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Small molecules targeting viral RNA

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Highly conserved noncoding RNA (ncRNA) elements in viral genomes and transcripts offer new opportunities to expand the repertoire of drug targets for the development of antiinfective therapy. Ligands binding to ncRNA architectures are able to affect interactions, structural stability or conformational changes and thereby block processes essential for viral replication. Proof of concept for targeting functional RNA by small molecule inhibitors has been demonstrated for multiple viruses with RNA genomes. Strategies to identify antiviral compounds as inhibitors of ncRNA are increasingly emphasizing consideration of drug-like properties of candidate molecules emerging from screening and ligand design. Recent efforts of antiviral lead discovery for RNA targets have provided drug-like small molecules that inhibit viral replication and include inhibitors of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV), and influenza A virus. While target selectivity remains a challenge for the discovery of useful RNA-binding compounds, a better understanding is emerging of properties that define RNA targets amenable for inhibition by small molecule ligands. Insight from successful approaches of targeting viral ncRNA in HIV, HCV, SARS CoV, and influenza A will provide a basis for the future exploration of RNA targets for therapeutic intervention in other viral pathogens which create urgent, unmet medical needs. Viruses for which targeting ncRNA components in the genome or transcripts may be promising include insect-borne flaviviruses (Dengue, Zika, and West Nile) and filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg). WIREs RNA 2016, 7:726-743. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1373 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

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