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Issue 19, 2020
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Small molecule recognition of disease-relevant RNA structures

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Abstract

Targeting RNAs with small molecules represents a new frontier in drug discovery and development. The rich structural diversity of folded RNAs offers a nearly unlimited reservoir of targets for small molecules to bind, similar to small molecule occupancy of protein binding pockets, thus creating the potential to modulate human biology. Although the bacterial ribosome has historically been the most well exploited RNA target, advances in RNA sequencing technologies and a growing understanding of RNA structure have led to an explosion of interest in the direct targeting of human pathological RNAs. This review highlights recent advances in this area, with a focus on the design of small molecule probes that selectively engage structures within disease-causing RNAs, with micromolar to nanomolar affinity. Additionally, we explore emerging RNA-target strategies, such as bleomycin A5 conjugates and ribonuclease targeting chimeras (RIBOTACs), that allow for the targeted degradation of RNAs with impressive potency and selectivity. The compounds discussed in this review have proven efficacious in human cell lines, patient-derived cells, and pre-clinical animal models, with one compound currently undergoing a Phase II clinical trial and another that recently garnerd FDA-approval, indicating a bright future for targeted small molecule therapeutics that affect RNA function.

Graphical abstract: Small molecule recognition of disease-relevant RNA structures

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Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
17 May 2020
First published
25 Sep 2020

This article is Open Access

Chem. Soc. Rev., 2020,49, 7167-7199
Article type
Review Article

Small molecule recognition of disease-relevant RNA structures

S. M. Meyer, C. C. Williams, Y. Akahori, T. Tanaka, H. Aikawa, Y. Tong, J. L. Childs-Disney and M. D. Disney, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2020, 49, 7167
DOI: 10.1039/D0CS00560F

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