, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 575–587 | Cite as

Synthesis, X-ray crystal structure, DNA/BSA binding, DNA cleavage and cytotoxicity studies of phenanthroline based copper(II)/zinc(II) complexes

  • Qingming WangEmail author
  • Han Mao
  • Wenling Wang
  • Huimin Zhu
  • Lihui Dai
  • Yanli Chen
  • Xinhui TangEmail author


Research on copperII 1,10-phenanththroline (phen) derivatives continues to attract interest in the context of structure and biological properties. In this paper, two metal complexes [Cu2(phen)2(μ-Cl)2]Cl2 (1), [Zn(phen)2(H2O)Cl]Cl·4H2O (2) were synthesized and characterized. The crystal structures of 1 and 2 were determined by X-ray diffraction. In order to investigate the biological properties of the prepared complexes, spectroscopic and biological studies were performed. Results of X-ray diffraction showed that 1 and 2 form two types of crystal structures in a given system: dinuclear and mono-nuclear complex. The preliminary study on the DNA cleavage activity has shown that 1 under study behaved as the chemical nucleases. The DNA binding interaction of 1 & 2 with CT-DNA has been investigated by UV–Visible and fluorescence emission spectrometry and the apparent binding constant (K app) values are 5.1 × 104 and 1.2 × 104 M−1, respectively. In addition, fluorescence spectrometry of bovine serum albumin (BSA) with 1 & 2 showed that the quenching mechanism might be a static quenching procedure with one binding sites for BSA. In addition, the cytotoxicity of 1 in vitro on tumor cells lines (MCF-7, HepG2 and HT29) was examined by MTT and showed better antitumor effect on the tested cells.


Potential anticancer agents DNA binding Bull serum albumin (BSA) binding DNA cleavage Binding modes Metals complexes 



Deoxyribonucleic acid


Bovine serum albumin




Ethidium bromide


3-(4,5-dimethyl-2-thiazolyl)-2,5-diphenyl-2-H-tetrazolium bromide







This work were financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation for Young Scientists of China (21301150, 21571154), the Post-Doctoral Foundation of Jiangsu Provincial (1501032B), the Six Taleng Peak Project in Jiangsu Province (SWYY-063) and sponsored by Qing Lan Project of Jiangsu Provice.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Pharmacy, Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Coastal Wetland Bioresources and Environmental ProtectionYancheng Teachers’ UniversityYanchengPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical EngineeringNanjing University of TechnologyNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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