Naphthalene diimides showed significant anticancer activity in animal models, with therapeutic potential related to their ability to strongly interact with G-quadruplexes. Recently, a trifunctionalized naphthalene diimide, named NDI-5, was identified as the best analogue of a mini-library of novel naphthalene diimides for its high G-quadruplex binding affinity along with marked, selective anticancer activity, emerging as promising candidate drug for in vivo studies. Here we used NMR, dynamic light scattering, circular dichroism and fluorescence analyses to investigate the interactions of NDI-5 with G-quadruplexes featuring either parallel or hybrid topology. Interplay of different binding modes of NDI-5 to G-quadruplexes was observed for both parallel and hybrid topologies, with end-stacking always operative as the predominant binding event. While NDI-5 primarily targets the 5′-end quartet of the hybrid G-quadruplex model (m-tel24), the binding to a parallel G-quadruplex model (M2) occurs seemingly simultaneously at the 5′- A nd 3′-end quartets. With parallel G-quadruplex M2, NDI-5 formed stable complexes with 1:3 DNA:ligand binding stoichiometry. Conversely, when interacting with hybrid G-quadruplex m-tel24, NDI-5 showed multiple binding poses on a single G-quadruplex unit and/or formed different complexes comprising two or more G-quadruplex units. NDI-5 produced stabilizing effects on both G-quadruplexes, forming complexes with dissociation constants in the nM range.
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