RNA is increasingly recognized for its significant functions in biological systems and has recently become an important molecular target for therapeutics development. Aminoglycosides, a large class of clinically significant antibiotics, exert their biological functions by binding to prokaryotic ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and interfering with protein translation, resulting in bacterial cell death. They are also known to bind to viral mRNAs such as HIV-1 RRE and TAR. Consequently, aminoglycosides are accepted as the single most important model in understanding the principles that govern small molecule-RNA recognition, which is essential for the development of novel antibacterial, antiviral or even anti-oncogenic agents. This review outlines the chemical structures and mechanisms of molecular recognition and antibacterial activity of aminoglycosides and various aminoglycoside mimics that have recently been devised to improve biological efficacy, binding affinity and selectivity, or to circumvent bacterial resistance.
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