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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences

First Advisor

Liang Xue

First Committee Member

Xiaoling Li

Second Committee Member

Jianhua Ren

Third Committee Member

Vyacheslav Samoshin

Fourth Committee Member

Qinglang Zhao


Guanine-rich telomeric DNA at the end of chromosomes can form a unique DNA tertiary structure - G-quadruplex, which is known to inhibit the binding of telomerase to telomeric regions in cancer cells and thus regulate unrestricted cancer cell growth. Hence, G-quadruplex DNA has recently become a promising target in oncology. The formation of G-quadruplex structures is greatly facilitated by G-quadruplex binding ligands such as Thiazole orange (TO). Compared with other G-quadruplex binding ligands, TO has an intriguing tunable fluorescence property. Upon binding to DNA, the fluorescence of TO can increase up to 1000-fold, making it an attractive probe for studying ligand-DNA interactions. However, the poor binding affinity and minimal binding selectivity towards different DNA conformations greatly limit its applications. My research focuses on developing G-quadruplex binding ligands using TO as a scaffold. In the first part of this work, we investigated the feasibility of increasing the TO binding affinity and selectivity toward G-quadruplex DNA by introducing side chains to the molecule. TO derivatives containing various side chains were successfully synthesized and characterized. Biophysical and biochemical studies with duplex and G-quadruplex DNA showed that tethering side chains to TO is an effective approach to tune its ability of binding to duplex or G-quadruplex DNA. Possible binding modes of the effective derivatives were studied using AutoDock. Their inhibition of telomerase activities was studied using the TRAP assay. The cytotoxicity of these derivatives toward three cancer cell lines was also investigated using the MTS assay. The second part of this work focuses on development of TO-based G-quadruplex DNA binding ligands that can bind to DNA via the dual recognition mode. TO was tethered with pyrene, naphthalene diimide, and anthraquinone respectively to yield three novel conjugates. Further investigation suggested that the conjugate of TO with naphthalene diimide (TO-NF) gave the best G-quadruplex binding affinity. It binds to G-quadruplex DNA via the end stack mode and strongly inhibits the telomerase activity. The cytotoxicity results will also be discussed in this presentation.





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