The interaction of a stable branched DNA molecule with an intercalative drug is probed by hydroxyl radical scission. Methidiumpropyl-EDTA.Fe(II) [MPE.Fe(II)], consisting of an intercalating ring system tethered to EDTA.Fe(II), produces the hydroxyl radicals by means of a Fenton reaction. The cleavage patterns of each labeled strand in a branched tetramer of four 16-mers are compared with those of the same strands in unbranched duplex controls. Strong differences between the profiles corresponding to scission of branched and duplex DNA molecules are seen in each of the strands at low MPE/DNA ratios. A specific site in the branched structure interacts preferentially with the drug, while other regions of the molecule are protected from cleavage. At 4 °C, cutting at strand positions demarcating the site of enhanced affinity is observed to be 60-100% more efficient than at the corresponding sequence positions in the control duplex DNA molecules; the degree of protection is comparable. Cleavage in the vicinity of the preferred site occurs at residues flanking the branch point. The reactive Fe(II) group appears to be centered within two residues of the branch point, and the site of preferential intercalation may be between the two base pairs abutting the branch point in one of the two helical domains. The pattern of preferential cutting at this site is eliminated in the presence of excess propidium diiodide, another intercalative drug.
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