The sequence specificities of a series of cationic metalloporphyrins toward a 139 base pair restriction fragment of pBR-322 DNA have been studied by DNase I footprinting methodology. Analysis using controlled digests and quantitative autoradiography/microdensitometry revealed that the 5- and 6-coordinate complexes of meso-tetrakis(N-methyl-4-pyridiniumypporphine MT4MPyP, where M is Mn, Fe, Co, and Zn, were found to bind to AT regions of DNA. Footprinting analysis involving the radiolabel on the opposing strand of restriction fragment showed site skewing in the direction of the 3' end of the fragment, indicating that the porphyrins bind in the minor groove of DNA. The significant increase in DNase I catalyzed hydrolysis observed in various regions of the fragment appeared to be primarily due to a decrease in available substrate DNA upon porphyrin binding with possible contributions from structural changes in DNA caused by ligand binding. The complexes NiT4MPyP and CuT4MPyP were found to bind to both AT and GC regions of the fragment, producing different degrees of inhibition in the two regions. Since the outside-binding porphyrins can neither intercalate or effectively hydrogen bond to DNA, they appear to read sequence by responding to steric and/or electrostatic potential effects located in the minor groove of DNA.
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