The DNA binding specificity of a group of cationic manganese porphyrin complexes has been examined using DNase I footprinting methodology and by observing the sites of porphyrin-induced DNA strand scission in the presence of potassium superoxide. The compounds, which possess systematic changes in total charge, its distribution on the periphery on the macrocycle and ligand shape, bind in the minor groove of AT rich regions of DNA. While changes in total charge and charge arrangement do not significantly influence specificity, a shape change which blocks close ligand contact with the minor groove relaxes the original AT specificity causing the compound to cleave at both AT and GC sites. The observed changes in binding sequence specificity were interpreted in terms of electrostatic and steric factors associated with both the compounds and DNA.
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