Bis-benzimidazole anticancer agents: targeting human tumour helicases

Anticancer Drug Des. 1999 Feb;14(1):19-36.


Certain DNA minor groove binding agents, distamycin, netropsin, and a series of anticancer bis-benzimidazoles can block DNA helicase activity by binding to duplex DNA at specific base sequences. DNA helicases are crucial to cell DNA replication, transcription and repair because these enzymes separate double-stranded DNA, thereby preparing the strands for enzymatic manipulation. From our studies we have developed a hypothesis that focuses on cellular DNA helicase action as a mechanistic site where these minor groove binders can act. A crucial aspect for modulation of DNA activity by drugs is for specificity and selectivity. A series of DNA-interactive bis-benzimidazole analogues of Hoechst 33258 was also prepared to explore the potential for anticancer activity mediated for certain of the drugs via bioreductive activation by endogenous NADH or NADPH. The biological endpoints examined included intracellular distribution in euoxic and hypoxic conditions observed by fluorescence microscopy; relative efficacy as antimetabolites determined by the MTT [tetrazolium salt, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide] assay in euoxic and hypoxic conditions; and relative inhibitory activities on human DNA helicase, as determined by degree of dissociation of GC B6486 DNA. The intracellular distribution was unique to each of the test compounds. Compounds V-93 and V-153, the respective semiquinone and quinone derivatives, demonstrated the predicted enhanced cytotoxicity and anti-helicase activities, supporting the concept that preferential binding of DNA at 5'-CG and TG sequences provides a novel approach to anticancer drug development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / chemistry
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / metabolism
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / pharmacology
  • Benzimidazoles / chemistry
  • Benzimidazoles / metabolism
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology*
  • Bisbenzimidazole / chemistry
  • Bisbenzimidazole / pharmacology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • DNA Helicases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes / metabolism
  • DNA, Neoplasm / antagonists & inhibitors
  • DNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Benzimidazoles
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes
  • DNA Helicases
  • Bisbenzimidazole