The potential antimicrobial properties of a tridentate polypyridyl ligand 4-butoxy-N,N-bis(pyridin-2-ylmethyl)aniline (BUT) 1 and its corresponding mixed ligand ruthenium complexes were investigated on drug-resistant and non-drug-resistant bacterial species. The ligand and its complexes were synthesized and successfully characterized by 1H NMR, UV/Vis, and FTIR spectra; ESI-MS; and magnetic susceptibility. Electronic spectra and magnetic susceptibility of these Ru(II)/(III) complexes suggest that they are of a low spin crystal field split, where the Ru(III) is a d5 and Ru(II) d6 low spin. These compounds were tested for antibacterial activity on two bacterial species: Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae), as well as their drug-resistant strains methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and multidrug resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae (MDR K. pneumoniae). All the compounds inhibited growth of the two non-drug-resistant bacteria and only one drug-resistant strain MRSA. However, only the ligands BUT and 2,2-dipyridylamine showed activity against MRSA, while all complexes did not show any antibacterial activity on MRSA. We observed large zones of inhibition for the Gram-positive S. aureus and MRSA bacteria, compared to the Gram-negative K. pneumoniae bacteria. DNA cleavage studies with gel electrophoresis showed denatured bacterial DNA on the gel from all the complexes, with the exception of the ligand, suggesting DNA nuclease activity of the complexes in the bacterial DNA.
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