Removal of DNA curving by DNA ligands: gel electrophoresis study

Biochemistry. 1991 May 21;30(20):4863-73. doi: 10.1021/bi00234a005.


The removal of inherent curving in Crithidia fasciculata kinetoplast DNA by various small DNA ligands, groove binders and mono- and bisintercalators, has been studied by gel retardation and electron microscopy. The migration of the kinetoplast DNA fragment is highly retarded during gel electrophoresis. We demonstrate that this retardation is suppressed by DNA ligands such as distamycin and ditercalinium, which have different modes of binding and sequence specificities. Observation by electron microscopy confirms that the effect of ditercalinium on gel migration of curved DNA is linked to DNA uncurving. As the drug is progressively added to DNA, a large broadening of the retarded band is observed during gel electrophoresis for distamycin and ditercalinium. In the case of distamycin, the retarded DNA band splits into two broad bands, whereas the noncurved DNA bands remain homogeneous. This indicates that the drug-DNA exchange is extremely slow in the gel and that a limited number of specific sites on DNA are critical for the removal of bending. GC-specific quinomycin, monointercalators, and bisintercalators act in a manner similar to that of AT-specific distamycin. This indicates that direct drug binding at the dAn tracts is not required for DNA uncurving. We propose that the uncurving of kinetoplast DNA by drugs is caused by a global alteration of DNA structure; subsequent increased flexibility leads to the suppression of rigid bending at the AT tract junctions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crithidia
  • DNA, Circular / chemistry*
  • DNA, Circular / drug effects
  • DNA, Kinetoplast
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel / methods
  • Intercalating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Mathematics
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Poly dA-dT / chemistry*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • DNA, Circular
  • DNA, Kinetoplast
  • Intercalating Agents
  • Ligands
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Poly dA-dT