The DNA binding of iron(II) mixed-ligand complexes containing 1,10-phenanthroline(phen) and 4,7-diphenyl-1,10-phenanthroline(dip), [Fe(phen)3]2+, [Fe(phen)2(dip)]2+ and [Fe(phen)(dip)2]2+ has been characterized by spectrophotometric titration and melting temperature measurements. The salt concentration dependence of the binding constant has allowed us to dissect the DNA-binding constant and free energy change of each iron(II) complex into the nonelectrostatic and polyelectrolyte contributions. A comparison of the nonelectrostatic components in the binding free energy changes among iron(II) complexes has made it possible to rigorously evaluate the contribution of the ligand substituents to the DNA-binding event. The peripheral substitution of phen by two phenyl groups increases the nonelectrostatic binding constant of the iron(II) complex more than 20 times, which is equivalent to approximately 7.5 kJ mol-1 of more favorable contribution to the DNA binding. In general, the iron(II) complexes studied have higher affinity towards the more facile A-T sequence than the G-C sequence. This preferential binding may be attributed to the steric effect induced by the ancillary part of the ligands in the course of DNA binding. The binding of disubstituted iron(II) complex to DNA is quite strong as reflected in the modest increase in the denaturation temperature (Tm) of double helical DNA upon the interaction with the iron(II) complex.
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