Aptamers: molecular tools for analytical applications
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- Mairal, T., Cengiz Özalp, V., Lozano Sánchez, P. et al. Anal Bioanal Chem (2008) 390: 989. doi:10.1007/s00216-007-1346-4
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Aptamers are artificial nucleic acid ligands, specifically generated against certain targets, such as amino acids, drugs, proteins or other molecules. In nature they exist as a nucleic acid based genetic regulatory element called a riboswitch. For generation of artificial ligands, they are isolated from combinatorial libraries of synthetic nucleic acid by exponential enrichment, via an in vitro iterative process of adsorption, recovery and reamplification known as systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX). Thanks to their unique characteristics and chemical structure, aptamers offer themselves as ideal candidates for use in analytical devices and techniques. Recent progress in the aptamer selection and incorporation of aptamers into molecular beacon structures will ensure the application of aptamers for functional and quantitative proteomics and high-throughput screening for drug discovery, as well as in various analytical applications. The properties of aptamers as well as recent developments in improved, time-efficient methods for their selection and stabilization are outlined. The use of these powerful molecular tools for analysis and the advantages they offer over existing affinity biocomponents are discussed. Finally the evolving use of aptamers in specific analytical applications such as chromatography, ELISA-type assays, biosensors and affinity PCR as well as current avenues of research and future perspectives conclude this review.