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The rates and mechanisms of substitution from Ru(II) complexes with different non-leaving ligand environments.

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Results from multiple studies have confirmed that the nature of ligands on the metal centre determines the properties of an anti-cancer agent in a biological environment. Ligands affect solubility, substitution reactivity, stability of compound and product after substitution and the type of interaction between the agent and DNA among others properties. Due to competition for sulphur biomolecules by anti-cancer agents in the cells, substitution reactions of potential anti-cancer metal complexes with biologically relevant ligands sheds light on the possible interaction modes of the Ru(II) complexes and stability of the resulting products. This helps in the design, synthesis and administration of new pharmacological agents and in the concept of chemo-protection. On this basis, the study of rate of substitutions from the Ru(II) complexes by thiourea nucleophiles under pseudo-first order conditions was undertaken. The reactions were studied as a function of concentration and temperature using standard Stopped Flow technique for ultrafast reactions or UV-Visible Spectrophotometer. The first series of the complexes investigated the role of arene ligands on the rate of substitutions in (aqua)(η6-arene)Ru(II) complexes. The rate of substitution for the tri-aqua Ru(II) complexes was controlled by the π-acceptor ability of the arene ligands. For the complexes bearing 2,2’-bipyridyl co-ligand, the leaving aqua ligands are located trans to the arene ligands. For these complexes, the reactivity increase in accordance to the number and type of alkyl substituents on the η6-arene ligands which donate inductively into the -molecular orbitals, causing increased trans labialisation of the coordinated aquo co-ligand. Compared to the reactivity of tri-aquo complexes, the auxiliary bipyridyl ligands lower the rate of substitution for the later complex by a factor of about 100, due to its steric hindrance at the Ru(II) metal centre. The significantly negative activation entropies and positive activation enthalpies suggest that the activation process is dominated by bond making. In the second study, the role of arene and phosphino ligands on the rate of chloride substitution from Ru (II) complexes containing arene and phosphino co-ligands was investigated. It was observed that the coordinated arene ligand donates electrons towards the Ru(II) metal centre and its -electron cloud presents an electrostatic repulsive effect onto and around the Ru centre as measured by the projected cone angle. The bidentate bis(diphenylphosphino)-methane ligand hinders the approach of nucleophiles during the substitution process. When the bis(diphenylphosphino)methane chelate is expanded through the introduction of a methylene carbon within the bridge, the steric hindrance to the approach of nucleophiles is reduced and ii the ligand assumes a trough like conformation which traps the nucleophile within the coordination sphere. This enhances the reactivity by a factor of 103. The rate of chloride substitution from 2,4,6-tris-(2-pyridyl)-1,3,5-triazineRu(PPh3)(Cl) and analogous complexes was done in the third study. The study showed that higher π-acceptor ability of cis ligands increase the electrophilicity of the metal centre resulting in enhanced reactivity. Electron donating substituents on the ligands at the cis position lower the π-acceptor ability of the ligand hence lower electrophilicity of the Ru(II) metal centre leading to slower rate of substitution. The investigation on the effect of 2-(2-Pyridyl)azole-based ancillary ligands (L) on the chloride substitution from [RuII(tpy)(L)(Cl)]+ in the fourth study revealed that strong electronegative atoms (O or S) in the auxiliary ligands enhance their π-back-donation capacity thereby increasing the electrophilicity of the metal centre and hence the reactivity. On the other hand, the –NH group donate electron density to the metal centre by outer sphere proton donation causing trans-effect thereby which increases the reactivity more than in the former case. The fifth study sought to understanding the effect of substituents on rate of chloride substitution from Ru(II)tpy complexes. Ru(II)tpy complexes with the tpy having electron donating substituents trans to the labile ligand were dominated by trans-effect while those where the tpy bears electron accepting substituents had enhanced π-back-bonding controlling the reactivity. The rate of substitution from the Ru(II) complexes was more strongly affected by electron donating substituents. Electron donating ligands at the cis position slow down the rate of substitution from the Ru(II) metal centre. Data from DFT calculations performed using Gaussian09 suite of programmes was used to support the observed rates of substitution from the Ru(II) complexes. Large negative values of entropies of activation and positive enthalpies of activation indicate associative mode of activation. On the other hand small positive values of entropies of activation indicate dissociatively activate interchange mode of substitutions. The studies were explored on model Ru(II) complexes with bio-relevant thiourea nucleophiles to predict possible interaction with biomolecules which has become part of the methods used in the endeavour to search for alternative anti-cancer agents with improved efficacy and higher spectrum of activity.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.