Molecular modeling of tricyclic compounds with anilino substituents and their intercalation complexes with DNA sequences

J Mol Graph Model. Jun-Jul 2009;27(8):900-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jmgm.2009.02.001. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


Although 9-anilinoacridines are among the best studied antitumoral intercalators, there are few studies about the effect of isosteric substitution of a benzene moiety for a heterocycle ring in the acridine framework. According to these studies, this approach may lead to effective cytotoxic agents, but good cytotoxic activity depends on structural requirements in the aniline ring which differ from those in 9-anilinoacridines. The present paper deals with molecular modeling studies of some 9-anilino substituted tricyclic compounds and their intercalation complexes (in various DNA sequences) resulting from docking the compounds into various DNA sequences. As expected, the isosteric substitution in 9-anilinoacridines influences the LUMO energy values and orbital distribution, the dipole moment, electrostatic charges and the conformation of the anilino ring. Other important differences are observed during the docking studies, for example, changes in the spatial arrangement of the tricyclic nucleus and the anilino ring at the intercalation site. Semiempirical calculations of the intercalation complexes show that the isosteric replacement of a benzene ring in the acridine nucleus affects not only DNA affinity but also base pair selectivity. These findings explain, at least partially, the different structural requirements observed in several 9-anilino substituted tricyclic compounds for cytotoxic activity. Thus, the data presented here may guide the rational design of new agents with different DNA binding properties and/or a cytotoxic profile by isosteric substitution of known intercalators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acridines / chemistry
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring / chemistry*
  • Intercalating Agents / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure


  • Acridines
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring
  • Intercalating Agents
  • DNA