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Preparation of chemically modified transferrin proteins and an investigation of their reactions with DNA and other nucleic acids.

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The molecular biology of human genetic disorders is under intensive investigation at present. In those cases where the disorder is clearly defined in terms of altered gene structure, possibilities may exist for the correction of the disorder by insertion of normal genes through the process of DNA transfection. A possible method for the transfer of genetic material is by attempting to attach DNA to a protein which has specific receptors on cells and which undergoes receptor-mediated endocytosis. By this means one might be able to get DNA into cells. This thesis deals with experimental work on the chemical modification of human serum transferrin by means of water-soluble carbodiimides. The resulting N-acylurea transferrins bind DNA in a reversible manner. Characteristics and properties of the binding interactions are dealt with in detail. N-acylurea derivatives of transferrin were prepared with the water-soluble carbodiimides, N-ethyl-N' -(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide and N-ethyl-N' -(3-trimethylpropylammonium) carbodiimide iodide. Reactions were carried out under mild conditions at room temperature for 48-72 hours. [³ H] N-ethyl-N' -(3-trimethylpropylammonium)carbodiimide iodide was used for the determination of covalently attached N-acylurea groups in the protein. Changes in charge properties were determined by agarose gel electrophoresis. Carbodiimide modification of proteins is thought to occur at side chain carboxyl groups of glutamic and aspartic acid residues. This was confirmed by the use of Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease, which cleaves peptide bonds at the carboxyl side of glutamic and aspartic acid residues, but not in the case of substituted side chain carboxyl groups. Through the use of puromycin as a nucleophile it has been shown that other functional groups were not activated upon reaction of transferrin with carbodiimide. The carbodiimide-modified proteins bind various types of DNA and RNA in a reversible manner. Low concentrations of N-acylurea transferrin retarded the migration of pBR322 DNA, M 13 mp 8 single-stranded DNA and Pst 1 restricted lambda DNA on agarose gel electrophoresis, while at higher concentrations the DNA was unable to enter the gel. Nitrocellulose filter binding assays showed that binding of DNA to Nacylurea transferrins was rapid, dependent on concentration of the modified transferrin and sensitive to ionic conditions. Binding was found to occur mainly through electrostatic interactions between phosphate groups of DNA and N-acylurea groups. These conclusions were based on experiments which showed that protein-DNA complexes were dissociated by increasing salt concentrations and by heparin. Non-electrostatic interactions such as hydrophobic interactions and hydrogen bonding are also involved in binding, since half dissociation of complexes, induced by chaotropic salts, KSCN and NaC10₄occurs at lower concentrations of salt than in the case of NaCl. Also RNA polynucleotides inhibit binding of DNA to Nacylurea transferrins to varying extents. The N-acyl urea transferrins have been shown to bind certain specific restriction endonuclease cleavage sites on pBR322 DNA. The N-acylurea transferrin-DNA complexes would thus be suitable for experiments in cell transfections using cells which have transferrin receptors.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of Durban-Westville, 1986.


Iron proteins., Protein binding., Proteins--Research., Transferrin., Theses--Biochemistry.