Sequence-dependent binding of bis-amidine carbazole dications to DNA

Eur J Biochem. 2001 Jun;268(12):3455-64. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2001.02242.x.


The conventional wisdom argues that DNA intercalators possess a condensed polyaromatic ring whereas DNA minor groove binders generally contain unfused aromatic heterocycles, frequently separated by amide bonds. Recently, this view has been challenged with the discovery of powerful intercalating agents formed by unfused aromatic molecules and groove binders containing a polyaromatic nucleus. Bis-amidinocarbazoles belong to this later category of drugs having a planar chromophore and capable of reading the genetic information accessible within the minor groove of AT-rich sequences [Tanious, F.A., Ding, D., Patrick, D.A., Bailly, C., Tidwell, R.R. & Wilson, W.D. (2000) Biochemistry 39, 12091-12101]. But in addition to the tight binding to AT sites, we show here that bis-amidinocarbazoles can also interact with GC sites. The extent and mode of binding of 2,7 and 3,6 substituted amidinocarbazoles to AT and GC sequences were investigated by complementary biochemical and biophysical methods. Absorption, fluorescence, melting temperature and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) measurements indicate that the position of the two amidine groups on the carbazole ring influences significantly the drug-DNA interaction. SPR and DNase I footprinting data confirm the AT-preference of the compounds and provide useful information on their additional interaction with GC sequences. The 3,6-carbazole binds approximately twice as strongly to the GC-containing hairpin oligomer than the 2,7-regioisomer. The high tendency of the 3,6 compound to intercalate into different types of DNA containing G.C base pairs is shown by electric linear dichroism. This work completes our understanding of the sequence-dependent DNA binding properties of carbazole dications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amidines / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Carbazoles / metabolism*
  • Cations, Divalent
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Footprinting
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance


  • 2,7-bis(amidine)carbazole
  • 3,6-bis(amidine)carbazole
  • Amidines
  • Carbazoles
  • Cations, Divalent
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonuclease I