Synthesis of fluorescent G-quadruplex DNA binding ligands for the comparison of terminal group effects in molecular interaction: Phenol versus methoxybenzene

Jingwei Jin, Jinqiang Hou, Wei Long, Xinyue Zhang, Yu Jing Lu, Dongli Li, Kun Zhang, Wing Leung Wong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A number of new fluorescent nucleic acid binding ligands were synthesized by utilizing the non-specific thiazole orange dye as the basic scaffold for molecular design. Under simple synthetic conditions, the molecular scaffold of thiazole orange bridged with a terminal side-group (phenol or methoxybenzene) becomes more flexible because the newly added ethylene bridge is relatively less rigid than the methylene of thiazole orange. It was found that these molecules showed better selectivity towards G-quadruplex DNA structure in molecular interactions with different type of nucleic acids. The difference in terms of induced DNA-ligand interaction signal, selectivity, and binding affinity of the ligands with the representative nucleic acids including single-stranded DNA, double-stranded DNA, telomere and promoter G4-DNA and ribosomal RNA were investigated. The position of the terminal methoxyl groups was found showing strong influence both on binding affinity and fluorescent discrimination among 19 nucleic acids tested. The ligand with a methoxyl group substituted at the meta-position of the styryl moiety exhibited the best fluorescent recognition performance towards telo21 G4-DNA. A good linear relationship between the induced fluorescent binding signal and the concentration of telo21 was obtained. The comparison of ligand-DNA interaction properties including equilibrium binding constants, molecular docking, G4-conformation change and stabilization ability for G4-structures was also conducted. Two cancer cell lines (human prostate cancer cell (PC3) and human hepatoma cell (hepG2)) were selected to explore the inhibitory effect of the ligands on the cancer cell growth. The IC50 values obtained in the MTT assay for the two cancer cells were found in the range of 3.4–10.8 μM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103821
JournalBioorganic Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • DNA-ligand interaction
  • Fluorescent molecule
  • G-quadruplex DNA binding ligand
  • Thiazole orange derivative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry

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