Kinetics of ethidium's intercalation in packaged bacteriophage T7 DNA: Effects of DNA packing density

Gary Griess, Philip Serwer, Varsha Kaushal, Paul M Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The kinetics of ethidium's intercalative binding to DNA packaged in bacteriophage T7 and two T7 deletion mutants have been determined, using enhancement of fluorescence to quantitate binding. At a constant ethidium concentration, the results can be described as first‐order binding with two different rate constants, k 1* (= k1 + k−1) and k 2* (= k2 + k−2). The larger rate constant (k 1*) was at least four orders of magnitude smaller than the comparable first‐order forward rate constant for binding to DNA released from its capsid. At 25°C values of k 1* decreased as the amount of DNA packaged per internal volume increased. This latter observation indicates that the rate of ethidium's binding to packaged T7 DNA is limited by an event that occurs inside of the DNA‐containing region of T7, not by the crossing of T7 capsid's outer shell. Arrhenius plots of kM 1* are biphasic, indicating a transition for packaged DNA at a temperature of 20°C. The data indicate that k 1* s are limited by either sieving of ethidium during its passage through the packaged DNA or subsequent hindered intercalation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1357
Number of pages13
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry


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