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Metals in Biology

Inorganic Biological and Cellular Chemistry

Inorganic complexes are increasingly used for biological applications, as metallodrugs or metalloprobes. We develop and study two different systems:

(a) Bio-active metal complexes: anti-oxidant Mn complexes, antibacterial agents

In particular, we design Mn-complexes showing an antioxidant activity to be rescue cells from oxidative stress. We study them in cellular models of oxidative stress. In addition, Cu(II) complexes are developed as antibacterial agents.

(b) Metal-based probes

In particular, Re(CO)3 complexes are developed as bimodal probes to correlate fluorescence and IR-imaging. These probes are easy to conjugate to any kind of bio-molecule. More generally, metal centered probes are developed in the group.

Innovative techniques are used to investigate their speciation, quantify them and determine their cellular-location, leading to key information about their behavior inside cells. Controlling inorganic complexes inside cells is an emerging field that we called “cellular inorganic chemistry” as it involves translation of knowledge acquired in round-bottom flask into cells. A paper that delineates the general idea of this approach on Mn-complexes with an anti-inflammatory activity was popularized in French on the ENS website (see also the abstract) and on the CNRS website (see en direct des labos) (Inorg. Chem. 2017, 56, 2545).


To develop this field, we have been awarded a PSL-research structuration grant from PSL* research university (2014-2016), along with ESPCI and Curie Institute, a project funded by the Federation de la Recherche Médicale (2017-2019), and recently projects from the national agency (ANR-2015;  JCJC-ANR fellowships were awarded to Hélène Bertrand and Nicolas Delsuc in 2016).


The group is a member of the FrenchBIC, French network in bioinorganic chemistry.


Bioinorganic chemistry, MnSOD-mimics, sub-cellular imaging, metal-carbonyles as multimodal probes (SCoMPIs), Inorganic Cellular Chemistry


We are located at the ENS-chemistry department, ground floor, E037, with labs in E042, E028 and an IR-microscope on floor -1. Please, come and visit us.

Our lab, renovated in 2015:

Photo taken by Laurent Cattiaux