Aptamers: flexible recognition units with novel applications
Roy J Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Nucleic acid aptamers are short sequences that fold to create surfaces, usually in the form of pockets that interact tightly with their cognate targets, which can be almost any size from very small molecules such as sugars to large proteins. In this sense they are similar to antibodies. Both aptamers and antibodies are also generally highly specific for their targets. But, aptamers and antibodies differ in other aspects. The smallness of aptamers endows them with more potential for structural flexibility and mobility. This can make them more sensitive to their environment than are antibodies. On the other hand, the structural flexibility of aptamers can be used to advantage by applying them as molecular probes. A niche that is unique to aptamers as probes is inside cells where antibodies cannot fold properly to function. This talk will discuss some aspects of aptamer structure as determined by a combination of biochemical analysis, Molecular Dynamics simulations, NMR spectroscopy. Several applications of aptamers will be discussed, which will include aptamer application as a sensor on a microcantilever device, the use of aptamers to measure transcriptional activity in real time, allosteric aptamers to measure mRNA levels in cells and new approaches to use aptamers to increase drug uptake. Our studies and those of many others show that the structural flexibility of aptamers and their ability to function inside cells opens many opportunities for their application in synthetic biology and as reporters of intracellular events in addition to their currently expanding applications as probes in a variety of sensors.
Join us for refreshments at 3:50 outside of the 1424 MBB classroom.