Oxidative destruction of DNA by the adriamycin-iron complex

Helen Eliot, Luca Gianni, Charles Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2:1 adriamycin-Fe(III) complex is able to bind to DNA and to catalyze its oxidative destruction. The binding of the drug-metal complex to DNA is indicated by characterstic spectral changes which are different from those seen with adriamycin intercalation and by the propensity of the drug-metal complex to precipitate DNA. Furthermore, intercalated adriamycin appears not to be available for iron binding. The resulting ternary complex is quite stable: it is not disrupted by incubation in the presence of EDTA and can be isolated by using Sephadex G-50 column chromatography. Disruption of the ternary complex requires vigorous conditions (extraction with phenol at 60°C). The adriamycin-iron complex in free solution has the capacity to catalyze the reduction of oxygen by thiols. The DNA-bound drug-metal complex preserves this capacity over a wide range of complex/DNA ratios. As a consequence of this thiol-dependent oxygen reduction, DNA is cleaved. This thiol-dependent DNA cleavage has been shown to require hydrogen peroxide as an intermediate product. These results have led us to propose that the thiol-dependent DNA cleavage reaction has two stages involving (1) reduction of oxygen leading to hydrogen peroxide and then (2) peroxide-dependent DNA cleavage. An unusual property of this reaction is that the cleavage is not random but gives rise to a defined 2300 base pair fragment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-936
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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