Intercalator-Induced DNA Superstructure Formation: Doxorubicin and a Synthetic Quinoxaline Derivative

Tridib Mahata, Jeet Chakraborty, Ajay Kanungo, Dipendu Patra, Gautam Basu*, Sanjay Dutta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small molecules that intercalate DNA have tremendous therapeutic potential. Typically, DNA intercalators do not alter the overall DNA double-helical structure, except locally at the intercalation sites. In a previous report, we showed that a quinoxaline-based intercalator with a mandatory benzyl substitution (1d) induced an unusually large circular dichroism signal upon DNA binding, suggesting the formation of intercalated DNA superstructures. However, no detailed structural studies have been reported. Using atomic force microscopy, we have probed the nature of the superstructure and report the formation of a plectonemically oversupercoiled structure of pBR322 plasmid DNA by 1d, where close association of distant DNA double-helical stretches is the predominant motif. Without the benzyl moiety (1a), no such DNA superstructure was observed. Similar superstructures were also observed with doxorubicin (dox), a therapeutically important DNA intercalator, suggesting that the superstructure is common to some intercalators. The superstructure formation, for both intercalators, was observed to be GC-specific. Interestingly, at higher concentrations (1d and dox), the DNA superstructure led to DNA condensation, a phenomenon typically associated with polyamines but not intercalators. The superstructure may have important biological relevance in connection to a recent study in which dox was shown to evict histone at micromolar concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5557-5563
Number of pages7
Issue number38
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


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