Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are polyamidic oligonucleotide analogues which have been described for the first time almost twenty years ago and were immediately found to be excellent tool in binding DNA and RNA for diagnostics and gene regulation. Their use as therapeutic agents have been proposed since early studies and recent advancements in cellular delivery systems and in the so called anti-gene strategy make them good candidates for drug development. The search for new chemical modification of PNAs is a very active field of research and new structures are continuously proposed. This review focuses on the modification of the PNA backbone, and their possible use in medicinal chemistry with an update of this topics in view of emerging new trends and opening of new possibilities In particular two classes of structurally biased PNAs are described in details: i) PNAs with acyclic structures and their helical preference, which is regulated by stereochemistry and ii) cyclic PNAs with preorganized structures, whose performances depend both on stereochemistry and on conformational constraints. The properties of these compounds are discussed in terms of affinity for nucleic acids, and several examples of their use in cellular or animal systems are presented, with exciting new fields of research such as microRNA (miR) targeting and gene repair.
Keywords: Modified PNAs, cyclic PNA, chirality, antisense, antigene, cellular uptake, gene regulation, advancements in cellular delivery systems, anti-gene strategy, stereochemistry, affinity for nucleic acids, miR, gene repair
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