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Phleomycin is a complex of copper-containing glycopeptides. This member of the bleomycin family was originally isolated from Streptomyces verticillus. It was characterized as an antibiotic originally, but was briefly investigated as an anticancer agent. It is used as a selection agent for transformed algae, protista, animal and fungal cells.

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    Mechanism of Action

    Bleomycins act by intercalation of DNA and RNA. In the presence of oxygen and metal ions, notably copper and iron, bleomycins form a pseudo-enzyme that induces DNA cleavage.


    Microbiology Applications

    Phleomycin is often used to select for cells that have been transformed with a plasmid containing the ble gene which confers resistance to bleomycins including phleomycin.



    van Peer, A. F., de Bekker, C., Vinck, A., Wosten, H. A. B., & Lugones, L. G. (2008). Phleomycin increases transformation efficiency and promotes single Integrations in Schizophyllum commune. Applied and Environmental Microbiology75(5), 1243–1247. doi:10.1128/aem.02162-08

    Chemistry of bleomycin. IX. The structures of belomycin and phleomycin. Takita T. et al. , J. Antibiot. 1972, 25, 755. 

    Structural basis for the deoxyribonucleic acid affinity of bleomycins. Kross J. et al. , Biochemistry 1982, 21, 3711.  

    Specificity of deoxyribonucleic acid cleavage by bleomycin, phleomycin and tallysomycin. Kross et al. , Biochemistry 1982, 21, 4310.

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