Aptamers: versatile probes for flow cytometry
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Aptamers are nucleic acid oligomers with distinct conformational shapes that allow them to bind targets with high affinity and specificity. Aptamers are selected from a random oligonucleotide library by their capability to bind a certain molecular target. A variety of targets ranging from small molecules like amino acids to complex targets and whole cells have been used to select aptamers. These characteristics and the ability to create specific aptamers against virtually any cell type in a process termed “systematic evolution by exponential enrichment” make them interesting tools for flow cytometry. In this contribution, we review the application of aptamers as probes for flow cytometry, especially cell-phenotyping and detection of various cancer cell lines and virus-infected cells and pathogens. We also discuss the potential of aptamers combined with nanoparticles such as quantum dots for the generation of new multivalent detector molecules with enhanced affinity and sensitivity. With regard to recent advancements in aptamer selection and the decreasing costs for oligonucleotide synthesis, aptamers may rise as potent competitors for antibodies as molecular probes in flow cytometry.