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J Mol Recognit. 1992 Dec;5(4):155-71.

Drug-DNA sequence-dependent interactions analysed by electric linear dichroism.

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  • 1INSERM Unité 124, Institut de Recherches sur le Cancer, Lille, France.


The interactions between 20 drugs and a variety of synthetic DNA polymers and natural DNAs were studied by electric linear dichroism (ELD). All compounds tested, including several clinically used antitumour agents, are thought to exert their biological activities mainly by virtue of their abilities to bind to DNA. The selected drugs include intercalating agents with fused and unfused aromatic structures and several groove binders. To examine the role of base composition and base sequence in the binding of these drugs to DNA, ELD experiments were carried out with natural DNAs of widely differing base composition as well as with polynucleotides containing defined alternating and non-alternating repeating sequences, poly(dA).poly(dT), poly(dA-dT).poly(dA-dT),poly(dG).poly(dC) and poly(dG-dC).poly(dG-dC). Among intercalating agents, actinomycin D was found to be by far the most GC-selective. GC selectivity was also observed with an amsacrine-4-carboxamide derivative and to a lesser extent with methylene blue. In contrast, the binding of amsacrine and 9-aminoacridine was practically unaffected by varying the GC content of the DNAs. Ethidium bromide, proflavine, mitoxantrone, daunomycin and an ellipticine derivative were found to bind best to alternating purine-pyrimidine sequences regardless of their nature. ELD measurements provided evidence for non-specific intercalation of amiloride. A significant AT selectivity was observed with hycanthone and lucanthone. The triphenyl methane dye methyl green was found to exhibit positive and negative dichroism signals at AT and GC sites, respectively, showing that the mode of binding of a drug can change markedly with the DNA base composition. Among minor groove binders, the N-methylpyrrole carboxamide-containing antibiotics netropsin and distamycin bound to DNA with very pronounced AT specificity, as expected. More interestingly the dye Hoechst 33258, berenil and a thiazole-containing lexitropsin elicited negative reduced dichroism in the presence of GC-rich DNA which is totally inconsistent with a groove binding process. We postulate that these three drugs share with the trypanocide 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) the property of intercalating at GC-rich sites and binding to the minor groove of DNA at other sites. Replacement of guanines by inosines (i.e., removal of the protruding exocyclic C-2 amino group of guanine) restored minor groove binding of DAPI, Hoechst 33258 and berenil. Thus there are several cases where the mode of binding to DNA is directly dependent on the base composition of the polymer. Consequently the ELD technique appears uniquely valuable as a means of investigating the possibility of sequence-dependent recognition of DNA by drugs.

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