Emergence of the bi-subunit topoisomerase I in the kinetoplastid family (Trypanosoma and Leishmania) has brought a new twist in topoisomerase research related to evolution, functional conservation and preferential sensitivities to the specific inhibitors of type IB topoisomerase family. In the present study, we describe that naturally occurring flavones baicalein, luteolin and quercetin are potent inhibitors of the recombinant Leishmania donovani topoisomerase I. These compounds bind to the free enzyme and also intercalate into the DNA at a very high concentration (300 μM) without binding to the minor grove. Here, we show that inhibition of topoisomerase I by these flavones is due to stabilization of topoisomerase I-DNA cleavage complexes, which subsequently inhibit the religation step. Their ability to stabilize the covalent topoisomerase I-DNA complex in vitro and in living cells is similar to that of the known topoisomerase I inhibitor camptothecin (CPT). However, in contrast to CPT, baicalein and luteolin failed to inhibit the religation step when the drugs were added to pre-formed enzyme substrate binary complex. This differential mechanism to induce the stabilization of cleavable complex with topoisomerase I and DNA by these selected flavones and CPT led us to investigate the effect of baicalein and luteolin on CPT-resistant mutant enzyme LdTOP1δ39LS lacking 1-39 amino acids of the large subunit [B. B. Das, N. Sen, S. B. Dasgupta, A. Ganguly and H. K. Majumder (2005) J. Biol. Chem. 280, 16335-16344]. Baicalein and luteolin stabilize duplex oligonucleotide cleavage with LdTOP1δ39LS. This observation was further supported by the stabilization of in vivo cleavable complex by baicalein and luteolin with highly CPT-resistant L.donovani strain. Taken together, our data suggest that the interacting amino acid residues of topoisomerase I may be partially overlapping or different for flavones and CPT. This study illuminates new properties of the flavones and provide additional insights into the ligand binding properties of L.donovani topoisomerase I.
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