Complex target SELEX.
Aptamers are non-naturally occurring structured oligonucleotides that may bind to small molecules, peptides, and proteins. Typically, aptamers are generated by an in vitro selection process referred to as SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment). Aptamers that bind with high affinity and specificity to proteins that reside on the cell surface have potential utility as therapeutic antagonists, agonists, and diagnostic agents. When the target protein requires the presence of the cell membrane (e.g., G-protein-coupled receptors, ion channels) or a co-receptor to fold properly, it is difficult or impossible to program the SELEX experiment with purified, soluble protein target. Recent advances in which the useful range of SELEX has been extended from comparatively simple purified forms of soluble proteins to complex mixtures of proteins in membrane preparations or in situ on the surfaces of living cells offer the potential to discover aptamers against previously intractable targets. Additionally, in cases in which a cell-type specific diagnostic is sought, the most desirable target on the cell surface may not be known. Successful application of aptamer selection techniques to complex protein mixtures can be performed even in the absence of detailed target knowledge and characterization. This Account presents a review of recent work in which membrane preparations or whole cells have been utilized to generate aptamers to cell surface targets. SELEX experiments utilizing a range of target "scaffolds" are described, including cell fragments, parasites and bacteria, viruses, and a variety of human cell types including adult mesenchymal stem cells and tumor lines. Complex target SELEX can enable isolation of potent and selective aptamers directed against a variety of cell-surface proteins, including receptors and markers of cellular differentiation, as well as determinants of disease in pathogenic organisms, and as such should have wide therapeutic and diagnostic utility.