JBIC Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 1177–1185 | Cite as

Ru binding to RNA following treatment with the antimetastatic prodrug NAMI-A in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and in vitro

Original Paper


[ImH][trans-RuIIICl4(DMSO)(Im)] (where DMSO is dimethyl sulfoxide and Im is imidazole) (NAMI-A) is an antimetastatic prodrug currently in phase II clinical trials. The mechanisms of action of this and related Ru-based anticancer agents are not well understood, but several cellular targets have been suggested. Although Ru has been observed to bind to DNA following in vitro NAMI-A exposure, little is known about Ru–DNA interactions in vivo and even less is known about how this or related metallodrugs might influence cellular RNA. In this study, Ru accumulation in cellular RNA was measured following treatment of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with NAMI-A. Drug-dependent growth and cell viability indicate relatively high tolerance, with approximately 40% cell death occurring at 6 h for 450 μM NAMI-A. Significant dose-dependent accumulation of Ru in cellular RNA was observed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry measurements on RNA extracted from yeast treated with NAMI-A. In vitro, binding of Ru species to drug-treated model DNA and RNA oligonucleotides at pH 6.0 and 7.4 was characterized by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry in the presence and absence of the reductant ascorbate. The extent of Ru–nucleotide interactions increases slightly with lower pH and significantly in the presence of ascorbate, with differences in observed species distribution. Taken together, these studies demonstrate the accumulation of aquated and reduced derivatives of NAMI-A on RNA in vitro and in cellulo, and enhanced binding with nucleic acid targets in a tumorlike acidic, reducing environment. To our knowledge, this is also the first study to characterize NAMI-A treatment of S. cerevisiae, a genetically tractable model organism.


NAMI-A RNA DNA Anticancer drug Ruthenium 



Colony-forming units


Dimethy sulfoxide


Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry




Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization


Optical density at 600 nm










Yeast extract–peptone–glucose



We thank Andy Ungerer for assistance with the ICP-MS experiments, the W. M. Keck Collaboratory for Plasma Spectrometry at Oregon State University, J. David Sumega for synthesizing and characterizing NAMI-A, and Laurie Graham for assistance with protocols and imaging. The Stevens laboratory at the University of Oregon is gratefully acknowledged for the use of a Carl Zeiss Axioplan 2 fluorescence microscope and for a gift of the BY4741 strain. This work was supported by a Willamette University Atkinson Grant (K.L.M.H.), the NIH (GM058096, V.J.D.), and the University of Oregon (V.J.D.).

Supplementary material

775_2011_806_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (510 kb)
Supplementary figures (PDF 509 kb)


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Copyright information

© SBIC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryWillamette UniversitySalemUSA

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