Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The generation of synthetic compounds with exclusive target specificity is an extraordinary challenge of molecular recognition and demands novel design strategies, in particular for large and homologous protein families such as protein kinases with more than 500 members. Simple organic molecules often do not reach the necessary sophistication to fulfill this task. Here, we present six carefully tailored, stable metal-containing compounds in which unique and defined molecular geometries with natural-product-like structural complexity are constructed around octahedral ruthenium(II) or iridium(III) metal centers. Each of the six reported metal compounds displays high selectivity for an individual protein kinase, namely GSK3α, PAK1, PIM1, DAPK1, MLCK, and FLT4. Although being conventional ATP-competitive inhibitors, the combination of the unusual globular shape and rigidity characteristics, of these compounds facilitates the design of highly selective protein kinase inhibitors. Unique structural features of the octahedral coordination geometry allow novel interactions with the glycine-rich loop, which contribute significantly to binding potencies and selectivities. The sensitive correlation between metal coordination sphere and inhibition properties suggests that in this design, the metal is located at a "hot spot" within the ATP binding pocket, not too close to the hinge region where globular space is unavailable, and at the same time not too far out toward the solvent where the octahedral coordination sphere would not have a significant impact on potency and selectivity. This study thus demonstrates that inert (stable) octahedral metal complexes are sophisticated structural scaffolds for the design of highly selective chemical probes.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Chem Soc

Publication Date





5976 - 5986


Binding Sites, Coordination Complexes, Crystallography, X-Ray, Humans, Iridium, Models, Molecular, Protein Binding, Protein Kinase Inhibitors, Protein Kinases, Ruthenium Compounds, Structure-Activity Relationship