Targeting structural features of viral genomes with a nano-sized supramolecular drug

Larry Melidis, Iain Styles, Mike Hannon

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RNA targeting is an exciting frontier for drug design. Intriguing targets include functional RNA structures in structurally-conserved untranslated regions (UTRs) of many lethal viruses. However, computational docking screens, valuable in protein structure targeting, fail for inherently flexible RNA. Herein we harness MD simulations with Markov state modeling to enable nanosize metallo-supramolecular cylinders to explore the dynamic RNA conformational landscape of HIV-1 TAR untranslated region RNA (representative for many viruses) replicating experimental observations. These cylinders are exciting as they have unprecedented nucleic acid binding and are the first supramolecular helicates shown to have anti-viral activity in cellulo: the approach developed in this study provides additional new insight about how such viral UTR structures might be targeted with the cylinder binding into the heart of an RNA-bulge cavity, how that reduces the conformational flexibility of the RNA and molecular details of the insertion mechanism. The approach and understanding developed represents a new roadmap for design of supramolecular drugs to target RNA structural motifs across biology and nucleic acid nanoscience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7174-7184
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Science
Issue number20
Early online date5 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021


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