• DNA and RNA;
  • stereochemistry;
  • small molecules;
  • metal complexes;
  • modified oligonucleotides;
  • peptide nucleic acids


The understanding of the interaction of chiral species with DNA or RNA is very important for the development of new tools in biology and of new drugs. Several cases in which chirality is a crucial point in determining the DNA binding mode are reviewed and discussed, with the aim of illustrating how chirality can be considered as a tool for improving the understanding of mechanisms and the effectiveness of nucleic acid recognition. The review is divided into two parts: the former describes examples of chiral species interacting with DNA: intercalators, metal complexes, and groove binders; the latter part is dedicated to chirality in DNA analogs, with discussion of phosphate stereochemistry and chirality of ribose substitutes, in particular of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) for which a number of works have been published recently dealing with the effect of chirality in DNA recognition. The discussion is intended to show how enantiomeric recognition originates at the molecular level, by exploiting the enormous progresses recently achieved in the field of structural characterization of complexes formed by nucleic acid with their ligands by crystallographic and spectroscopic methods. Examples of application of the DNA binding molecules described and the role of chirality in DNA recognition relevant for biotechnology or medicinal chemistry are reported. Chirality, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.