The Power and Potential of Doxorubicin-DNA Adducts Academic Article uri icon


  • Doxorubicin (trade name Adriamycin) is a widely used anticancer agent which exhibits good activity against a wide range of tumors. Although the major mode of action appears to be normally as a topoisomerase II poison, it also exhibits a number of other cellular responses, one of which is the ability to form adducts with DNA. For adduct formation doxorubicin must react with cellular formaldehyde to form an activated Schiff base which is then able to form an aminal (N-C-N) linkage to the exocyclic amino group of guanine residues. The mono-adducts form primarily at G of 5'-GCN-3' sequences where the chromophore of the drug is intercalated between the C and N base pair. The structure of the adducts has have been well defined by 2D NMR, mass spectrometry and X-ray crystallography. The formation of these anthracycline adducts in cells grown in culture has been unequivocally demonstrated. The source of formaldehyde in cells can be endogenous, provided by coadministration of prodrugs that release formaldehyde or by prior complexation of anthracyclines with formaldehyde. Since the adducts appear to be more cytotoxic than doxorubicin alone, and also less susceptible to drug-efflux forms of resistance, they offer new approaches to improving the anticancer activity of the anthracyclines.

publication date

  • February 1, 2005