Document Type


Publication Date



Although toxic when inhaled in high concentrations, the gas carbon monoxide (CO) is endogenously produced in mammals, and various beneficial effects are reported. For potential medicinal applications and studying the molecular processes underlying the pharmacological action of CO, so-called CO-releasing molecules (CORMs), such as tricabonyldichlororuthenium(II) dimer (CORM-2), have been developed and widely used. Yet, it is not readily discriminated whether an observed effect of a CORM is caused by the released CO gas, the CORM itself, or any of its intermediate or final breakdown products. Focusing on Ca2+- and voltage-dependent K+ channels (KCa1.1) and voltage-gated K+ channels (Kv1.5, Kv11.1) relevant for cardiac safety pharmacology, we demonstrate that, in most cases, the functional impacts of CORM-2 on these channels are not mediated by CO. Instead, when dissolved in aqueous solutions, CORM-2 has the propensity of forming Ru(CO)2 adducts, preferentially to histidine residues, as demonstrated with synthetic peptides using mass-spectrometry analysis. For KCa1.1 channels we show that H365 and H394 in the cytosolic gating ring structure are affected by CORM-2. For Kv11.1 channels (hERG1) the extracellularly accessible histidines H578 and H587 are CORM-2 targets. The strong CO-independent action of CORM-2 on Kv11.1 and Kv1.5 channels can be completely abolished when CORM-2 is applied in the presence of an excess of free histidine or human serum albumin; cysteine and methionine are further potential targets. Off-site effects similar to those reported here for CORM-2 are found for CORM-3, another ruthenium-based CORM, but are diminished when using iron-based CORM-S1 and absent for manganese-based CORM-EDE1.


Publication Title

European Journal of Pharmacology





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.