J Am Chem Soc. 2022 Nov 2. doi: 10.1021/jacs.2c08770. Online ahead of print.
RNA is challenging to target with bioactive small molecules, particularly those of low molecular weight that bind with sufficient affinity and specificity. In this report, we developed a platform to address this challenge, affording a novel bioactive interaction. An RNA-focused small-molecule fragment collection (n = 2500) was constructed by analyzing features in all publicly reported compounds that bind RNA, the largest collection of RNA-focused fragments to date. The RNA-binding landscape for each fragment was studied by using a library-versus-library selection with an RNA library displaying a discrete structural element, probing over 12.8 million interactions, the greatest number of interactions between fragments and biomolecules probed experimentally. Mining of this dataset across the human transcriptome defined a drug-like fragment that potently and specifically targeted the microRNA-372 hairpin precursor, inhibiting its processing into the mature, functional microRNA and alleviating invasive and proliferative oncogenic phenotypes in gastric cancer cells. Importantly, this fragment has favorable properties, including an affinity for the RNA target of 300 ± 130 nM, a molecular weight of 273 Da, and quantitative estimate of drug-likeness (QED) score of 0.8. (For comparison, the mean QED of oral medicines is 0.6 ± 0.2). Thus, these studies demonstrate that a low-molecular weight, fragment-like compound can specifically and potently modulate RNA targets.