The interaction with DNA of six chemically synthesized derivatives of the quinoxaline antibiotics was investigated. Five of the compounds bound only weakly to DNA or not at all; for these substances spectrophotometric measurements, sedimentation studies with closed circular duplex bacteriophage-PM2 DNA and thermal-denaturation profiles were used to determine limits fot the binding constants. No interaction could be detected with two products of degradation of echinomycin (quinomycin A), one of which, echinomycinic acid dimethyl ester, had the lactone linkages opened, whereas the other retained an intact octapeptide ring but had a broken cross-bridge. The other compounds studied were des-N-tetramethyl-triostin A (‘TANDEM’) and its derivatives. A derivative of ‘TANDEM’ IN WHICH benzyloxycarbonyl moieties replace both quinoxaline chromophores had binding constants to nucelic acids in the range 10(2)–10(3)-1, whereas no interaction could be detected for a benzyloxycarbonyl derivative that, in addition, had the cross-bridge broken. The derivative of ‘TANDEM’ with L-serine in place of D-serine in both positions showed no detectable interaction with Clostridium perfringens DNA, whereas the binding constant to poly(dA-dT) was approx 2 × 10(3)M-1. ‘TANDEM’ itself bound strongly to DNA, and the bathochromic and hypochromic shifts in its u.v.-absorption spectrum in the presence of DNA were similar to those seen with echinomycin. From the effect on the sedimentation coefficient of closed circular duplex bacteriophage-PM2 DNA the mechanism of binding was shown to involve bifunctional intercalation, typical of the naturally occurring quinoxaline antibiotics. Solvent-partition analysis was used to determine binding constants for the interaction between ‘TANDEM’ and a variety of natural and synthetic DNA species. The pattern of specificity thus revealed differed markedly from that previously found with the naturally occurring quinoxaline antibiotics. Most striking was the evident large preference for (A + T)-rich DNA species, in complete contrast with echinomycin and triostin A. The highest binding constant was found for poly(dA-dT), the interaction with which appeared highly co-operative in character. The conformations adopted by those quinoxaline compounds that bind strongly to DNA were examined withe aid of molecular models on the basis of results derived from n.m.r. and computer studies. It appears that the observed patterns of base-sequence specificity are determined, at least in part, by the structure and conformation of the sulphur-containing cross-bridge.

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