Binding of cationic and neutral phenanthridine intercalators to a DNA oligomer is controlled by the dispersion energy. Quantum chemical calculations and
molecular mechanics simulations.
Kubar, T.; Hanus, M.; Ryjacek, F. etc.,
Chemistry European Journal, 12  208 - 290 (2006)
Correlated ab initio as well as semiempirical quantum chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations were used to study the intercalation of cationic ethidium, cationic 5-ethyl-6-phenylphenanthridinium and uncharged 3,8-diamino-6-phenylphenanthridine to DNA. The stabilization energy of the cationic intercalators is considerably larger than that of the uncharged one. The dominant energy contribution with all intercalators is represented by dispersion energy. In the case of the cationic intercalators, the electrostatic and charge-transfer terms are also important. The Delta G of ethidium intercalation to DNA was estimated at -4.5 kcal mol(-1) and this value agrees well with the experimental result. Of six contributions to the final free energy, the interaction energy value is crucial. The intercalation process is governed by the non-covalent stacking (including charge -transfer) interaction while the hydrogen bonding between the ethidium amino groups and the DNA backbone is less important. This is confirmed by the evaluation of the interaction energy as well as by the calculation of the free energy change. The intercalation affects the macroscopic properties of DNA in terms of its flexibility. This explains the easier entry of another intercalator molecule in the vicinity of an existing intercalation site.