Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Nicholas Farrell


Bioinorganic chemistry strives to understand the roles of metals in biological systems, whether in the form of naturally occurring or addition of non-essential metals to natural systems. Metal ions play vital roles in many cellular functions such as gene expression/regulation and DNA transcription and repair. The study of metal-protein-DNA/RNA interactions has been relatively unexplored. It is important to understand the role of metalloprotein interactions with DNA/RNA as this enhanced knowledge may lead to better understanding of diseases and therefore more effective treatments. A major milestone in the development of this field was the discovery of the cytotoxic properties of cisplatin in 1965 and its FDA approval in 1978. Since then, two other chemotherapeutic drugs containing platinum, carboplatin and oxaliplatin, have been used in the clinic. These three compounds are all bifunctional with the ligands surrounding platinum In the cis conformation and rearrangement of the ligands to the trans orientation results in a loss of cytotoxic properties due to rapid deactivation through binding to S-containing proteins. This enhanced reactivity yields new opportunities to study the reactions between proteins and DNA. One of the first crosslinking experiments used transplatin to crosslink NCp7 to viral RNA in order to understand how/where the protein bound to RNA. We have studied the interaction between cis and trans dinuclear platinum complexes and the C-terminal zinc finger (ZF). The trans complex reacts at a faster rate than the cis isomer and causes N- terminal specific cleavage of the ZF. The dinuclear structure plays a critical role in the peptide cleavage as studies with transplatin (the mononuclear derivative) does not result in cleavage. Monofunctional trans platinum-nucleobase complexes (MPNs) serve as a model for the binding of transplatin to DNA. This provides an interesting opportunity to study their reactions with S-containing proteins, such as HIV1 NCp7. MPNs have been shown to bind to the C-terminal ZF of HIV1 NCp7, resulting in zinc ejection. This occurs through a two-step process where the nucleobase π-stacks with Trp37 on the ZF, followed by covalent binding at the labile Cl site to Cys. MPNs have also shown antiviral activity in vitro. The labile Cl on MPNs reduces specificity of these compounds, as it leaves an available coordination site on the platinum center for binding to other S-proteins or DNA. Therefore, we have moved to an inert PtN4 coordination sphere, [Pt(dien)L]2+ (dien= diethylenetri- amine). Due to the strong bond between platinum and nitrogen, covalent reactions are highly unlikely to occur at rapid rates. The strength of the pi-stacking interaction between nucleobases (free and platinated) and the aromatic amino acid, tryptophan (Trp), showed an enhanced binding constant for platinated nucleobases. This was confirmed by density functional theory (DFT) calculations as the difference in energy between the HOMO of Trp and the LUMO of the nucleobase was smaller for the platinum complex. The studies were extended to the Trp-containing C-terminal ZF of HIV1 NCp7 and an increase in association constant was seen compared to free Trp. Reaction of PtN4 nucleobases compounds with a short amino acid sequence con- taining either Ala (no pi-stacking capabilities) or Trp (pi-stacking interactions) revealed an enhanced rate of reactivity for the Trp-containing peptide. This result supports the theory of a two-step reaction mechanism where the platinum-nucleobase complex recognizes the pep- tide through a pi-stacking interaction with Trp followed by covalent binding to the platinum center. The [Pt(dien)L]2+ motif allows for systematic modification of the structural elements surrounding platinum in a search for the most effective compound. Methylation of the dien ligand should, in theory, increase lipophilicity of the compounds, however, due to 2+ charge of the compounds, this simple association does not hold true. Analysis of the cellular accumulation profiles showed little change in the uptake with the addition of methyl groups to the dien ligand, in agreement with the non-linear change in lipophilicity. Modification of L using different nucleobases allows for the tuning of the strength of the π-stacking interaction between Trp and the platinum complex. The addition of inosine (which lacks a H-bonding donor/acceptor at the C2 position) resulted in a lower association constant with both N-AcTrp and the C-terminal zinc finger of HIV1 NCp7. Interestingly, the addition of xanthosine resulted in an ehanced pi-stacking interaction with the C-terminal zinc finger of HIV1 NCp7; likely as a results of the addition of a H-bonding donor (double-bonded O) at the C2 position. The ability of PtN4 nucleobase complexes to inhibit formation of the NCp7 complexation with viral RNA was studied by mass spectrometry and gel electrophoresis. Dissociation of the NCp7-RNA complex was seen upon addition of PtN4 compounds. These compounds were also able to retard formation of the NCp7-RNA complex when pre-incubated with the protein. These results have important implications as inhibition of complex formation between NCp7 and viral RNA has negative implications for viral replication. Despite the success of platinum-nucleobase compounds, it is important to evaluate all potential pi-stacking ligands. A series of pyridine- and thiazole-based compounds were evaluated for the strength of the pi-stacking interaction with N-AcTrp and the C-terminal ZF of HIV1 NCp7. There was notable increase in association constant for the platinum- DMAP (4-dimethylaminopyridine) complex compared to other ligands studied. This result highlights the importance of exploring multiple avenues for the design of specifically targeted inhibitors and further confirms the viability of the medicinal chemistry dual approach of target recognition (non-covalent) followed by target fixation (covalent).


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