Structurally diverse G-quadruplexes as the noncanonical nucleic acid drug target for live cell imaging and antibacterial study

Bo Xin Zheng, Jie Yu, Wei Long, Ka Hin Chan, Alan Siu Lun Leung, Wing Leung Wong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The formation of G-quadruplex structures (G4s) in vitro from guanine (G)-rich nucleic acid sequences of DNA and RNA stabilized with monovalent cations, typically K+ and Na+, under physiological conditions, has been verified experimentally and some of them have high-resolution NMR or X-ray crystal structures; however, the biofunction of these special noncanonical secondary structures of nucleic acids has not been fully understood and their existence in vivo is still controversial at present. It is generally believed that the folding and unfolding of G4s in vivo is a transient process. Accumulating evidence has shown that G4s may play a role in the regulation of certain important cellular functions including telomere maintenance, replication, transcription and translation. Therefore, both DNA and RNA G4s of human cancer hallmark genes are recognized as the potential anticancer drug target for the investigation in cancer biology, chemical biology and drug discovery. The relationship between the sequence, structure and stability of G4s, the interaction of G4s with small molecules, and insights into the rational design of G4-selective binding ligands have been intensively studied over the decade. At present, some G4-ligands have achieved a new milestone and successfully entered the human clinical trials for anticancer therapy. Over the past few decades, numerous efforts have been devoted to anticancer therapy; however, G4s for molecular recognition and live cell imaging and for application as antibacterial agents and antibiofilms against antibiotic resistance have been obviously underexplored. The recent advances in G4-ligands in these areas are thus selected and discussed concentratedly in this article in order to shed light on the emerging role of G4s in chemical biology and therapeutic prospects against bacterial infections. In addition, the recently published molecular scaffolds for designing small ligands selectively targeting G4s in live cell imaging, bacterial biofilm imaging, and antibacterial studies are discussed. Furthermore, a number of underexplored G4-targets from the cytoplasmic membrane-associated DNA, the conserved promoter region of K. pneumoniae genomes, the RNA G4-sites in the transcriptome of E. coli and P. aeruginosa, and the mRNA G4-sites in the sequence for coding the vital bacterial FtsZ protein are highlighted to further explore in G4-drug development against human diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1415-1433
Number of pages19
JournalChemical Communications
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • General Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Materials Chemistry


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