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Biochemistry. 2005 Feb 22;44(7):2510-22.

Combinatorial identification of a novel consensus sequence for the covalent DNA-binding polyamide tallimustine.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77030-4009, USA.


Many agents successfully used in cancer chemotherapy either directly or indirectly covalently modify DNA. Examples include cisplatin, which forms a covalent adduct with guanines, and doxorubicin, which traps a cleavage intermediate between topoisomerase II and torsionally strained DNA. In most cases, the efficacy of these drugs depends on the efficiency and specificity of their DNA binding, as well as the discrimination between normal and neoplastic cells in their handling of the drug-DNA adducts. While much is known about the chemistry of drug-DNA adducts, little is known regarding the overall specificity of their formation, especially in the context of a whole human genome, where potentially billions of binding sites are possible. We used the combinatorial selection method restriction endonuclease protection, selection, and amplification (REPSA) to determine the DNA-binding specificity of the semisynthetic covalent DNA-binding polyamide tallimustine, which contains a benzoic acid nitrogen mustard appended to the minor groove DNA-binding natural product distamycin A. After investigating over 134 million possible sequences, we found that the highest affinity tallimustine binding sites contained one of two consensus sequences, either the expected distamycin hexamer binding sites followed by a CG base pair (e.g., 5'-TTTTTTC-3' and 5'-AAATTTC-3') or the unexpected sequence 5'-TAGAAC-3'. Curiously, we found that tallimustine preferentially alkylated the N7 position of guanines located on the periphery of these consensus sequences. These findings suggested a cooperative binding model for tallimustine in which one molecule noncovalently resides in the DNA minor groove and locally perturbs the DNA structure, thereby facilitating alkylation by a second tallimustine of an exposed guanine on another side of the DNA.

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