• berberine;
  • hydration;
  • quadruplex;
  • quadruplex–ligand interaction;
  • thermodynamics

This study examines the characteristics of binding of berberine to the human telomeric d[AG3(T2AG3)3] quadruplex. By employing UV-visible spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy and isothermal titration calorimetry, we found that the binding affinity of berberine to the human telomeric quadruplex is 106. The complete thermodynamic profile for berberine binding to the quadruplex, at 25 °C, shows a small negative enthalpy (ΔH) of −1.7 kcal·mol−1, an entropy change with TΔS of +6.5 kcal·mol−1, and an overall favorable free energy (ΔG) of −8.2 kcal·mol−1 .Through the temperature dependence of ΔH, we obtained a heat capacity (ΔCp) of −94 (± 5) cal·mol−1·K−1. The osmotic stress method revealed that there is an uptake of 13 water molecules in the complex relative to the free reactants. Furthermore, the molecular modeling studies on different quadruplex–berberine complexes show that berberine stacking at the external G-quartet is mainly aided by the π–π interaction and the stabilization of the high negative charge density of O6 of guanines by the positively charged N7 of berberine. The theoretical heat capacity (ΔCp) values for quadruplex–berberine models are −89 and −156 cal·mol−1·K−1.