An in vitro-transcribed RNA aptamer (trans-RA16) that targets non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was previously identified through in vivo SELEX. Trans-RA16 can specifically target and inhibit human NCI-H460 cells in vitro and xenograft tumors in vivo. Here, in a follow-up study, we obtained a chemically-synthesized version of this RNA aptamer (syn-RA16) and a truncated form, and compared them to trans-RA16 for abilities to target and inhibit NCI-H460 cells. The syn-RA16, preferred for drug development, was by design to differ from trans-RA16 in the extents of RNA modifications by biotin, which may affect RA16’s anti-tumor effects. We observed aptamer binding to NCI-H460 cells with KD values of 24.75 ± 2.28 nM and 12.14 ± 1.46 nM for syn-RA16 and trans-RA16, respectively. Similar to trans-RA16, syn-RA16 was capable of inhibiting NCI-H460 cell viability in a dose-dependent manner. IC50 values were 118.4 nM (n = 4) for syn-RA16 and 105.7 nM (n = 4) for trans-RA16. Further studies using syn-RA16 demonstrated its internalization into NCI-H460 cells and inhibition of NCI-H460 cell growth. Moreover, in vivo imaging demonstrated the gradual accumulation of both syn-RA16 and trans-RA16 at the grafted tumor site, and qRT-PCR showed high retention of syn-RA16 in tumor tissues. In addition, a truncated fragment of trans-RA16 (S3) was identified, which exhibited binding affinity for NCI-H460 cells with a KD value of 63.20 ± 0.91 nM and inhibited NCI-H460 cell growth by 39.32 ± 3.25% at 150 nM. These features of the syn-RA16 and S3 aptamers should facilitate the development of a novel diagnostic or treatment approach for NSCLC in clinical settings.
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