Frameworks for targeting RNA with small molecules.
Since the characterization of messenger RNA in 1961, our understanding of the roles of RNA molecules has significantly grown. Beyond serving as a link between DNA and proteins, RNA molecules play direct effector roles by binding to various ligands including proteins, DNA, other RNAs and metabolites. Through these interactions, RNAs mediate cellular processes such as the regulation of gene transcription and the enhancement or inhibition of protein activity. As a result, the misregulation of RNA molecules is often associated with disease phenotypes, and RNA molecules have been increasingly recognized as potential targets for drug development efforts, which in the past had focused primarily on proteins. Although both small molecule and oligonucleotide-based therapies have been pursued in efforts to target RNA, small molecule modalities are often favored owing to several advantages including greater oral bioavailability. In this review, we discuss three general frameworks (sets of premises and hypotheses) that, in our view, have so far dominated the discovery of small molecule ligands for RNA. We highlight the unique merits of each framework as well as the pitfalls associated with exclusive focus of ligand discovery efforts within only one framework. Finally, we propose that RNA ligand discovery can benefit from utilizing progress made within these three frameworks to move toward a paradigm that formulates RNA-targeting questions at the level of RNA structural subclasses.
Umuhire Juru, A; Hargrove, AE
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