The possibility to influence the physiological concentration of copper ions through the careful choice of ligands is emerging as a novel intriguing strategy in the treatment of pathologies such as cancer and Alzheimer. Thiosemicarbazones play an important role in this field, because they offer a wide variety of potential functionalizations and different kinds of coordination modes. Here we report the synthesis of some 8-hydroxyquinoline thiosemicarbazone ligands containing an ONN'S donor set and their Zn(II) and Cu(II) complexes. The metal complexes were characterized in solution and in the solid state and the X-ray structure of one of the copper(II) complex is reported. The Cu(II) complexes were characterized also by means of quantum mechanical calculations. The Cu(II) complexes displayed cytostatic activity in different cancer cell models. In particular, the most active Cu(II) complex significantly inhibited cell proliferation with an IC50 value lower than 1 μM; this effect was associated with a block of the cell cycle in the G2/M phase. This Cu(II) complex induced neither the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) nor the accumulation of p53 protein, suggesting the lack of DNA damage.
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