Small DNA binders

Photosensitive metal complexes that are able to bind to DNA duplexes hold promise for diagnostic and therapeutic applications — but the precise details of how they interact with DNA need to be better understood. A collection of articles in this focus highlight some of the latest advances in elucidating their binding modes as well as challenges associated with this area of research.



Double-helix disruption p587


Structure by structure, more information is steadily being gathered on how small molecules bind to DNA. A better understanding of the interactions involved in such processes will be crucial for the successful design of compounds for specific diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Inorganic chemistry



Binding manners p591

Interview with Claudia Turro


Claudia Turro from The Ohio State University talks Nature Chemistry through the different binding modes small metal complexes can adopt when interacting with DNA — and why elucidating them in detail matters.

News and Views

Interactions with DNA: Into the minor groove pp594 - 595

Stephen Neidle


The interactions between ruthenium complexes and DNA duplexes, elucidated in detail in three different crystal structures, have been found to occur through the minor groove — an unexpected binding mode, but perhaps not such a strange one.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Inorganic chemistry

See also: Article by Song et al. | Article by Niyazi et al.


Crystal structure of Δ-[Ru(bpy)2dppz]2+ bound to mismatched DNA reveals side-by-side metalloinsertion and intercalation pp615 - 620

Hang Song, Jens T. Kaiser & Jacqueline K. Barton


no alt info

A ‘light switch’ ruthenium complex is known to show enhanced luminescence in the presence of DNA mismatches — emerging targets for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics — but the way it interacts with DNA has remained unclear. Now, metalloinsertion into and metallointercalation at the minor groove of the double helix have been unambiguously observed in a high-resolution crystal structure.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Inorganic chemistry

See also: News and Views by Neidle

Crystal structures of Λ-[Ru(phen)2dppz]2+ with oligonucleotides containing TA/TA and AT/AT steps show two intercalation modes pp621 - 628

Hakan Niyazi, James P. Hall, Kyra O'Sullivan, Graeme Winter, Thomas Sorensen, John M. Kelly & Christine J. Cardin


no alt info

Elucidating how small molecules bind to DNA is crucial to bio-sensing and therapy applications. Two crystal structures now show the binding modes of a ‘light switch’ ruthenium complex — whose luminescence in solution increases in the presence of DNA — with oligonucleotide duplexes containing either TA/TA or AT/AT central steps, revealing a specific intercalation mode with the TA/TA species.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Inorganic chemistry

See also: News and Views by Neidle

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