Identification of liver cancer-specific aptamers using whole live cells

Dihua Shangguan, Ling Meng, Zehui Charles Cao, Zeyu Xiao, Xiaohong Fang, Ying Li, Diana Cardona, Rafal P. Witek, Chen Liu, Weihong Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

292 Scopus citations


Liver cancer is the third most deadly cancers in the world. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment. One of the major problems is that most cancers are diagnosed in the later stage, when surgical resection is not feasible. Thus, accurate early diagnosis would significantly improve the clinical outcome of liver cancer. Currently, there are no effective molecular probes to recognize biomarkers that are specific for liver cancer. The objective of our current study is to identify liver cancer cell-specific molecular probes that could be used for liver cancer recognition and diagnosis. We applied a newly developed cell-SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment) method for the generation of molecular probes for specific recognition of liver cancer cells. The cell-SELEX uses whole live cells as targets to select aptamers (designed DNA/RNA) for cell recognition. In generating aptamers for liver cancer recognition, two liver cell lines were used: a liver cancer cell line BNL 1ME A.7R.1 (MEAR) and a noncancer cell line, BNL CL.2 (BNL). Both cell lines were originally derived from Balb/cJ mice. Through multiple rounds of selection using BNL as a control, we have identified a panel of aptamers that specifically recognize the cancer cell line MEAR with Kd in the nanomolar range. We have also demonstrated that some of the selective aptamers could specifically bind liver cancer cells in a mouse model. There are two major new results (compared with our reported cell-SELEX methodology) in addition to the generation of aptamers specifically for liver cancer. The first one is that our current study demonstrates that cell-based aptamer selection can select specific aptamers for multiple cell lines, even for two cell lines with minor differences (MEAR cell is derived from BNL by chemical inducement); and the second result is that cell-SELEX can be used for adhesive cells and thus open the door for solid tumor selection and investigation. The newly generated cancer-specific aptamers hold great promise as molecular probes for cancer early diagnosis and basic mechanism studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-728
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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