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Biochemistry. 2013 Jun 18;52(24):4127-37. doi: 10.1021/bi400080t. Epub 2013 Jun 4.

Ellipticine binds to a human telomere sequence: an additional mode of action as a putative anticancer agent?

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  • 1Biophysics Division, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics , Block-AF, Sector- I, Bidhan Nagar, Kolkata 700064, India.


Polyguanine sequences fold into G-quadruplex structures in the presence of monovalent cations. It is accepted that the telomeric DNA region consists of G-quadruplex structure. There are reports that potential G-quadruplex forming motifs are also present in the promoter region of some proto-oncogenes such as c-myc, c-kit, KRAS, etc. Small molecules with the potential to stabilize the telomeric DNA quadruplex have emerged as potential anticancer agents. We have studied the interaction of ellipticine, a putative anticancer agent from a plant source, with a human telomeric DNA sequence (H24). Spectroscopic and calorimetric studies indicate that the association of ellipticine with H24 is an entropically driven phenomenon with a 2:3 (H24:ellipticine) stoichiometry. Though ellipticine binding does not induce any major structural perturbation in H24, the association leads to formation of a complex with enhanced thermal stability. An assay with the telomerase repeat amplification protocol shows that ellipticine inhibits telomerase activity in MDAMB-231 breast cancer cell line extracts. This is the first report of the quadruplex binding ability of ellipticine. Using the results, we propose that along with DNA intercalation and/or topoisomerase II inhibition, interaction with the telomeric DNA region and the resultant inhibition of telomerase activity might be an additional mode of action for its anticancer property.

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