• Calicheamicins;
  • Synthetic methods;
  • Antitumor agents;
  • Antibiotics;
  • Enediynes


Novel, biologically active substances from nature often provide excitement, stimulation, challenges, and opportunities for the scientific and medical communities. Experience and wisdom dictate investigation of their chemistry and pursuit of their chemical synthesis for more often than not, the rewards for both chemistry and medicine are great. The enediyne anticancer antibiotics are a rapidly emerging class of such compounds derived from bacterial sources. Combining unprecedented and highly unusual molecular architecture, phenomenal biological activities and fascinating modes of action, these DNA cleaving compounds burst onto the scene in the latter half of the 1980s when their structures became known, and they rapidly moved to center stage. Today the enediyne family includes the neocarzinostatin chromophore, the calicheamicins, the esperamicins, and the dynemicins, and soon the number of family members is certain to increase. These molecules elicited extensive research activities in chemical, biological, and biomedical circles and inspired the design of a number of novel molecular assemblies to probe and mimic their chemical and biological actions. A new body of synthetic technology and several novel synthetic strategies have already been devised to address the challenges posed by these molecules, and several new DNA cleaving agents have been designed and synthesized. This article summarizes the chemistry and biology of the enediynes and discusses mechanistic, synthetic, molecular design, and DNA cleavage aspects associated with the field.