Assoc Prof Huihui Li and Prof David Chen published their research papers in TALANTA (202008,215,120885)
B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) is an antiapoptotic protein which is believed to be a triggering factor in developing human tumors. The Bcl-2 C-rich promoter element has been shown to form the i-motif (IM) via cytosine - cytosine (C-C+) base pair building blocks, which can be targeted through the binding of ligands associated with Bcl-2 expression modulation. In this work, we monitored IM development and thermodynamic stability within the Bcl-2 promoter via circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESIMS). The results demonstrated that at an acidic pH, as well as in a crowded molecular environment, the Bcl-2 promoter element predominantly exists in a stable intramolecular IM folded state. We further explored the potential of targeting of the Bcl-2 IM to increase chemotherapeutic efficacy. We first used a rapid ESI-MS screening assay to identify possible ligands, finding that three natural flavonoids (P1, P5 and P6) exhibited a clear affinity for IM binding at 1:1 stoichiometry. Relative to P6, P1 and P5 were expected to form the more stable complexes with the Bcl-2 IM in gas phase according to MS/MS data. We further used ESI-MS and pressureassisted capillary electrophoresis frontal analysis (PACE-FA) to assess the binding constants for these flavonoids in gas and liquid phases, respectively, with the latter considering both specific and non-specific binding. We found P5 and P6 to specifically bind the Bcl-2 IM with binding constants of similar to 10(4) M-1. P1 binding was confirmed to be due to both specific and nonspecific interactions, and the specific binding constant (8.67 x 10(3) M-1) was found much less significant than the binding constant in gas phase. Taken all these observations into consideration, the specific binding of selected flavonoids to the Bcl-2 IM may prove to be a potential ligand for modulating Bcl-2 gene expression.