DNA aptamers generated by cell-SELEX offer an attractive alternative to antibodies, but generating aptamers to specific, known membrane protein targets has proven challenging, and has severely limited the use of aptamers as affinity reagents for cell identification and purification.
We modified the BJAB lymphoblastoma cell line to over-express the murine c-kit cell surface receptor. After six rounds of cell-SELEX, high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics analysis, we identified aptamers that bound BJAB cells expressing c-kit but not wild-type BJAB controls. One of these aptamers also recognizes c-kit endogenously expressed by a mast cell line or hematopoietic progenitor cells, and specifically blocks binding of the c-kit ligand stem cell factor (SCF). This aptamer enables better separation by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) of c-kit+ hematopoietic progenitor cells from mixed bone marrow populations than a commercially available antibody, suggesting that this approach may be broadly useful for rapid isolation of affinity reagents suitable for purification of other specific cell types.
Here we describe a novel procedure for the efficient generation of DNA aptamers that bind to specific cell membrane proteins and can be used as high affinity reagents. We have named the procedure STACS (Specific TArget Cell-SELEX).