G-quadruplex DNA and ligand interaction in living cells using NMR spectroscopy†
Gathering structural information from biologically relevant molecules inside living cells has always been a challenging task. In this work, we have used multidimensional NMR spectroscopy to probe DNA G-quadruplexes inside living Xenopus laevis oocytes. Some of these structures can be found in key regions of chromosomes. G-quadruplexes are considered potential anticancer therapeutic targets and several lines of evidence indirectly point out roles in key biological processes, such as cell proliferation, genomic instability or replication initiation. However, direct demonstrations of the existence of G-quadruplexes in vivo are scarce. Using SOFAST-HMQC type spectra, we probed a tetramolecular G-quadruplex model made of d(TG4T)4 inside living Xenopus laevis oocytes. Our observations lead us to conclude that the quadruplex structure is formed within the cell and that the intracellular environment preferentially selects a conformation that most resembles the one found in vitro under KCl conditions. We also show for the first time that specific ligands targeting G-quadruplexes can be studied using high resolution NMR directly inside living cells, opening new avenues to study ligand binding discrimination under physiologically relevant conditions with atomic detail.