In vitro assays for assessing the potential for copper complexes to function as radiopharmaceutical agents Academic Article uri icon


  • A series of chemical in vitro assays are described to provide a rapid initial assessment of the in vivo stability and biological behaviour of potential new copper(II) based radiopharmaceutical agents. Chemical challenges using an excess of cysteine, glutathione (GSH) and histidine, which are models of S- and N-donor molecules found in vivo, are used to provide a measure of the potential for loss of the copper(II) ion from the radiopharmaceutical as a result of ligand dissociation. In addition, thiol containing molecules such as cysteine and GSH provide a redox challenge, whereby the copper(II) complex may be reduced to give a copper(I) species. The stability of the copper(I) species toward oxidation, protonation, and ligand dissociation may be crucial in determining the biodistribution, the biological half-life and excretion mechanisms of a potential radiopharmaceutical. Further evaluation of the redox stability is assessed using the ubiquitous biological reductant ascorbic acid. The relative stability of a complex with respect to ligand dissociation in human serum provides one of the most important experiments assessing the potential of a complex to be used in vivo. Further challenge experiments with serum proteins such as thioredoxin and serum albumin can be used to provide more detailed information on the probable fate of the complex in serum. Evaluation of complex stability and speciation over a range of pH values may also be used to obtain information on potential biodistribution.


  • Barnard, PJ
  • Bayly, SR
  • Holland, JP
  • Dilworth, JR
  • Waghorn, PA

publication date

  • September 1, 2008