1H- and 31P-n.m.r. spectroscopy were used to characterize the solution structure of the 1:1 complex formed between the antitumour antibiotic luzopeptin and the self-complementary hexanucleotide d(5'-GCATGC)2. Eighteen nuclear Overhauser effects between antibiotic and nucleotide protons, together with ring-current-induced perturbations to base-pair and quinoline 1H resonances, define the position and orientation of the bound drug molecule. Luzopeptin binds in the minor groove of the DNA with full retention of dyad symmetry, its quinoline chromophores intercalating at the 5'-CpA and 5'-TpG steps and its depsipeptide ring spanning the central two A.T base-pairs. The chromophores stack principally on the adenine base with their carbocyclic rings pointing towards the deoxyribose of the cytosine. There is no evidence for Hoogsteen base-pairing in the complex, all glycosidic bond angles and sugar puckers being typical of B-DNA as found for the free hexanucleotide. The ‘breathing’ motions of the A.T and internal G.C base-pairs are substantially slowed in the complex compared with the free DNA, and the observation that two phosphate resonances are shifted downfield by at least 0.5 p.p.m. in the 31P-n.m.r. spectrum of the complex suggests pronounced local helix unwinding at the intercalation sites. The data are consistent with a model of the complex in which luzopeptin bisintercalates with its depsipeptide essentially in the conformation found in the crystal of the free antibiotic [Arnold & Clardy (1981) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 103, 1243-1244]. We postulate only one conformational change within the peptide ring, which involves rotation of the pyridazine-glycine amide group linkage by 90 degrees towards the DNA surface. This manoeuvre breaks the glycine-to-glycine transannular hydrogen bonds and enables the glycine NH groups to bond to the thymine O-2 atoms of the sandwiched A.T base-pairs. It also shortens the major axis of the depsipeptide so that the interchromophore distance is more suitable for spanning two base-pairs. The model further implies that the carboxy and hydroxy groups of the L-beta-hydroxyvaline residue are appropriately positioned for hydrogen-bonding to the 2-amino group of guanine and the O-2 atom of cytosine of the adjacent G.C base-pair.

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