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Mechanisms of chromosome banding

V. Quinacrine banding

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A series of biochemical investigations were undertaken to determine the mechanism of Q-banding. The results were as follows: 1. In agreement with previous studies, highly AT-rich DNA, such as poly(dA)-poly(dT), markedly enhanced quinacrine fluorescence while GC containing DNA quenched fluorescence. These effects persisted at DNA concentrations comparable to those in the metaphase chromosome. 2. Studies of quinacrine-DNA complexes in regard to the hypochromism of quinacrine, DNA Tm, DNA viscosity, and equilibrium dialysis, indicated the quinacrine was bound by intercalation with relatively little side binding. 3. Single or double stranded nucleotide polymers, in the form of complete or partial helices, were 1000-fold more effective in quenching than solutions of single nucleotides, suggesting that base stacking is required for quenching. 4. Studies of polymers in the A conformation, such as transfer RNA and DNA-RNA hybrids, indicated that marked base tilting does not affect the ability of nucleic acids to cause quenching or enhancement of quinacrine fluorescence. 5. Salts inhibit the binding of quinacrine to DNA. 6. Spermine, polylysine and polyarginine, which bind in the small groove of DNA, inhibited quinacrine binding and quenching, while histones, which probably bind in the large groove, had little effect. This correlated with the observation that removal of histones with acid has no effect on Q-banding. 7. Mouse liver chromatin was separated into five fractions. At concentrations of quinacrine from 2×10−6 to 2×10−5 M all fractions inhibited to varying degrees the ability of the chromatin DNA to bind quinacrine and quench quinacrine fluorescence. At saturating levels of quinacrine two fractions, the 400 g pellet (rich in heterochromatin) and a dispersed euchromatin supernatant fraction, showed a decreased number of binding sites for quinacrine. These two fractions were also the richest in non-histone proteins. 8. DNA isolated from the different fractions all showed identical quenching of quinacrine fluorescence. 9. Mouse GC-rich, mid-band, AT-rich, and satellite DNA, isolated by CsCl and Cs2SO4-Ag+ centrifugation all showed identical quenching of quinacrine fluorescence, indicating that within a given organism, except for very AT or GC-rich satellites, the variation in base composition is not adequate to explain Q-banding. — We interpret these results to indicate that: (a) quinacrine binds to chromatin by intercalation of the three planar rings with the large group at position 9 lying in the small groove of DNA, (b) most pale staining regions are due to a decrease binding of quinacrine, and (c) this inhibition of binding is predominately due to non-histone proteins.

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Comings, D.E., Kovacs, B.W., Avelino, E. et al. Mechanisms of chromosome banding. Chromosoma 50, 111–145 (1975). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00283236

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  • Quinacrine
  • Polyarginine
  • Small Groove
  • Pale Staining
  • Large Groove