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Cancer Res. 1989 Mar 15;49(6):1465-9.

Structure-activity study of the actions of camptothecin derivatives on mammalian topoisomerase I: evidence for a specific receptor site and a relation to antitumor activity.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Twenty-two compounds related to camptothecin, a known inhibitor of eukaryotic topoisomerase I, were studied. The following effects on the actions of topoisomerase I were observed and were well correlated among most of the compounds studied: (a) inhibition of the first-order rate of relaxation of supercoiled DNA; (b) conversion of supercoiled DNA to nicked circles; and (c) single-strand cleavage of linear DNA at specific sites. The locations of the stimulated cleavage sites were the same for all of the active derivatives. Stereochemistry and the positions of substituents were found to be crucial for the presence or absence of effects on topoisomerase I, indicating that the compounds interact with an asymmetrical receptor site on the enzyme or enzyme-DNA complex. From the structure-activity relations, the regions of interaction between the camptothecin ring system and the receptor site were inferred. Striking correlations were observed between activity against topoisomerase I and reported activity against murine leukemias, indicating that an action on topoisomerase I is responsible for the antitumor activity of the camptothecins.

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