CC BY 4.0 · Pharmaceutical Fronts 2021; 03(04): e164-e182
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1741035
Review Article

Metal Complexes as DNA Synthesis and/or Repair Inhibitors: Anticancer and Antimicrobial Agents

Mpho Phehello Ngoepe
1   Department of Chemistry, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Hadley S. Clayton
1   Department of Chemistry, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
› Author Affiliations
Funding This work was supported by the South African National Research Foundation (Grant No. 129549) and the University of South Africa.


Medicinal inorganic chemistry involving the utilization of metal-based compounds as therapeutics has become a field showing distinct promise. DNA and RNA are ideal drug targets for therapeutic intervention in the case of various diseases, such as cancer and microbial infection. Metals play a vital role in medicine, with at least 10 metals known to be essential for human life and a further 46 nonessential metals having been involved in drug therapies and diagnosis. These metal-based complexes interact with DNA in various ways, and are often delivered as prodrugs which undergo activation in vivo. Metal complexes cause DNA crosslinking, leading to the inhibition of DNA synthesis and repair. In this review, the various interactions of metal complexes with DNA nucleic acids, as well as the underlying mechanism of action, were highlighted. Furthermore, we also discussed various tools used to investigate the interaction between metal complexes and the DNA. The tools included in vitro techniques such as spectroscopy and electrophoresis, and in silico studies such as protein docking and density-functional theory that are highlighted for preclinical development.

Publication History

Received: 06 September 2021

Accepted: 24 November 2021

Article published online:
30 December 2021

© 2021. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, permitting unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction so long as the original work is properly cited. (

Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany