A ruthenium dimer complex with a flexible linker slowly threads between DNA bases in two distinct steps
Journal article, 2015
Several multi-component DNA intercalating small molecules have been designed around ruthenium-based intercalating monomers to optimize DNA binding properties for therapeutic use. Here we probe the DNA binding ligand [mu-C-4(cpdppz)(2)(phen)(4)Ru-2](4+), which consists of two Ru(phen)(2)dppz(2+) moieties joined by a flexible linker. To quantify ligand binding, double-stranded DNA is stretched with optical tweezers and exposed to ligand under constant applied force. In contrast to other bis-intercalators, we find that ligand association is described by a two-step process, which consists of fast bimolecular intercalation of the first dppz moiety followed by similar to 10-fold slower intercalation of the second dppz moiety. The second step is rate-limited by the requirement for a DNA-ligand conformational change that allows the flexible linker to pass through the DNA duplex. Based on our measured force-dependent binding rates and ligand-induced DNA elongation measurements, we are able to map out the energy landscape and structural dynamics for both ligand binding steps. In addition, we find that at zero force the overall binding process involves fast association (similar to 10 s), slow dissociation (similar to 300 s), and very high affinity (K-d similar to 10 nM). The methodology developed in this work will be useful for studying the mechanism of DNA binding by other multi-step intercalating ligands and proteins.