Berberine and berberrubine, which display antitumor activity, have also demonstrated distinct enzyme-poisoning activities by stabilizing topoisomerase II-DNA cleavable complexes. The protoberberine berberrubine differs in chemical structure with berberine at only one position, however, it shows a prominent activity difference from berberine. Solution structures of berberine and berberrubine determined by NMR spectroscopy are similar, however, the minor structural rearrangement has been observed near 19 methoxy or hydroxyl group. We suggest that the DNA cleavage activities of topoisomerase II poisons could be correlated with both chemical environments and minor structural change together with hydrophobicity of interacting side chains of drugs with DNA molecule.
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