The hybridization-stabilization assay: a solution-based isothermal method for rapid screening and determination of sequence preference of ligands that bind to duplexed nucleic acids
AbstractAbstract The gene-to-drug quest will be most directly served by the discovery and development of small molecules that bind to nucleic acids and modulate gene expression at the level of transcription and/or inhibit replication of infectious agents. Full realization of this potential will require implementation of a complete suite of modern drug discovery technologies. Towards this end, here we describe our initial results with a new assay for identification and characterization of novel nucleic acid binding ligands. It is based on the well recognized property of stabilization of hybridization of complementary oligonucleotides by groove and/or intercalation binding ligands. Unlike traditional thermal melt methodologies, this assay is isothermal and, unlike gel-based footprinting techniques, the assay also is performed in solution and detection can be by any number of highly sensitive, non-radioisotopic modalities, such as fluorescence resonance energy transfer, described herein. Thus, the assay is simple to perform, versatile in design and amenable to miniaturization and high throughput automation. Assay validation was performed using various permutations of direct and competitive binding formats and previously well studied ligands, including pyrrole polyamide and intercalator natural products, designed hairpin pyrrole–imidazole polyamides and furan-based non-polyamide dications. DNA specific ligands were identified and their DNA binding site size and sequence preference profiles were determined. A systematic approach to studying the relationship of binding sequence specificity with variation in ligand structure was demonstrated, and preferred binding sites in longer DNA sequences were found by pseudo-footprinting, with results that are in accord with established findings. This assay methodology should promote a more rapid discovery of novel nucleic acid ligands and potential drug candidates. Received May 10, 2001; Revised and Accepted July 1, 2001.