recent reports on the inhibition of the water and glycerol channel aquaglyceroporin-3 (AQP3) by the coordination complex [AuIII(1,10-phenanthroline)Cl2] (Auphen), a series of six new Au(III) complexes featuring substituted 1,10-phenanthroline ligands (1-6) have been synthesized and characterized. The speciation of the compounds studied in buffered solution by UV-visible spectrophotometry showed that most of the complexes remain stable for several hours. Quantum mechanics (QM) studies of the hydrolysis processes of the compounds suggest that they are thermodynamically less prone to exchange the chlorido ligands with H2O or OH- in comparison to Au(III) bipyridyl complexes. Preliminary data on the antiproliferative activity against A549 human lung cancer cells indicate that the compounds are able to inhibit cell proliferation in vitro. Stopped-flow spectroscopy showed that these complexes potently inhibit glycerol permeation in human red blood cells (hRBC) through AQP3 blockage. The QM investigation of the ligand exchange with methanethiol, used as a model of Cys40 of AQP3, was carried out for some derivatives and showed that the affinity of the compounds' binding for thiols is higher in comparison to the Aubipy complex ([AuIII(bipy)Cl2]PF6, bipy = 2,2′-bipyridine). In addition, both noncovalent and coordinative binding of complex 3 ([AuIII(5-chloro-1,10-phenanthroline)Cl2]PF6) to the protein channel has been investigated in comparison to the benchmark Auphen and Aubipy using a computational workflow, including QM, molecular dynamics (MD), and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) approaches. Finally, atoms in molecules (AIM) and natural bond orbital (NBO) analyses corroborate the MD predictions, providing quantification of the noncoordinative interactions between the compounds and AQP3. AQP3 inhibition is the result of protein conformational changes, upon coordinative gold binding, which induce pore closure. The importance of noncoordinative adducts in modulating the AQP3 inhibition properties of the investigated Au(III) compounds has been elucidated, and these interactions should be further considered in the future design of isoform-selective AQP inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2140-2148
Number of pages9
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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