Ti(IV) uptake and release by human serum transferrin and recognition of Ti(IV)-transferrin by cancer cells: understanding the mechanism of action of the anticancer drug titanocene dichloride

M Guo, Hongyue Sun, Harry J McArdle, Lorraine Gambling, P J Sadler

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The organometallic anticancer agent titanocene dichloride, Cp(2)TiCl(2), is now in phase II clinical trials as an anticancer drug, but its mechanism of action is poorly understood. We show here that the interactions of Cp(2)TiCl(2) with human serum transferrin (hTF) and that of Ti(2)-hTF with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) have characteristics that could allow transferrin to act as a mediator for titanium delivery to tumor cells. Such reactions may therefore be important to the anticancer activity of this new class of drugs. Cp(2)TiCl(2) reacts rapidly with human apo-transferrin under physiological conditions (100 mM NaCl, 25 mM bicarbonate, and 4 mM phosphate, pH 7.4) with carbonate as a synergistic anion. The Cp ligands are released from the drug. Two-dimensional [(1)H, (13)C] NMR studies of epsilon-[(13)C]Met-hTF show that Ti(IV) loads the C-lobe first followed by the N-lobe and binds in the specific Fe(III) sites. The protein conformational changes induced by Ti(IV) appear to be similar to those induced by Fe(III). Carbonate can act as a synergistic anion in Ti(2)-hTF but does not appear to be essential. A specific Ti(IV)-hTF adduct is formed even in the absence of bicarbonate. When the pH of Ti(2)-hTF solutions is lowered, no Ti(IV) is released at the endosomal pH of ca. 5.0-5.5, but one Ti(IV) dissociates between pH 4.5-2.0. In contrast, in the presence of 1 mM ATP, all Ti(IV) is readily released from both lobes when the pH is lowered from 7.0 to 4.5. Moreover, Fe(III) displaces Ti(IV) rapidly from the C-lobe of Ti(2)-hTF (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10023-33
Number of pages11
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2000



  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Endosomes
  • Female
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Iron
  • Neoplasms
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Placenta Diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic
  • Titanium
  • Transferrin

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