Anticancer activity of silver-N-heterocyclic carbene complexes: caspase-independent induction of apoptosis via mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF).

Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, UPR CNRS 2301, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
ChemMedChem (Impact Factor: 2.84). 03/2012; 7(5):805-14. DOI: 10.1002/cmdc.201200055
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Fourteen silver(I) complexes bearing N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) ligands were prepared and evaluated for anticancer activity. Some of these were found to exhibit potent antiproliferative activity toward several types of human cancer cell lines, including drug-resistant cell lines, with IC(50) values in the nanomolar range. An initial investigation into the mechanism of cell death induced by this family of silver(I) complexes was carried out. Cell death was shown to result from the activation of apoptosis without involvement of primary necrosis. In HL60 cells, silver-NHCs induce depolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ(m)) and likely allow the release of mitochondrial proteins to elicit early apoptosis. This effect is not related to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In addition, apoptosis is not associated with the activation of caspase-3, but is triggered by the translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) and caspase-12 from mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, respectively, into the nucleus to promote DNA fragmentation and ultimately cell death. No modification in cell-cycle distribution was observed, indicating that silver-NHCs are not genotoxic. Finally, the use of a fluorescent complex showed that silver-NHCs target mitochondria. Altogether, these results demonstrate that silver-NHCs induce cancer cell death independent of the caspase cascade via the mitochondrial AIF pathway.