D Koirala, S Dhakal, B Ashbridge, Y Sannohe, R Rodriguez, H Sugiyama, S Balasubramanian, H Mao
Ligands that stabilize the formation of telomeric DNA G-quadruplexes have potential as cancer treatments, because the G-quadruplex structure cannot be extended by telomerase, an enzyme over-expressed in many cancer cells. Understanding the kinetic, thermodynamic and mechanical properties of small-molecule binding to these structures is therefore important, but classical ensemble assays are unable to measure these simultaneously. Here, we have used a laser tweezers method to investigate such interactions. With a force jump approach, we observe that pyridostatin promotes the folding of telomeric G-quadruplexes. The increased mechanical stability of pyridostatin-bound G-quadruplex permits the determination of a dissociation constant K(d) of 490 ± 80 nM. The free-energy change of binding obtained from a Hess-like process provides an identical K(d) for pyridostatin and a K(d) of 42 ± 3 µM for a weaker ligand RR110. We anticipate that this single-molecule platform can provide detailed insights into the mechanical, kinetic and thermodynamic properties of liganded bio-macromolecules, which have biological relevance.