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Mutat Res. 1991 Sep;258(2):123-60.

The genetic toxicology of acridines.

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Cancer Research Laboratory, University of Auckland Medical School, New Zealand.


Acridine and its derivatives are planar polycyclic aromatic molecules which bind tightly but reversibly to DNA by intercalation, but do not usually covalently interact with it. Acridines have a broad spectrum of biological activities, and a number of derivatives are widely used as antibacterial, antiprotozoal and anticancer drugs. Simple acridines show activity as frameshift mutagens, especially in bacteriophage and bacterial assays, by virtue of their intercalative DNA-binding ability. Acridines bearing additional fused aromatic rings (benzacridines) show little activity as frameshift mutagens, but interact covalently with DNA following metabolic activation (forming predominantly base-pair substitution mutations). Compounds where the acridine acts as a carrier to target alkylating agents to DNA (e.g. the ICR compounds) cause predominantly frameshift as well as base-pair substitution mutations in both bacterial and mammalian cells. Nitroacridines may act as simple acridines or (following nitro group reduction) as alkylating agents, depending upon the position of the nitro group. Acridine-based topoisomerase II inhibitors, although frameshift mutagens in bacteria and bacteriophage systems, are primarily chromosomal mutagens in mammalian cells. These mutagenic activities are important, since the compounds have considerable potential as clinical antitumour drugs. Although evidence suggests that simple acridines are not animal or human carcinogens, a number of the derived compounds are highly active in this capacity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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