Complexes [(AuX2)-X-III(dtc-Sar-AA-O(t-Bu))] (AA = Gly, X = Br (1)/Cl (2); AA = Aib, X = Br (3)/Cl (4); AA = L-Phe, X = Br (5)/Cl (6)) were designed on purpose in order to obtain gold(III)-based anticancer peptidomimetics that might specifically target two peptide transporters (namely, PEPT1 and PEPT2) upregulated in several tumor cells. All the compounds were characterized by means of FT-IR and mono- and multidimensional NMR spectroscopy, and the crystal structure of [(AuBr2)-Br-III(dtc-Sar-Aib-O(t-Bu))] (3) was solved and refined. According to in vitro cytotoxicity studies, the Aib-containing complexes 3 and 4 turned out to be the most effective toward all the human tumor cell lines evaluated (PC3, DU145, 2008, C13, and L540), reporting IC50 values much lower than that of cisplatin. Remarkably, they showed no cross-resistance with cisplatin itself and were proved to inhibit tumor cell proliferation by inducing either apoptosis or late apoptosis/necrosis depending on the cell lines. Biological results are here reported and discussed in terms of the structure-activity relationship.
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