The binding of the macrocycle SDM to DNA was investigated by visible spectroscopy, stopped-flow kinetics, and NMR spectroscopy. SDM is composed of two 9-aminoacridines linked via the amino groups by a spermine side chain and via the 4-positions by a N,N′-[(methylthio)ethyl]succinamide side chain [Zimmerman, S. C., Lamberson, C. R., Cory, M., & Fairley, T. A. (1989) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 111, 6805-6809]. The visible spectrum of SDM bound to poly[d(A-T)]2 or poly[d(G-C)]2 is red-shifted relative to the spectrum of SDM alone and displays considerable hypochromicity. Results from titrations of SDM with polymer indicate a binding site size of three base pairs per macrocycle. The dissociation constant for SDM bound to either poly[d(A-T)]2 or poly[d(G-C)]2 is an order of magnitude lower than that for a similar bisacridine linked only by a spermine side chain. In addition, the dependence of the dissociation constant on ionic strength is significantly reduced. NMR studies of SDM complexes with poly[d(A-T)]2 or a tetramer, d(CGCG)2, show that intercalation is the mode of binding. The magnitudes of the chemical shift differences for SDM aromatic protons in the free and bound states support intercalation with the acridine ring systems essentially parallel to the long axis of the base pairs. Cross peaks from NOESY spectra of the SDM complex with d(CGCG)2 further support this mode of binding and provide information on the structure of the complex. The results are analyzed for consistency with each of three binding models: (i) bisintercalation with the two side chains in the same groove; (ii) bisintercalation according to the neighbor-exclusion principle with the two side chains in opposite grooves; and (iii) bisintercalation with two side chains in opposite grooves but with violation of the neighbor-exclusion principle. Model i is found to be unlikely on the basis of all evidence obtained, including preliminary modeling studies. Both models ii and iii can be reconciled with the experimental evidence and from a modeling standpoint are energetically feasible.
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