DNA-containing liposomes as a model for the study of cell membrane permeation by anthracycline derivatives

Biochemistry. 1991 May 21;30(20):5038-43. doi: 10.1021/bi00234a028.


The uptake of anthracycline derivatives into large unilamellar vesicles (LUV) in response to a driven force provided by DNA encapsulated inside the LUV has been investigated. Four anthracyclines have been used: adriamycin, 4'-O-tetrahydropyranyladriamycin (THP-ADR), daunorubicin (DNR), and carminomycin. No quenching of the drug fluorescence is observed through interaction of the drugs with the lipidic bilayer. Rapid quenching of drug fluorescence occurs when drugs intercalate between the base pairs of DNA. The kinetics of the decay of anthracycline fluorescence in the presence of DNA-containing liposomes can thus be used to follow the diffusion of the drug through the membrane. The initial rates of uptake, as a function of pH, and lipid bilayer permeability coefficients have been calculated for the neutral forms of THP-ADR and DNR. This system suggests that anthracycline may gain access to cells by passive diffusion of the neutral form of the drug under the action of a driven force provided by DNA in the nucleus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / chemistry
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Cholesterol
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Liposomes*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phosphatidic Acids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Liposomes
  • Phosphatidic Acids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • DNA
  • Cholesterol