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Metal-dithiocarbamate complexes: chemistry and biological activity

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 12 ]


Graeme Hogarth   Pages 1202 - 1215 ( 14 )


Dithiocarbamates are highly versatile mono-anionic chelating ligands which form stable complexes with all the transition elements and also the majority of main group, lanthanide and actinide elements. They are easily prepared from primary or secondary amines and depending upon the nature of the cation can show good solubility in water or organic solvents. They are related to the thiuram disulfides by a one-electron redox process (followed by dimerisation via sulfursulfur bond formation) which is easily carried out upon addition of iodide or ferric salts. Dithiocarbamates are lipophilic and generally bind to metals in a symmetrical chelate fashion but examples of other coordination modes are known, the monodentate and anisobidentate modes being most prevalent. They are planar sterically non-demanding ligands which can be electronically tuned by judicious choice of substituents. They stabilize metals in a wide range of oxidation states, this being attributed to the existence of soft dithiocarbamate and hard thioureide resonance forms, the latter formally resulting from delocalization of the nitrogen lone pair onto the sulfurs, and consequently their complexes tend to have a rich electrochemistry. Tetraethyl thiuramdisulfide (disulfiram or antabuse) has been used as a drug since the 1950s but it is only recently that dithiocarbamate complexes have been explored within the medicinal domain. Over the past two decades anti-cancer activity has been noted for gold and copper complexes, technetium and copper complexes have been used in PET-imaging, dithiocarbamates have been used to treat acute cadmium poisoning and copper complexes also have been investigated as SOD inhibitors.


Anti-cancer, chelator, dithiocarbamate, metal complexes, thioureide, lipophilic.


Department of Chemistry, University College London, 20 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AJ, U.K

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