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Cell-Selective Cytotoxicity of a Fluorescent Rhodium Metalloinsertor Conjugate Results from Irreversible DNA Damage at Base Pair Mismatches

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journal contribution
posted on 30.01.2020, 17:14 by Adela Nano, Julie M. Bailis, Natalie F. Mariano, Elizabeth D. Pham, Stephanie D. Threatt, Jacqueline K. Barton
Up to 20% of solid tumors are characterized by DNA mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency and microsatellite instability that confer resistance to standard of care chemotherapy. MMR-deficient cancers have an increased mutation rate, and DNA mismatches accumulate as part of these cancers. We previously described a class of compounds, rhodium metalloinsertors, that bind DNA mismatches with high specificity and selectivity and have potential as targeted therapy. [Rh­(chrysi)­(phen)­(PPO)]2+ (RhPPO) is the most potent, selective compound in this class and acts by targeting DNA mismatches, resulting in preferential cytotoxicity to MMR-deficient cancers. To explore further the cellular mechanism of action of RhPPO, we conjugated the metal complex to a fluorescent probe, cyanine 3 (Cy3). RhPPO-Cy3 binds DNA mismatches and retains the selectivity and potent cytotoxic activity of RhPPO for MMR-deficient cell lines. RhPPO-Cy3 forms discrete foci in the cell nucleus that overlap with sites of DNA damage, suggesting that the lesions occur at or near DNA mismatch sites. RhPPO-Cy3 foci persist over time, despite initial processing of the lesion and recruitment of repair proteins, consistent with the idea that the complex binding to a mismatch prevents repair. RhPPO-Cy3 binding does not lead to activation of p53 and the apoptotic pathway. Together, these findings support the idea that RhPPO-Cy3 binding leads to irreversible DNA damage at DNA mismatches that enables selective cytotoxicity to MMR-deficient cells.