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Sequence Specific Recognition and Cleavage of DNA by Synthetic Molecules


Youngquist, Robert Scott (1988) Sequence Specific Recognition and Cleavage of DNA by Synthetic Molecules. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/m1pc-hr68.


DNA recognition is an essential biological process responsible for the regulation of cellular functions including protein synthesis and cell division and is implicated in the mechanism of action of some anticancer drugs. Studies directed towards defining the elements responsible for sequence specific DNA recognition through the study of the interactions of synthetic organic ligands with DNA are described.

DNA recognition by poly-N-methylpyrrolecarboxamides was studied by the synthesis and characterization of a series of molecules where the number of contiguous N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide units was increased from 2 to 9. The effect of this incremental change in structure on DNA recognition has been investigated at base pair resolution using affinity cleaving and MPE•Fe(II) footprinting techniques. These studies led to a quantitative relationship between the number of amides in the molecule and the DNA binding site size. This relationship is called the n + 1 rule and it states that a poly-N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide molecule with n amides will bind n + 1 base pairs of DNA. This rule is consistent with a model where the carboxamides of these compounds form three center bridging hydrogen bonds between adjacent base pairs on opposite strands of the helix. The poly-N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide recognition element was found to preferentially bind poly dA•poly dT stretches; however, both binding site selection and orientation were found to be affected by flanking sequences. Cleavage of large DNA is also described.

One approach towards the design of molecules that bind large sequences of double helical DNA sequence specifically is to couple DNA binding subunits of similar or diverse base pair specificity. Bis-EDTA-distamycin-fumaramide (BEDF) is an octaamide dimer of two tri-N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide subunits linked by fumaramide. DNA recognition by BEDF was compared to P7E, an octaamide molecule containing seven consecutive pyrroles. These two compounds were found to recognize the same sites on pBR322 with approximately the same affinities demonstrating that fumaramide is an effective linking element for N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide recognition subunits. Further studies involved the synthesis and characterization of a trimer of tetra-N-methylpyrrolecarboxamide subunits linked by β-alanine ((P4)₃E). This trimerization produced a molecule which is capable of recognizing 16 base pairs of A•T DNA, more than a turn and a half of the DNA helix.

DNA footprinting is a powerful direct method for determining the binding sites of proteins and small molecules on heterogeneous DNA. It was found that attachment of EDTA•Fe(II) to spermine creates a molecule, SE•Fe(II), which binds and cleaves DNA sequence neutrally. This lack of specificity provides evidence that at the nucleotide level polyamines recognize heterogeneous DNA independent of sequence and allows SE•Fe(II) to be used as a footprinting reagent. SE•Fe(II) was compared with two other small molecule footprinting reagents, EDTA•Fe(II) and MPE•Fe(II).

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Chemistry
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Dervan, Peter B.
Thesis Committee:
  • Myers, Andrew G. (chair)
  • Dervan, Peter B.
  • Parker, Carl Stevens
  • Dougherty, Dennis A.
Defense Date:5 August 1987
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03132013-142505168
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7515
Deposited By: Dan Anguka
Deposited On:13 Mar 2013 21:49
Last Modified:16 Apr 2021 23:31

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