DNA G-quadruplex-stabilizing metal complexes as anticancer drugs

Jaccoline Zegers, Maartje Peters, Bauke Albada*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Guanine quadruplexes (G4s) are important targets for cancer treatments as their stabilization has been associated with a reduction of telomere ends or a lower oncogene expression. Although less abundant than purely organic ligands, metal complexes have shown remarkable abilities to stabilize G4s, and a wide variety of techniques have been used to characterize the interaction between ligands and G4s. However, improper alignment between the large variety of experimental techniques and biological activities can lead to improper identification of top candidates, which hampers progress of this important class of G4 stabilizers. To address this, we first review the different techniques for their strengths and weaknesses to determine the interaction of the complexes with G4s, and provide a checklist to guide future developments towards comparable data. Then, we surveyed 74 metal-based ligands for G4s that have been characterized to the in vitro level. Of these complexes, we assessed which methods were used to characterize their G4-stabilizing capacity, their selectivity for G4s over double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), and how this correlated to bioactivity data. For the biological activity data, we compared activities of the G4-stabilizing metal complexes with that of cisplatin. Lastly, we formulated guidelines for future studies on G4-stabilizing metal complexes to further enable maturation of this field. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-138
JournalJournal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry
Issue number2
Early online date2 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2022


  • Bioinorganic chemistry
  • Guanine tetrads
  • Metallodrugs
  • Oncology


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