Radiation and Environmental Biophysics

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 7–18 | Cite as

Inhibition of DNA-ethidium bromide intercalation due to free radical attack upon DNA

II. Copper(II)-Catalysed DNA Damage by O2
  • Walter A. Prütz


The fluorescent intercalation complex of ethidium bromide with DNA was used as a probe to demonstrate damage in the base-pair region of DNA, due to the action of superoxide radicals. The O 2 radical itself, generated byγ-radiolysis of oxygenated aqueous Na-formate solutions, is rather ineffective with respect to impairment of DNA. Copper(II) ions, known to interact with DNA by coordinate binding at purines, enhance the damaging effect of O 2 . Addition of H202 to the DNA/Cu(II) system gives rise to further enhancement, so that DNA impairment by O 2 becomes comparable to that initiated byOH radicals. These results suggest that the modified, Cu(II)-catalysed, Haber-Weiss process transforms O 2 intoOH radicals directly at the target molecule,
$$\begin{gathered} DNA - Cu^{2 + } + O_2 ^{ \cdot - } \to DNA - Cu^ + + O_2 \hfill \\ DNA - Cu^ + + H_2 O_2 \to DNA \cdots OH + Cu^2 + OH^ - \hfill \\ \end{gathered} $$
in a “site-specific” mechanism as proposed for other systems (Samuni et al. 1981; Aronovitch et al. 1984). Slow DNA decomposition also occurs withoutγ-irradiation by autocatalysis of DNA/Cu(II)/H202 systems. In this context we observed that Cu(II) in the DNA-Cu2+ complex (unlike free Cu2+) is capable of oxidizing Fe(II) to Fe(III), thus the redox potential of the Cu2+/Cu+ couple appears to be higher than that of the Fe3+/Fe2+ couple when the ions are complexed with DNA.

Metal-catalysed DNA damage by O 2 ⋅- also occurs with Fe(III), but not with Ag(I) or Cd(II) ions. It was also observed that Cu(II) ions (but neither Ag(I) nor Cd(II)) efficiently quench the fluorescence of the intercalation complex of ethidium bromide with DNA.


Copper Superoxide Ethidium Bromide Purine Redox Potential 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter A. Prütz
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Biophysik und StrahlenbiologieUniversität FreiburgFreiburgFederal Republic of Germany

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