The antitumor agent ecteinascidin 743: Characterization of its covalent DNA adducts and chemical stability

Laurence H. Hurley, Maha Zewail-Foote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Ecteinascidin 743 (Et 743), a natural product derived from the Caribbean tunicate Eteinascidia turbinata, is a potent antitumor agent currently in phase II clinical trials. Et 743 binds in the minor groove of DNA, forming covalent adducts by reacting with N2 of guanine. Although DNA is considered to be the macromolecular receptor for Et 743, the precise mechanism by which Et 743 exerts its remarkable antitumor activity has not yet been elucidated. The aim of this study is to provide a rationale for the antitumor activity of Et 743 by studying its fundamental interactions with DNA at the molecular level. First, DNA structural distortions induced by Et 743 were characterized using gel electrophoresis. Surprisingly, Et 743 bends DNA toward the major groove, a unique feature among DNA-interactive agents that occupy the minor groove. Second, in order to gain further insight into the molecular basis behind the apparent sequence selectivity of Et 743, the stability and structure of Et 743 adducts at different target sequences were determined. On the basis of this data, the overall stability of the Et 743-DNA adducts was found to be governed by the DNA target sequence, where the inability of Et 743 to form optimum bonding networks with its optimum recognition sites leads to the formation of an unstable adduct. Consequently, the reaction of Et 743 with DNA is reversible, and the rate of the reverse reaction is a function of the target and flanking sequences. The results from this study demonstrate that Et 743 differs from other DNA alkylating agents by its effects on DNA structure and sequence-dependent chemical stability. This information provides important insight into the underlying mechanisms for its unique profile of antitumor activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in experimental medicine and biology
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The antitumor agent ecteinascidin 743: Characterization of its covalent DNA adducts and chemical stability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this