Specific binding of telomeric G-quadruplexes by hydrosoluble perylene derivatives inhibits repeat addition processivity of human telomerase

Telomerase is responsible for the immortal phenotype of cancer cells and telomerase inhibition may specifically target cancer cell proliferation. Ligands able to selectively bind to G-quadruplex telomeric DNA have been considered as telomerase inhibitors but their mechanisms of action have often been deduced from a non-quantitative telomerase activity assay (TRAP assay) that involves a PCR step and that does not provide insight on the mechanism of inhibition. Furthermore, quadruplex ligands have also been shown to exert their effects by affecting association of telomere binding proteins with telomeres. Here, we use quantitative direct telomerase activity assays to evaluate the strength and mechanism of action of hydrosoluble perylene diimides (HPDIs). HPDIs contain a perylene moiety and different numbers of positively charged side chains. Side chain features vary with regard to number and distances of the charges. IC50 values of HPDIs were in the low micromolar (0.5-5 mu M) range depending on the number and features of the side chains. HPDIs having four side chains emerged as the best compounds of this series. Analysis of primer elongation products demonstrated that at low HPDI concentrations, telomerase inhibition involved formation of telomeric G-quadruplex structures, which inhibited further elongation by telomerase. At high HPDI concentrations, telomerase inhibition occurred independently of G-quadruplex formation of the substrate. The mechanism of action of HPDIs and their specific binding to G-quadruplex DNA was supported by PAGE analysis, CD spectroscopy and ESI-MS. Finally, competition Telospot experiments with duplex DNA indicated specific binding of HPDIs to the single-stranded telomeric substrates over double stranded DNA, a result supported by competitive ESI-MS. Altogether, our results indicate that HPDIs act by stabilizing G-quadruplex structures in single-stranded telomeric DNA, which in turn prevents repeat addition processivity of telomerase. (C) 2011 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

Published in:
Biochimie, 94, 854-863

 Record created 2012-04-12, last modified 2018-03-17

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