G-quadruplexes and their ligands: Biophysical methods to unravel g-quadruplex/ligand interactions

Tiago Santos, Gilmar F. Salgado, Eurico J. Cabrita, Carla Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Progress in the design of G-quadruplex (G4) binding ligands relies on the availability of approaches that assess the binding mode and nature of the interactions between G4 forming sequences and their putative ligands. The experimental approaches used to characterize G4/ligand interactions can be categorized into structure-based methods (circular dichroism (CD), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography), affinity and apparent affinity-based methods (surface plasmon resonance (SPR), isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and mass spectrometry (MS)), and high-throughput methods (fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-melting, G4-fluorescent intercalator displacement assay (G4-FID), affinity chromatography and microarrays. Each method has unique advantages and drawbacks, which makes it essential to select the ideal strategies for the biological question being addressed. The structural-and affinity and apparent affinity-based methods are in several cases complex and/or time-consuming and can be combined with fast and cheap high-throughput approaches to improve the design and development of new potential G4 ligands. In recent years, the joint use of these techniques permitted the discovery of a huge number of G4 ligands investigated for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Overall, this review article highlights in detail the most commonly used approaches to characterize the G4/ligand interactions, as well as the applications and types of information that can be obtained from the use of each technique.

Original languageEnglish
Article number769
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021


  • Biophysical methods
  • G-quadruplex
  • Ligands
  • Molecular interactions


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