Synthesis by radical cyclization and cytotoxicity of highly potent bioreductive alicyclic ring fused [1,2-a]benzimidazolequinones.

Mary Lynch, Sarah Hehir, Paul Kavanagh, Dónal Leech, John O'Shaughnessy, Michael P. Carty*, Fawaz Aldabbagh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The key step in the synthesis of new five, six and seven-membered alicyclic ring [1,2-a]-fused bioreductive benzimidazolequinones was radical cyclisation. Six and seven-membered tributyltin hydride-mediated homolytic aromatic substitutions of nucleophilic N-alkyl radicals onto the benzimidazole-2-position occurred in high yields (63-70 %) when quaternising the pyridine-like 3-N of imidazole with camphorsulfonic acid and using large excesses of the azo-initiator, 1,1'-azobis(cyclohexanecarbonitrile), to supplement the non-chain reaction. Elaboration of benzimidazoles to the benzimidazolequinones occurred in excellent yields. The IC50 values for the cytotoxicity of benzimidazolequinones towards the human skin fibroblast cell line GM00637 were in the nanomolar range, as determined by using the MTT assay. The benzimidazolequinones were much more cytotoxic than indolequinone analogues. 1,2,3,4-Tetrahydropyrido[1,2-a]benzimidazole-6,9-dione was the most potent compound prepared being more than 300 times more cytotoxic than the clinically used bioreductive drug, mitomycin C. The latter benzimidazolequinone was more potent under hypoxic conditions (associated with solid tumors), being 4.4 times more cytotoxic than under aerobic conditions, while mitomycin C was 1.8 times more selective towards hypoxia. The cyclopropane fused pyrido[1,2-a]benzimidazolequinone, 1a,2,3,9b-tetrahydro-1H-cyclopropa[3,4]pyrido[1,2-a]benzimidazole-5,8-dione was less cytotoxic and selective than the five-membered ring analogue, 1,1a,8,8a-tetrahydrocyclopropa[3,4]pyrrolo[1,2-a]benzimidazole-3,6-dione. Modifying the structure of the most potent pyrido[1,2-a]benzimidazolequinone by attaching methyl substituents onto the quinone moiety increased reductive potentials and decreased cytotoxicity and selectivity towards hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3218-3226
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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