A simple method for eliminating fixed-region interference of aptamer binding during SELEX

Authors

  • Eric Ouellet,

    1. Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    3. Biomedical Engineering Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Eric T. Lagally,

    1. Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Current affiliation:
    1. Western Governors University, Seattle, Washington
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  • Karen C. Cheung,

    1. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Charles A. Haynes

    Corresponding author
    1. Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    • Correspondence to: C.A. Haynes

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ABSTRACT

Standard libraries for systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) typically utilize flanking regions that facilitate amplification of aptamers recovered from each selection round. Here, we show that these flanking sequences can bias the selection process, due in part to their ability to interfere with the fold or function of aptamers localized within the random region of the library sequence. We then address this problem by investigating the use of complementary oligonucleotides as a means to block aptamer interference by each flanking region. Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) studies are combined with fold predictions to both define the various interference mechanisms and assess the ability of added complementary oligonucleotides to ameliorate them. The proposed blocking strategy is thereby refined and then applied to standard library forms of benchmark aptamers against human α-thrombin, streptavidin, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). In each case, ITC data show that the new method effectively removes fixed-region mediated interference effects so that the natural binding affinity of the benchmark aptamer is completely restored. We further show that the binding affinities of properly functioning aptamers within a selection library are not affected by the blocking protocol, and that the method can be applied to various common library formats comprised of different flanking region sequences. Finally, we present a rapid and inexpensive qPCR-based method for determining the mean binding affinity of retained aptamer pools and use it to show that introduction of the pre-blocking method into the standard SELEX protocol results in retention of high-affinity aptamers that would otherwise be lost during the first round of selection. Significant enrichment of the available pool of high-affinity aptamers is thereby achieved in the first few rounds of selection. By eliminating single-strand (aptamer-like) structures within or involving the fixed regions, the technique is therefore shown to isolate aptamer sequence and function within the desired random region of the library members, and thereby provide a new selection method that is complementary to other available SELEX protocols. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 2265–2279. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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