SsDNA aptamer specifically targets and selectively delivers cytotoxic drug doxorubicin to HepG2 Cells

Ge Yu, Huan Li, Shuanghui Yang, Jianguo Wen, Junqi Niu, Youli Zu

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12 Scopus citations


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of death due to cancer worldwide with over 500,000 people affected annually. Although chemotherapy has been widely used to treat patients with HCC, alternate modalities to specifically deliver therapeutic cargos to cancer cells have been sought in recent years due to the severe side effects of chemotherapy. In this respect, aptamer-based tumor targeted drug delivery has emerged as a promising approach to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy and reduce or eliminate drug toxicity. In this study, we developed a new HepG2-specific aptamer (HCA#3) by a procedure known as systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) and exploited its role as a targeting ligand to deliver doxorubicin (Dox) to HepG2 cells in vitro. The selected 76-base nucleotide aptamer preferentially bound to HepG2 hepatocellular carcinoma cells but not to control cells. The aptamer HCA#3 was modified with paired CG repeats at the 50-end to carry and deliver a high payload of intercalated Dox molecules at the CG sites. Four Dox molecules (mol/mol) were fully intercalated in each conjugate aptamer-Dox (ApDC) molecule. Biostability analysis showed that the ApDC molecules are stable in serum. Functional analysis showed that ApDC specifically targeted and released Dox within HepG2 cells but not in control cells, and treatment with HCA#3 ApDC induced HepG2 cell apoptosis but had minimal effect on control cells. Our study demonstrated that HCA#3 ApDC is a promising aptamer-Targeted therapeutic that can specifically deliver and release a high doxorubicin payload in HCC cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0147674
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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