The role of the bithiazole moiety of bleomycin in the interaction of the antibiotic with DNA has been studied by the use of synthetic bithiazole derivatives. The DNA affinity of individual C-terminal (bithiazole) analogues of bleomycin was measured in terms of the ability of these species to block the binding of bleomycin to DNA, as judged by diminution of the DNA degradation that attends bleomycin binding. DNA degradation was monitored both by release of [3H]thymine from radiolabeled PM-2 DNA and by alteration of bleomycin-treated DNA oligomers of defined sequence derived from Escherichia coli plasmid pLJ3. It was found that the affinity of the bithiazole derivatives for DNA depended on the presence of the bithiazole moiety itself but more importantly on the number and spacing of positively charged groups; 2'-(2-aminoethyl)-2,4'-bithiazole-4-[3-[(4-aminobutyl) aminojpropyl]carboxamide (14), having three positively charged groups at neutral pH, was a reasonably effective inhibitor of DNA degradation by bleomycin. Consistent with the importance of the spacing of the positively charged groups, tetrapeptide S (12) was found to be significantly less inhibitory toward DNA degradation by bleomycin than tripeptide S, in spite of their equal number of positively charged groups and the greater structural similarity of the former to bleomycin A2. Bleomycin is known to cleave DNA perferentially at certain sequences. It was shown that the inhibitors employed in this study diminished DNA cleavage proportionately at each cleavage site; no alteration was observed in the specificity of cleavage. A number of the bithiazole analogues employed as inhibitors of bleomycin-mediated DNA degradation were also utilized in fluorescence quenching experiments with calf thymus DNA. Consistent with the belief that these species inhibit bleomycin degradation by competitive binding to the DNA substrate, the best inhibitors exhibited the greatest fluorescence quenching upon admixture of DNA.
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