Berberine Molecular Recognition of the Parallel MYC G-Quadruplex in Solution

Jonathan Dickerhoff, Nicole Brundridge, Scott A. McLuckey, Danzhou Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The medicinal natural product berberine is one of the most actively studied and pursued G-quadruplex (G4)-ligands. The major G-quadruplex formed in the promoter region of the MYC oncogene (MycG4) is an attractive drug target and a prominent example and model structure for parallel G-quadruplexes. G4-targeted berberine derivatives have been actively developed; however, the analogue design was based on a previous crystal structure in which berberine binds as a dimer to a parallel G-quadruplex. Herein, we show that in solution, the binding mode and stoichiometry of berberine are substantially different from the crystal structure: berberine binds as a monomer to MycG4 using a base-recruitment mechanism with a reversed orientation in that the positively charged convex side is actually positioned above the tetrad center. Our structure provides a physiologically relevant basis for the future structure-based rational design of G4-targeted berberine derivatives, and this study demonstrates that it is crucial to validate the ligand-DNA interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16205-16212
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 11 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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