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DNA and RNA Aptamers as Modulators of Protein Function

[ Vol. 1 , Issue. 2 ]


Henning Ulrich   Pages 199 - 208 ( 10 )


The SELEX technique (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment) is a combinatorial library approach in which DNA or RNA molecules are selected by their ability to bind their protein targets with high affinity and specificity. The isolated molecules are referred to as aptamers (from aptus = Latin “to fit”). First, RNA and DNA aptamers were identified that bind to proteins naturally interacting with nucleic acids, or to small organic molecules such as ATP. In the following years, the use of the SELEX technique was extended to isolate oligonucleotide ligands for a wide range of proteins of importance for therapy, and diagnostics. Since these RNA and DNA molecules bind their targets with similar affinities as antibodies, and are able to distinguish between isotypes of an enzyme, aptamers have been also called synthetic antibodies. Recently, the use of in vitro selection methods to isolate protein inhibitors has been extended to complex targets, such as receptors that are only functional in their membrane-bound form, cells, and trypanosomes. RNA aptamers have been expressed in living cells where they inhibit a protein implicated in intracellular signal transduction. The utility of aptamers for in vivo experiments, and diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, is considerably enhanced by introducing chemical modifications into the oligonucleotides to provide resistance against enzymatic degradation in body fluids. Recently, such inhibitors have been evolved for a great variety of targets, including receptors, growth factors, and adhesion molecules implicated in disease. Furthermore, some results were already obtained in animal models and clinical trials.


membrane-bound receptors, t-cells, immune response, metastases


Department of Biochemistry,Instituto de Quimica, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Caixa Postal 26077, SaoPaulo 05513-970, Brazil.

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