Activity of Topotecan toward the DNA/Topoisomerase I Complex: A Theoretical Rationalization

Bali S. K., MARION A., Ugur I., Dikmenli A. K., ÇATAK Ş., AVİYENTE V.

BIOCHEMISTRY, vol.57, no.9, pp.1542-1551, 2018 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 57 Issue: 9
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Doi Number: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01297
  • Journal Name: BIOCHEMISTRY
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.1542-1551
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Topotecan (TPT) is a nontoxic anticancer drug characterized by a pH-dependent lactone/carboxyl equilibrium. TPT acts on the covalently bonded DNA/topoisomerase I (DNA/TopoI) complex by intercalating between two DNA bases at the active site. This turns TopoI into a DNA-damaging agent and inhibits supercoil relaxation. Although only the lactone form of the drug is active and effectively inhibits TopoI, both forms have been co-crystallized at the same location within the DNA/TopoI complex. To gain further insights into the pH-dependent activity of TPT, the differences between two TPT:DNA/TopoI complexes presenting either the lactone (acidic pH) or the carboxyl (basic pH) form of TPT were studied by means of molecular dynamic simulations, quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical calculations, and topological analysis. We identified two specific amino acids that have a direct relationship with the activity of the drug, i.e., lysine 532 (K532) and asparagine 722 (N722). K532 forms a stable hydrogen bond bridge between TPT and DNA only when the drug is in its active lactone form. The presence of the active drug triggers the formation of an additional stable interaction between DNA and protein residues, where N722 acts as a bridge between the two fragments, thus increasing the binding affinity of DNA for Topol and further slowing the release of DNA. Overall, our results provide a clear understanding of the activity of the TPT-like class of molecules and can help in the future design of new anticancer drugs targeting topoisomerase enzymes.