Mass spectrometric studies of non-covalent binding interactions between metallointercalators and DNA
Over the past 2 decades there has been increasing interest in metal complexes that bind non-covalently to DNA, driven in part by a host of potential applications for molecules that can accomplish this task with high affinity and selectivity. As a result many workers have used a wide variety of experimental techniques, several of which are discussed in other chapters of this book, to unravel the details of the precise intermolecular interactions involved. Here we discuss one of the most recent additions to the armory of techniques used by chemists to interrogate metal complex/ DNA interactions. For the majority of its existence mass spectrometry (MS) has proven to be of enormous advantage to chemists by virtue of its ability to provide the molecular weights of compounds as well as structural information via fragmentation patterns. However, the high energies associated with many earlier MS techniques which result in fragmentation of covalent bonds, prevent its application for studying weaker intermolecular interactions. The advent of soft ionisation methods such as matrix assisted laser desorption ionisation (MALDI) and electrospray ionisation (ESI) has revolutionised mass spectrometric analysis of biomolecules, by allowing these normally fragile molecules to be introduced into the gas phase for analysis with minimal, if any, fragmentation. It was then recognised that ESI–MS, in particular, might be suitable for investigating non-covalent interactions between small molecules and either proteins or nucleic acids. This was confirmed by a number of early studies involving organic intercalators and minor groove binding ligands, prompting our interest in evaluating ESI–MS as a tool for studying non-covalent interactions between metal complexes and DNA. This chapter contains a discussion of the basic principles behind ESI–MS that enable it to introduce representative samples of solutions containing metal complexes and DNA into the gas phase for analysis. This will be followed by a discussion of the results that can be obtained using this method, drawing heavily on studies performed in our laboratory.