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Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2005 Jul;61(Pt 7):1009-12. Epub 2005 Jun 24.

The anticancer agent ellipticine unwinds DNA by intercalative binding in an orientation parallel to base pairs.

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Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Parc Científic de Barcelona, Baldiri Reixac 10-12, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


Ellipticine is a natural plant product that has been found to be a powerful anticancer drug. Although still unclear, its mechanism of action is considered to be mainly based on DNA intercalation and/or the inhibition of topoisomerase II. Many experimental data suggest an intercalation based on stacking interactions along the major base-pair axis, but alternative binding modes have been proposed, in particular for ellipticine derivatives. The 1.5 A resolution structure of ellipticine complexed to a 6 bp oligonucleotide unveils its mode of binding and enables a detailed analysis of the distorting effects of the drug on the DNA.

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