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J Clin Invest. Jun 1989; 83(6): 2003–2007.
PMCID: PMC303924

Mithramycin blocks protein binding and function of the SV40 early promoter.


Specific interactions between DNA and transcription factors are necessary for transcription initiation. These interactions provide a potential target for the selective inhibition of eukaryotic gene expression. Mithramycin is a DNA binding antibiotic which, in the presence of Mg2+, binds G-C containing sequences in the minor groove. The SV40 early promoter contains six G-C decanucleotide sequences, which are binding sites for the transcriptional activating factor, Sp1. Each of the six Sp1 binding sites of this promoter is protected from DNAse 1 digestion by mithramycin binding. Mithramycin binding to the G-C rich sequences in the SV40 early promoter prevents subsequent protein binding to these sequences. The gel retardation of the SV40 early promoter fragment incubated with a HeLa cell extract is completely abrogated by pretreatment of the DNA fragment with mithramycin. The functional significance of mithramycin binding is reflected in the ability of mithramycin to block promoter function. Mithramycin inhibits promoter dependent transcription in an in vitro runoff transcription system in a concentration dependent manner. This suggests that mithramycin prevents transcriptional activation of the SV40 early promoter by blocking binding of transcriptional activating proteins to G-C rich promoter regions.

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