Linear dichroism characteristics of ethidium–and proflavine–supercoiled DNA complexes

Charles E. Swenberg, Susan E. Carberry, Nicholas E. Geacintov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A flow linear dichroism technique is utilized to study the unwinding of supercoiled DNA induced by the binding of ethidium bromide (EB) and proflavine (PF) at different ratios r (drug added/DNA base). In the case of either EB or PF bound to linear calf thymus DNA, the reduced linear dichroism signals LD/A (LD: linear dichroism; A: absorbance, both measured at the same wavelength), determined at 258, and 520 or 462 nm (corresponding to contributions predominantly from the partially oriented DNA bases, intercalated EB, or PF, respectively) are nearly independent of drug concentration. In the case of supercoiled DNA, the magnitude of LD/A at 258 nm first increases to a maximum value near r = 0.04–0.05, and then decreases as r is increased further, mimicking the behavior of the sedimentation coefficients, viscosities, and gel electroporphoresis patterns measured by other workers at similar values of r. However, LD/A at 520 nm, which is due to DNA‐bound EB molecules, is constant within the range of r values of 0.02–0.06 in which the magnitude of LD/A determined at 258 nm due to the DNA bases exhibits a pronounced maximum. In contrast, in the case of PF, the magnitudes of LD/A determined at 258 or 462 nm are characterized by similar dependencies on r, both exhibiting pronounced maxima at r = 0.05; this parallel behavior is expected according to a simple interacalation model in which the DNA bases and drug molecules are stacked on top of one another, and in which both are oriented to similar extents in the flow gradient. The unexpected differences in the dependencies of (LD/A)258 and (LD/A)520 on r in the case of EB bound to supercoiled DNA, are attributed to differences in the net overall alignment of the EB molecules and DNA bases in the flow gradient. The magnitude of the LD signal at 258 nm reflects the overall degree of orientation of the supercoiled DNA molecules that, in turn, depends on their hydrodynamic shapes and sizes; the LD signals characterizing the bound EB molecules may reflect this orientation also, as well as the partial alignment of individual DNA segments containing bound EB molecules. The differences in the LD characteristics of the bound PF and EB molecules may be due to subtle differences in the mechanisms of binding, perhaps reflecting differences in the torsional dynamics and local rigidities in superhelical DNA [Wu et al. (1988) Biochemistry 27, 8128–8144] induced by these two different in tercalating agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1735-1744
Number of pages10
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Linear dichroism characteristics of ethidium–and proflavine–supercoiled DNA complexes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this