Aptamers in the virologists' toolkit.
Aptamers are artificial nucleic acid ligands that can be generated in vitro against a wide range of molecules, including the gene products of viruses. Aptamers are isolated from complex libraries of synthetic nucleic acids by an iterative, cell-free process that involves repetitively reducing the complexity of the library by partitioning on the basis of selective binding to the target molecule, followed by reamplification. For virologists, aptamers have potential uses as tools to help to analyse the molecular biology of virus replication, as a complement to the more familiar monoclonal antibodies. They also have potential applications as diagnostic biosensors and in the development of antiviral agents. In recent years, these two promising avenues have been explored increasingly by virologists; here, the progress that has been made is reviewed.