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Investigation of Cobalt(III) Cage Complexes as Inhibitors of the Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter

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In this work, the ability of cobalt(III) cage complexes to inhibit mitochondrial calcium uptake was assessed. This study identifies a new cobalt-based inhibitor that can operate in intact cells, adding to the previously reported ruthenium- and osmium-based complexes that also possess this property.


The mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) mediates uptake of calcium ions (Ca2+) into the mitochondria, a process that is vital for maintaining normal cellular function. Inhibitors of the MCU, the most promising of which are dinuclear ruthenium coordination compounds, have found use as both therapeutic agents and tools for studying the importance of this ion channel. In this study, six Co3+ cage compounds with sarcophagine-like ligands were assessed for their abilities to inhibit MCU-mediated mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake. These complexes were synthesized and characterized according to literature procedures and then investigated in cellular systems for their MCU-inhibitory activities. Among these six compounds, [Co(sen)]3+ (3, sen=5-(4-amino-2-azabutyl)-5-methyl-3,7-diaza-1,9-nonanediamine) was identified to be a potent MCU inhibitor, with IC50 values of inhibition of 160 and 180 nM in permeabilized HeLa and HEK293T cells, respectively. Furthermore, the cellular uptake of compound 3 was determined, revealing moderate accumulation in cells. Most notably, 3 was demonstrated to operate in intact cells as an MCU inhibitor. Collectively, this work presents the viability of using cobalt coordination complexes as MCU inhibitors, providing a new direction for researchers to investigate.

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