Sequence-dependent thermodynamic quantities for the antiviral agent netropsin and a related bis(N-methylimidazole) dipeptide, lexitropsin, have been determined by DNase I footprinting techniques. The primary data are autoradiographic spot intensities derived from 10 footprinting experiments carried out in the temperature range 0–45°C. After exclusion effects due to overlapped drug sites on DNA and redistribution phenomena associated with the enzyme were accounted for, sequence-dependent binding constants for the two ligands were calculated. Our approach does not require an independent determination of the free drug concentration, which is calculated, with individual site binding constants, by using only footprinting data. The temperature dependence of the binding constants for netropsin implied that the binding enthalpies for all the sites but one on a 139 base pair restriction fragment of pBR 322 DNA are exothermic. Their values roughly correlate with the free energies of binding, which are smaller for sites including a 5′-TA-3′ sequence. The binding enthalpies for the lexitropsin to all its sites were exothermic and more negative than those of netropsin. This may be due to the greater ability of the lexitropsin, when compared to netropsin, to form hydrogen bonds with sites on DNA. The binding constants of the lexitropsin toward its GC interaction sequences were much lower than those of netropsin, as can be explained by the reduced charge of the former ligand. Although it is difficult to determine the specific origin of the thermodynamic effects measured, comparison between netropsin and the lexitropsin suggests that the degree of solvation in the minor groove of DNA may be a factor influencing the entropy of the binding process.
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